The Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, has recently been subject to criticism for approving too many tower developments in and around the Melbourne CBD.

In some cases this criticism has been unfair.  As long as the buildings exhibit good design and respond appropriately to ground level and any other identified features of the locality, tower development is what we should expect for our CBD.

The most recently reported tower however, at 404 metres high proposed for 555 Collins Street, is potentially concerning.

In response to the proposal for 555 Collins Street, the Minister for Planning has approved Amendment C216 so that the building (which would otherwise be prohibited) can be considered.  Amendment C216 exempts the project from established policy that states ‘the construction of buildings and works which would cast a shadow across the south bank of the Yarra River between 11:00am and 2:00pm on 22 June is prohibited’.

This policy has been a key driver of our city skyline and the protection of the amenity of the south bank, for many years and has reinforced the importance of the Yarra River corridor to our City.  While Minister Guy has emphasised that there will be discussions with the City of Melbourne and public before he makes any decision on the project, is it appropriate to exclude a single project from this valued policy?  We are not informed on the specifics of the proposal but on face value , if reports in the press are correct, it would seem that this policy should not be side stepped.

It should also be noted that by virtue of the size of the project, the Minister for Planning is the responsible authority for considering an application for the proposal.  Excuse us for being cynical but we question why Amendment C216 was approved if the Minister does not intend to approve the project.

In recent years, driven by redevelopment in Southbank including the just completed works adjacent to Hamer Hall, Melbourne has acknowledged what the Yarra River can add to our City, with a greater emphasis placed on the amenity that the River provides and also how development can further utilise the amenity of the Yarra.  The River has become an increasingly important feature of our great City as its value and potential has been realised.  This will be advanced by redevelopment that improves public interaction with the north side of the River at some stage in the future (albeit unlikely in the short term).  It would be a great shame if development now started to impact on the amenity of the Yarra River corridor by approving taller buildings in the CBD that overshadow the south bank.