The Age covers Orrong Group – Tensions Rise Over Project

Tensions rise over housing project on old Channel Nine site

Kirsten Anderson and members of the Orrong Group opposed a 500-apartment development on land beside Toorak Park. Picture: John Woudstra

A MASSIVE complex of 550 dwellings on Channel Nine’s former home in Richmond may further inflame tensions between developers and communities over giant urban renewal sites across Melbourne.

The development plans, outlined by property giant Vivas Lend Lease to neighbouring residents yesterday, reveal a $400 million project, housing 1100 people in townhouses and eight-storey apartments in an area the size of a city block.

”We understand the significance of this site to the Richmond community. Its redevelopment presents a great opportunity and also a serious responsibility,” the company said.

Lend Lease would consult the community and had reduced the height impact on the neighbourhood by placing townhouses on the outer edge of the block and taller apartment buildings towards the middle, development manager Ben Coughlan said.

Mr Coughlan said the land at 22 Bendigo Street had a rich history. It was formerly a piano factory and then a Heinz factory before becoming host to some of Australian television’s most memorable shows. These included In Melbourne Tonight, Sale of the Century, The Sullivans and Hey Hey It’s Saturday.

Because most inner-city developments are residential, large projects such as the Channel Nine site are straining local services, Yarra councillor Steve Jolly said.

”From the perspective of a local resident, traffic and parking is dire there. And there is a dearth of services, particularly childcare,” Cr Jolly said. ”They squeeze in as many people as possible.”

Lend Lease is already facing stiff opposition from residents opposed to another $400 million apartment project in one of Melbourne’s most exclusive suburbs across the Yarra River.

The fight over a similar multi-storey apartment complex in Armadale near Toorak Station is one of many battles breaking out as Melbourne’s population booms and the state government tries to squeeze an additional 316,000 residents in the city’s ”established areas” over the next 20 years.

Lend Lease is developing the 2.45-hectare site at 590 Orrong Road in a joint venture with Larkfield Property Holdings, controlled by former Skilled Engineering chief executive Greg Hargrave.

Plans for 460 apartments and 18 townhouses – ranging from two to 16 storeys – have angered locals who say it will destroy the character of their blue-chip neighbourhood.

Armadale residents accused the state government of failing to heed their concerns.

”We’re concerned about the habit of the state planning minister to call in these projects without due process being followed,” said Orrong Group spokeswoman Kirsten Anderson. ”Our fear is that it’s going to jettison any third-party rights to object [to the development].”

A spokeswoman for Planning Minister Justin Madden said the projects were still in the planning process with local government.

”There has been no formal request for ministerial intervention in those projects at this stage,” she said.

Ms Anderson said residents were also worried about the height and scale of the project, the likely overshadowing by the apartment towers and the effect on surrounding parks, rail services and traffic congestion.

”It’s a massive development in terms of height. It’s going to be a real blight on the visual horizon,” she said.

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