THE controversy over the redevelopment of the Windsor Hotel has demonstrated once again the bankruptcy of the planning system in Victoria. The issue is a town planning one: it is not about whether the design of the new building looks nice.
If planning means anything at all, it means holding a sustained vision for the future, adhering to that vision consistently over time, and modifying it only for demonstrably sound reasons, rather than for short-term gain or political expediency.
The Windsor site was bought by the government in the 1970s, and leased and then sold to the Oberoi group subject to conservation controls. So we taxpayers sacrificed money, because we received a price based on the reduced development potential. Every subsequent owner has bought the site on the understanding that those development rights have been removed, and that we now own them.
If the controls are to be set aside, then the government should reacquire the site at current value, and then auction it with the controls removed.
The argument that increased capacity is necessary to run an international standard hotel is ridiculous. The Windsor has been and can be of international standard. You could operate an international standard hotel in that prime location even if were two storeys high. The hotel only becomes uneconomic if you value the site so highly that you have to increase the financial return to cover that notional investment. And that is a circular argument.
Miles Lewis, faculty of architecture, University of Melbourne