Developer fights Windsor heritage limits
May 27, 2010
A NEW planning storm is brewing over the Windsor Hotel redevelopment, with the developer appealing against heritage restrictions aimed at protecting the local precinct.
The National Trust says the appeal is a case of the developer going for ”the icing on the cake” after it controversially won approval earlier this year for a 26-storey tower that smashes height controls for the area.
The appeal, to be heard on August 27, challenges height restrictions imposed by Heritage Victoria on a building to be constructed on the corner of Bourke and Spring streets, where the Hard Rock Cafe used to operate.
Heritage Victoria’s permit conditions for the $260 million Windsor project call for the reduction of the corner building ”to the level of the main cornice line of the Windsor Hotel”.
It says the revisions are needed to reduce the visual dominance of the new building over what will be left of the old, as well as over the broader Bourke Hill heritage precinct.
The condition would mean a reduction of 5.4 metres on the new building, bringing it into line with the height of the one it is to replace.
The developer, Halim Group, argues the reduction would mean the loss of one or two floors and 30 hotel rooms. It says this would harm the economic case for the project, which aims to increase the number of guest rooms from 180 to 332.
Halim Group says Planning Minister Justin Madden’s original approval supported its taller design for the corner building. ”We are trying to align the conditions of the heritage permit with government decision,” the director of the Halim Group, Adi Halim, said in a statement.
The appeal has been slammed by the Melbourne City Council, which supports the Heritage Victoria permit conditions. Peter Clarke, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said Mr Madden should have incorporated Heritage Victoria’s conditions in his approval. By not doing so he had ”set up the circumstances around this appeal”.
A spokeswoman for Mr Madden said ”the conditions imposed by the minister supplement those imposed by Heritage Victoria and did not seek to duplicate conditions already announced”.
The National Trust, which is separately challenging Mr Madden’s approval for the Windsor redevelopment, ridiculed the Halim appeal.
”The applicant has been remarkably fortunate in benefiting from permits from both Heritage Victoria and the minister,” it said. ”The applicant has not had to to reach for Plan B, but in the latest instalment in the tea party, the applicant now wants the icing on the cake.”
Mr Madden’s approval for the Windsor redevelopment in March followed uproar over a leaked media plan that indicated a sham public consultation process to halt the project. The approval is now the subject of a parliamentary inquiry.