25 Mar 2016

$1 billion Collins Street rejected because of Yarra River overshadowing

In a move that has enraged one of the city’s most powerful developers, Planning Minister Richard Wynne has rejected a $1 billion Collins Street tower that would have overshadowed the Yarra River.

Mr Wynne’s rejection marks the second time developer CBUS Property has had its plans for the former National Mutual site at 447 Collins Street knocked back.

Lord mayor Robert Doyle said Mr Wynne’s decision was a terrible result for the city, and the project had now become “a planning political pawn”.

Former planning minister Matthew Guy rejected an earlier tower proposal on the site that rose to almost 100 levels.

After that rejection, CBUS submitted revised plans for twin towers rising to 47 levels and linked by a dramatic skybridge.

Melbourne City Council was an enthusiastic supporter of those plans, partly because of the design but also because of a 3000-square-metre park that would have been created in Collins and Market streets.

CBUS Property is chaired by former premier Steve Bracks, who is understood to have actively lobbied for the project.

But Mr Wynne, who insists he was not approached by Mr Bracks, said he rejected the CBUS application for the revised 164-metre tower because it would have “cast a shadow across to the south bank of the Yarra River”.

The developer is understood to have been furious at yet another rejection for its project, which has now cost many millions of dollars to plan and design.

It is refining the application to have less impact on the river. What is not clear is whether a fresh application might reduce the open space CBUS had proposed in its latest plan. It had, with the city council, incorporated half of Market Street to create the new park.

Mr Wynne said it was a “state-significant project” that took up an entire city block. “We will take the time needed to secure the best possible outcome for the city,” he said.

The proposal rejected by Mr Wynne had 68,000 square metres of office space, 269 hotel rooms, 315 apartments and 2000 square metres of retail space.

When the news broke on Thursday, the two towers were compared to a pair of trousers and dubbed the “pantscraper”.

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