Effing VCAT. Across the road from us is a new building at 401 St Kilda Road. It is an apartment building with retail and food premises on the ground floor. The building breached the height limit of twelve metres as the height limit was not a finite one but a discretionary one. Who has ever heard of anything so preposterous.
The building replaced what might be described as a pedestrian court with shops on one side and gave access to Arnold Street behind which runs parallel to St Kilda Road. A City of Melbourne condition of building approval was to provide corridor access in the new building from St Kilda Road. The developer or owner protested but finally agreed to provide access during normal trading hours.
To connect this to the personal at this point, R and I often used the walkway at what was then Kings Cross Plaza, so when the development was announced, I had a good look at the plans and concluded that there would still be access to Arnold Street at the rear. I was unsure what subsequently happened as although there did seem to be access, it did not look like access and certainly was not inviting. Not so long ago I noticed a threatening note on the door that looked like it might provide access. The note stated that it was a private business and that people should respect their clients' privacy and not walk through the cosmetic surgery business. Offenders would be filmed and the file handed to the police. Haha, a cosmetic surgery business in South Yarra concerned about their clients' privacy. I can well imagine.
So what happened to the public access during business hours? Now the access is through a rubbish bin area if you are savvy enough to know the way.
It would seem the building owner decided he/she did not want to allow public access at all, at all times or business times, so he went to VCAT to have the planning permit condition dropped.
VCAT is widely known to be a friend of developers and no friend of local people and in this case it did not disappoint. VCAT member Laurie Hewit dropped the planning permit condition, so now you have a business owner making serious but ultimately idle threats to those who think they have access, and other people passing through the building via a bin area.
I am loathe to persecute someone who is just doing their job, but we, the ordinary citizen are powerless against VCAT planning decisions unless we are seriously rich and can go to the Supreme Court. We can change even governments, but VCAT marches relentlessly on, overruling local councils and people, in favour of big business developers.
So Mr Laurie Hewit, there has been access through 401 St Kilda Road for something like thirty to forty years, maybe longer, and you have taken it away. Nice work, you prat.
I suspect the South Yarra discretionary height limit rubbish was a State Government regulation rather than a City of Melbourne one, but I would implore our local councils to continue to uphold their own regulations as far as the Supreme Court and yes, use ratepayers money to do so. Flood the Supreme Court with opposition to outrageous VCAT decisions.