This site was formerly occupied by a double fronted house – hidden behind a high brick wall. The site is located in the Mixed Use Area of Port Melbourne – the area generally bounded by Graham/Beach/Pickles/Princes Sts. This area contains some of Port Melbourne’s most significant heritage buildings, heritage protected houses, and former industrial sites. It is also an area designated for growth. This has led to some tension in planning decision making as to what constitutes the greater imperative: growth or protection of heritage, and the interface between higher order development and low rise residential. This particular decision is a case study of this debate. Council refused the application but it was subsequently approved at VCAT. While I recommend reading the whole Tribunal decision, here are a few key points from its decision:
“30. So what does all that (Council’s planning policy) mean? We are of the view that the notion of respecting character and maintaining amenity needs to be considered in the context of a site located in an area that is earmarked for growth, tall buildings and as a consequence, more intense development. “Change” of a substantial nature is envisaged in this area. It would be a nonsense to, on one hand, identify this area as being of metropolitan significance and for growth, and then, on the other hand, stifle the significant strategic growth opportunity that it offers by insisting that new development must respond to the low rise character of the traditional housing stock, or to expect that amenity impacts would be the same as those that might be more reasonably be anticipated in other residential areas where there is not the same strategic support for growth.
The Tribunal believes that asking for significant change and observance of ‘character’ is the equivalent of driving a motor car with a foot on the accelerator and brake at the same time.” Oakley Property Group Pty Ltd v Port Phillip City Council  VCAT 1609 (12 August 2009)
The development was featured in today’s Age. Council believed that it could manage this tension, but successive Tribunal decisions have favoured growth in this area over protection.
Update 8 February 2013
Here is Iconica completed.