The Napthine Government has released details of how decisions were made on major development applications for the inner city, one before they enter caretaker mode.
According to the Herald Sun, Planning Minister Matthew Guy said it was the first time that departmental officer reports had been made public and signalled new transparency in planning.
“The release of these reports show that the public service provides professional and objective advice and that the Government takes this advice when approving new structures,” he said.
According to The Age the documents show Mr Guy was recommended to grant almost all the skyscraper applications made in the City of Melbourne since his government was elected. About 80 applications were given the tick of approval by planning department staff, pending a final decision by the minister.
A proposal for a five-star W Hotel on the site of the former Palace Theatre was one of the two applications Mr Guy received advice to reject. Also disliked was a 2012 proposal for a 67-storey apartment building near the intersection of Elizabeth and Franklin streets.
The department's advice was although were some good aspects of the plan, including additional "accommodation stock" in the central city, the building designed by Peddle Thorp Architects would have created a "canyon effect down Elizabeth Street".
Mr Guy said that there had been a number of instances when he had gone against the advice of his department- but only when that advice was to approve a development.
"There are some [developments] that architecturally I think are substandard," Mr Guy said.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy. Source: GeoflakeMr Guy has approved about 100 central city towers, sometimes earning a rebuke from Lord Mayor Robert Doyle over “inappropriate” developments.
But Mr Guy said the city council had supported two-thirds of all projects approved by him after departmental advice.
“No permit has been approved where the departmental recommendation was to refuse a planning permit, but (I have) refused a number of permits where the department has recommended approval,” he told the Herald Sun.
Opposition spokesman Brian Tee
was not convinced saying the controversy over the Ventnor rezoning on Phillip Island showed that Mr Guy had been caught out instructing the department to give him favourable advice.
“Minister Guy thinks people are fools when he releases the outcomes he has asked for and says he is being transparent — what a joke,” Mr Tee said.
Mr Guy said that Labor had never released similar planning officer reports during its 11 years in office.
If the government is re-elected, Mr Guy plans to ensure more departmental transparency.
"I think this is a watershed day for planning in the City of Melbourne, Mr Guy said. "Today is without parallel in the state's planning history, the level of transparency we're going forward with."The planning reports have been released on the Planning Department website.