Planning War Disrupts Tower Melbourne Progress


Millions of dollars in deposits from hundreds of apartment owners in Melbourne's most controversial skyscraper might need to be repaid if a rival developer succeeds in getting the super high-rises' planning permit cancelled.

A Singapore-based developer is seeking to cancel a neighbouring developer's permit for a soaring CBD skyscraper called Tower Melbourne, set to rise 71 storeys from the corner of Queen and Bourke streets.

The rival alleges it was approved by the Napthine government on the basis of "misstatements” or “concealments of fact".

The Chow family's Colonial Range company is fighting another deep-pocketed Singaporean developer, CEL Australia, over the proposal.

Deakin University professor and urban planning consultant Roz Hansen said, "the only times permits have ever been cancelled, and it's very rare situation for VCAT (Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal) to do that, would be if there was deception."

"I'm not familiar with a case of this scale occurring. If they're successful, it could send a shiver down the spine of others," Ms Hansen said.

Colonial Range alleges Planning Minister Matthew Guy approved Tower Melbourne in November 2012 without the full facts because CEL failed to include them in its permit application. The group says it found out about the alleged "concealment" only after obtaining Mr Guy's briefing notes and departmental reports under freedom of information laws.

Chow family spokesman Jason Hopp said, "We believe the minister made that decision [to issue a permit] without being fully informed."
Mr Guy has approved dozens of tall towers, sparking concerns about overshadowing and over-supply, while CEL has pocketed an estimated $50 million in deposits from 581 apartments, mainly sold to newly wealthy Asian and Australian buyers.

All the funds will need to be repaid if the permit is cancelled. CEL was contacted for comment.

CEL controversially sold many units in the curving glass-and-steel tower two years ago without having official planning permits. At the time, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the tower was too big and councillor Ken Ong called it a "blight".

Colonial Range has taken legal action against Tower Melbourne previously, after the tower proposal threw its plans for a new 27-level mixed-use office, apartment and retail complex on a neighbouring site into disarray.

The dispute is about vehicle use of a private easement through Penfold Place by the rival developments. The case will start at VCAT in mid-December.

CEL, a subsidiary of Chip En Seng Corporation, has written to an investor saying it will start demolition work on the site this month. 
Source: The Age

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