Residents win fight to save laneway from development in East Melbourne

Residents win fight to save laneway from development in East Melbourne
Brendan Rees

The City of Melbourne has decided not to a sell a laneway to make room for a proposed six-storey development in East Melbourne following concerns from residents.   

The laneway, which abuts the rear of 204-208 Albert St, is used daily by vehicles, providing safe access and parking to residences and workplaces along Clarendon St and Victoria Pde.

However, when plans for an office building at 204-208 Albert St by developer Whitehaven Property Development Pty Ltd were endorsed by the council last October, it was subject to reviewing a proposal of discontinuing and selling the laneway.

According to a council report, the council management’s preliminary assessment showed the laneway “held no strategic significance to council and was considered not reasonably required for general public use”.

The council also considered narrowing the laneway to three metres, but following a review of public submissions, the report said this “does not adequately address access and egress or safety concerns and that the road is still reasonably required for public use”.


In their submissions, residents vehemently opposed the proposal after citing concerns of traffic flow and safety, particularly when reversing onto Albert St.


They also noted there would be increased congestion, safety hazards, and limitations on access for larger service and property maintenance vehicles, and that the “situation will only get worse” if 204-208 Albert St was to be developed.

Brad Marsh, president of the ACVP Residents Incorporated, submitted that the proposal “would cause great inconvenience to the many users of the laneway and increase the safety risk for the current and future users of the laneway and other road users”.

But at their May 28 council meeting, councillors voted unanimously not to discontinue or sell the laneway, known as “CL1160”, after receiving 18 objections and a 25-strong petition.

Deputy Lord Mayor and planning chair Nicholas Reece said the council would “encourage the developer of this site to continue to work in good faith with the City of Melbourne and with the objectors and to find a built form solution for this site that works for everyone”.

Cr Reece said there was considerable debate for the planning application last year and that “there was one important caveat on this approval, and that was that we would only approve the full development if we also agreed that discontinuing and selling the laneway to the developer was the right thing to do”.

But he added that an independent committee “have conducted a thorough assessment and heard from a wide range of parties who use this laneway every day and they have come to the conclusion that the laneway is necessary for public use”.

The council meeting also heard that the developer’s planning permit was a “separate and distinct process” to deciding about discontinuing the laneway.

The East Melbourne Group’s president Greg Bisinella said its submission was that the “proposal would not adequately allow for the safe ingress and egress of traffic utilising the laneway”.

“Subsequent to the decision we have been made aware that the permit applicant is working on a revised submission for the discontinuance, which will address the safety concerns,” he said.

“We look forward to seeing this revised proposal and review it on its merits in the hope that our concerns are adequately addressed.”

The site at 204-208 Albert St is currently occupied by a two-storey Victorian building originally built as three terrace houses in 1859. The building, which was converted into a medical centre in the 1960s, is now vacant.

The EMG is fighting the development proposal at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, arguing the development proposal was not appropriate and failed to align with the character of the area. •

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