Comments Regarding the Development Application for 11 Thorton Street, Kangaroo Point

The following comments were recently submitted to BCC's development assessment team regarding DA A004480738. I've made further comments via a series of phone calls with council officers.

 

I wish to reiterate my concerns and strong objections to DA A004480738 for 11 Thornton St, Kangaroo Point.

The developer is seeking extremely generous performance outcomes, but has failed to demonstrate any significant public benefit to justify non-compliance with the acceptable outcomes in the current neighbourhood plan.

Excessive height and built form not in public interest

This building clearly fails to meet the acceptable outcome height limit of 10 storeys, and does not demonstrate any significant or meaningful public benefit to justify a performance outcome regarding height.

Any argument that the developer is somehow ‘entitled’ to build higher than 10 storeys because part of the site is taken up by a heritage building is unfounded. The historic building is a fixed feature of the site and its presence would have been factored into the value of the property at the time it was last sold and at the time the developer began planning their project. The presence of the heritage property was also considered at the time the neighbourhood plan was drafted when an acceptable outcome of 10 storeys was identified for this site. There is no prima facie right to a certain density yield or certain floor area enshrined in the neighbourhood plan or other relevant codes. The developer must take the site as they find it. The proposal to relocate the existing Water Police building is already freeing up far more of the site for highrise development than the neighbourhood plan drafters would have contemplated.

The nearby new development at 2 Scott St has a height of 15 storeys. This too is excessive, and should not have been approved as it does not satisfy the neighbourhood plan. To allow 11 Thornton St to build higher than 10 storeys would mean the building line of towers along this stretch of the river no longer slopes down with the natural gradient of the ridge. The sloping cliffs and ridges of Kangaroo Point are a key feature identified as deserving of protection in previous and current neighbourhood plans and strategic documents. The contours of the ridgeline must be protected and preserved so that the development on 11 Thornton St presents as shorter and less imposing than buildings further away from the river and further up the ridgeline.

Relocating the heritage property will allow the tower to be built closer to CT White Park than BCC’s neighbourhood planners intended. To allow the tower to be built closer to the river and to allow a performance outcome regarding significant additional height will create excessive shadowing of the neighbouring park and river. Excessive shadowing will impact negatively on council trees growing in the park, and on the general amenity of this valued public space. Although the tower design is argued to be sympathetic to the heritage values of the water police building, its impact on the neighbouring Scott St Flats – also listed on the State Heritage Register – is far more severe. The proposed tower will loom over the Scott St flats, which are already going to be bounded to the east by another tower. The combined effect of being boxed in by these two towers will undermine the aesthetic significance of the Scott St Flats, which is one of the key criterion of its heritage listing.

The plans seem to describe the glazed building façade as resembling or giving the appearance of clouds, which strikes me as nonsensical marketing jargon. While the fritted glass patterning might present a slightly less harsh façade than some buildings, this will still look like a large and imposing skyscraper that dominates the park, the river and the skyline.

By exceeding height limits, the developer is increasing the amount of shadowing on nearby buildings and public spaces. The applicant is deliberately down-playing the overshadowing impacts on the public park, which will significantly change the amenity of the park and impact upon the kinds of tree species that can flourish there. The Thornton St boulevard will also be deprived of sunlight for most of the day, making this important pedestrian connector feel more and more like a closed-in concrete canyon.

Excessive site coverage and insufficient setbacks negatively impacts public realm

The applicant seems to be claiming that because neighbouring developments were granted performance outcomes for boundary setbacks, this property should be given similar treatment despite failing to demonstrate any significant public benefit. While I have some sympathy for the argument that an owner should be able to build closer to the boundary if the immediate neighbours have already been allowed to do so, no such argument can or should apply to the proportion of the property which adjoins the public park. For the boundaries of the site which border onto public parkland, the developer must be required to comply strictly with the boundary setbacks in the current Kangaroo Point Peninsula Neighbourhood Plan.

Setbacks are important to maintaining airflow, view corridors, sunlight penetration and open space. Buildings which don’t meet acceptable outcomes for setbacks create a built environment that feels too hemmed in and artificial. This is particularly the case around CT White Park. Kangaroo Point peninsula residents are predominantly apartment-dwellers. They seek out riverside parks like CT White Park in order to escape the feeling of being hemmed in on all sides by buildings. Clear buffers to CT White Park must be maintained, and these setbacks should not be considered negotiable unless the developer is gifting another part of the site to council as public parkland.

Insufficient genuine deep planting

Contrary to claims made in the DA, the proposed plans do not meet the acceptable minimum threshold of deep planting. It is not acceptable or reasonable to include street trees, green walls or planter boxes in calculating the total area of deep planting for the development, which is what this developer seems to be doing. The requirement of 10% deep planting is supposed to be genuine deep planting that connects through to ‘natural ground’ directly below. If no connection to natural ground below is possible due to underground levels, the soil depth should be at least 8 metres and should connect laterally to natural ground. Shallow-rooted trees which are planted with carparking or additional building levels underneath should not be considered deep-planted trees. For landscaping to count towards the 10% deep-planting acceptable outcome, trees must be planted at ground level and be open to the sky. While additional trees/landscaping which is planted on top of basement levels or on higher levels of the building are certainly positive and welcome features, they are not a satisfactory substitute for the 10% deep planting requirement.

Ground-level activation

It is disappointing the proposed plans do not meaningfully activate the Thornton Street frontage of the property in any way. Thornton St’s proximity to the ferry terminal and to the future Kangaroo Point pedestrian bridge (identified in City Plan 2014 as key infrastructure) make this street a logical hub for future ground-level commercial and non-profit community uses. This site’s proximity to public transport services make it ideally suited for a ground-level community centre which could include free meeting spaces that are bookable by the public. The landscaping plan on the Thornton St side should include public benches and drinking fountains to improve pedestrian amenity and draw visitors down into the park.

I support the inclusion of a café on the CT White Park frontage of the property, however this side of the building must be set back sufficiently from the property boundary so that the café can include outdoor seating without encroaching on the public park. It would not be acceptable if a future café owner sought to set up exclusive private outdoor dining within the footprint of the public park on the basis that the building was too close to the property boundary.

I note in your recent information request that you have raised concerns specifically about setbacks relating to the heritage properties, but I wish to emphasise that maintaining sufficient setbacks from the park is equally important.