Hundreds more apartments planned for banks of Yarra in Abbotsford

Another 539 apartments could be built right on the banks of the Yarra River in Abbotsford – an area already crowded with new high rises – under a proposal that the local council and residents are powerless to stop.

Salta Properties has advised government officials of plans to build two huge apartment buildings at the old Metropolitan Fire Brigade site at 627 Victoria Street.

The proposal for 627 Victoria Street, Abbotsford.
The proposal for 627 Victoria Street, Abbotsford.  Photo: Supplied

This plot lies within a priority development zone administered by the state's Planning Minister, which means Yarra Council cannot stop the development even if it wanted to, and residents cannot comment on the application.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning forwarded Salta Properties' bid to the council on Christmas Eve. Plans include two buildings of 10 and 11 storeys set between 22 metres and 44 metres from the river, nearly 540 dwellings, 508 car spaces, and 788 square metres of shops.

Studley Park Vineyard co-owner Geoff Pryor said the area was turning into "a mini-Surfers Paradise on the river''.
Studley Park Vineyard co-owner Geoff Pryor said the area was turning into "a mini-Surfers Paradise on the river''. Photo: Darrian Traynor

Councillor Stephen Jolly said "most residents wouldn't be aware of it" because proposals for this "mega-development" were not following normal planning channels.

He said the proposal would be a huge test for Planning Minister Richard Wynne, because Abbotsford sits within his electorate of Richmond.


Mr Wynne recently announced plans to introduce a Yarra River Protection Act.

Yarra Council was likely to discuss the development at a full council meeting before making recommendations to the government.

Fairfax Media contacted the Planning Department for comment.

The proposal has come to light soon after Salta was criticised for plans to build another 113 dwellings within 30 metres of the river at nearby 647-649 Victoria Street.

Objectors have also pointed out the popular Skipping Girl Vinegar sign would be obscured by these new apartments. It would no longer be visible from the north and would not be silhouetted against the sky when approached from Kew and Hawthorn, according to a heritage assessment report lodged with the City of Yarra.

It would also be partially obscured by a 12-storey building when approached along Victoria Street from the west.

Meanwhile, co-owner of nearby Studley Park Vineyard Geoff Pryor said the area was turning into "a mini-Surfers Paradise on the river.

"From the point of view of the amenities of the river, it is completely disastrous," Mr Pryor said.

He was also concerned that radiant heat and UV rays bouncing off the glass of an apartment block built 75 metres south of his vineyard would affect his cabernet sauvignon grapes.

Yarra riverkeeper Andrew Kelly said permitting buildings so close to the water would damage habitats and was "selling off the long-term value for a short-term gain". It could destroy the very environment that apartment dwellers wanted to live near.

And cyclists, walkers, and rowers would notice the river becoming more built up if apartments were built right on the banks.

"People want a natural environment. They don't want it to be dominated by buildings," said Mr Kelly, whose role with the non-profit Yarra Riverkeeper Association is to advocate for the river.

"We are incredibly lucky in Melbourne to have so much natural space running along the rivers."

Putting buildings at least 40 metres from the water would mitigate the impact, he said.

Meanwhile, lenders have identified Abbotsford as a potential risky area for mortgages, possibly due to the number of new apartments. In late 2015 National Australia Bank released a list of suburbs where there could be a "future deterioration in credit risk".

The bank planned to restrict lending to borrowers with a 20 per cent deposit, which would reduce its exposure to losses if property values declined.


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