By Adrian Doyle
Published: October 2nd 2018
The other day a friend of mine sent me a link to a proposal from a development company that is planning a major development in the CBD.
The development includes the removal of a number of important areas and lanes including taking out half of Union Lane and changing the centre of the city forever.
This is a major project that is obviously going to change the landscape of the city and it has gone to council largely uncontested and quietly, why?
This article is not about the soulless rich people that plan to exploit the city and destroy Union Lane for their own nefarious needs. No, this story is about the link that my friend sent me to, the link to the council’s website to examine the proposed development.
I clicked on the link and it took me to a list of proposed developments for the CBD. After I figured out which article I was after, I followed the link to what looked like a plan for a space ship. I was asked to download hundreds of pages of bureaucratic jargon.
I’m not unfamiliar with council speak, having worked at the City of Yarra for five years as well as dealing with much council bureaucracy in my daily life with public art and design planning. But I found it very difficult to navigate.
It was page, after page, of plans, mathematics and things that made my eyes glaze over with boredom. This made me wonder how the average Joe Blow would be able to navigate the bureaucracy to find out any real and useful information.
And I came up with the conclusion that not many people would be able to find out what’s going on with regards to the developments and major works planned around our beautiful city.
Why don’t the councils make it easy for the average person to look at what has been proposed? It would take about a page of writing and a couple of illustrations.
The builders keep building virtually without recourse as they hide behind the bureaucracy of the building permits. The more buildings the council has, the more rates it is paid. Maybe they are in a situation where they may let things slide as long as nobody complains.
Hiding behind council and engineer speak will not make the city a better place. And Union Lane has be an important focal point of Melbourne since the beginning.
The laneway used to smell from the urine and horse manure as the bars and theatres emptied out onto Bourke St, until the council decided that it would need to build more toilets. That’s how many of the underground toilets and the green toilets on the side of the road came to be.
This laneway is part of Melbourne’s history. And we deserve to have a say in the future of our city and its lanes. How is this going to happen if nobody can understand what is being presented to us in the planning process?
Is it possible that the complicated plans are created that way to make it hard for people to understand what is being proposed?
I feel that the companies that are developing the city have a lot to lose in the community consultation process. So, I guess most people who care about the city and its future and public spaces will have to ask someone who understands or perhaps they could go and do an engineering degree.
Anyway, this project in Union Lane is of big concern as it will change our city forever. I’m not against change I am just asking for a democratic a fair process when it comes to deciding what is best for our city.
If we leave it up to developers they will keep us in the dark and we will end up with a city full of finance architecture.