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Residents rally against new West Franklin tower bid

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Opponents of the proposed 16-storey West Franklin stage two development are lobbying to have a 2014 land management agreement upheld in a bid to reduce the apartment building’s height.

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Residents of the Gallery and Altitude apartment buildings, which share the former Balfours site on the corner of Franklin and Morphett streets with the proposed development, are preparing to lodge a petition with Adelaide City Council to retain the original land management agreement.

The residents say the LMA was put in place to give apartment owners confidence about the future of their investment and it would erode faith in the planning system if it was easily changed.

Stage one of the West Franklin development was completed in 2019 and includes 272 apartments contained in two residential towers of 17 and 19 storeys.

The initial stage two building height was set to be 25 metres in a concept plan in 2012 while the land was under the management of developers Urban Construct and Brookfield Multiplex. But the development approval lapsed before construction commenced.

Chinese property company Zhengtang (now known as Greaton) subsequently bought the land and entered into the existing LMA in 2014 before constructing stage one.

Greaton last month lodged an application with the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) to build the 53-metre stage two tower on the site despite the LMA setting a height limit of within 20 per cent of the original 25-metre plan.

Approval of the $300 million 199-apartment building was deferred by SCAP, until the LMA was amended.

A third stage of the West Franklin development has also been mooted.

While SCAP is the relevant body for granting development approval, changes to the LMA must be approved by Adelaide City Council.

Residents of the neighbouring Gallery and Altitude apartment buildings say they will lodge a petition with the council in January to have the original LMA enforced and prevent the stage two building reaching a height of 53 metres.

Gallery Apartments presiding officer David Palyga said while he “would like the precinct as a whole completed” the proposed West Franklin development went “against everything the owners of the Gallery and Altitude buildings were told was going to happen”.

“Over the 10 years a lot has been built around it, so the whole landscape has changed dramatically, and that’s fine.

“But on this particular site, that’s not what the owners were told and therefore, I believe, have a right to expect.”

Altitude presiding officer Ross McPherson said property owners had invested into their building “knowing the LMA was in place”.

“For the future development of the CBD, the Adelaide City Council needs to send a clear message that they will protect LMAs in place, so people can invest in the CBD with security and confidence,” he said.

“We are supportive of development in the city and want to see the site developed, based on the current LMA.”

Fellow Altitude resident William Stuart said if the proposal went ahead, neighbouring residents would be “entombed in concrete”.

“The developer has not considered any of the existing owners in the original precinct, which was only built 10 years ago,” he said.

“They have just designed a development maximizing building height because it’s the most profitable outcome for them.

“If we want to encourage people to live in the CBD, we need to give them certainty in their investment. That is why we are calling on the Adelaide City Council, in any future consideration of this development, to respect the current LMA in place.”

According to the State Government planning website, LMAs set out the rules relating to the development, management, preservation or conservation of land.

The state’s Planning Institute Australia president, Elinor Walker, likened the agreements to an additional layer of planning consent designed to “alert owners” of their building obligations.

She said each state had a similar planning mechanism.

“They are actually a very useful tool and they are a legal document, so the content of them can be complicated,” Walker said.

“The intent is that planning decisions are consistent with what’s required in the LMA, and the LMA will also form part of the content of sales documents.

“So when you buy a piece of land, your conveyance or solicitor needs to alert you to what your obligations are and if there’s a land management agreement that protects the site.”

Walker said while some agreements did have an end date, the majority did not.

“Most of the time you only put something on the title because it should be there forever – so it runs in perpetuity,” she said.

For an LMA to be changed, Walker said a planning team would need to assess the intent behind the agreement.

“They are quite variable and quite complicated, but if there’s a contest or dispute about the contents of the LMA, you probably need to go through planning lawyers to get some advice,” Walker said.

“Often it’s an agreement that’s entered into by (the) council and the landowner and it can affect one block or it can affect a whole precinct.

“They’re often used for land divisions when you need to put a building on the site. So you can say, ‘yes we approve the land division, but this is the area where you can build on the block’.”

An Adelaide City Council spokesperson said the council had not received a request to amend the LMA.

“Council has not as yet received a formal request from the landowner to amend or vary the Land Management Agreement (LMA) on this portion of the site,” City of Adelaide Associate Director Property and Commercial Tom McCready said.

“If received, Council will have the opportunity to consider the merits of any request.”

West Franklin project commercial manager Wendy Lieng told InDaily Greaton planned to “follow up with the council regarding the LMA”.

“We believe our proposal development is in compliance with the current development act,” she said.

A SCAP spokesperson said the planning body could not comment as the application was still in progress.

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