What’s the threat to Port Melbourne beach?

Port Melbourne Beach is treasured by people all over Melbourne as one of the only beaches in Melbourne that still have lots of public open space and are directly accessible by tram. Tens of thousands of people visit here during the year to walk, run or cycle along the beach, to swim, kayak or sail. This wonderful area is a community resource. It’s YOUR beach, it’s OUR beach, it belongs to the community.

Port Melbourne Beach

Port Melbourne Beach

About 1-11 Waterfront Place, Port Melbourne

1-11 Waterfront Place Port Melbourne is a small area of land immediately opposite the Port Melbourne beach. Currently the land is occupied by various community facilities, including a childcare centre, a gym, a swimming pool, tennis courts and the local Food Store. Public transport visitors know the area as the terminus for the no. 109 tram from the city. The area is also a favourite spot for cyclists.

1-11 Waterfront Place

1-11 Waterfront Place

Waterfront Place was originally designed as the community space for Beacon Cove, a mainly low-rise, residential estate running alongside the beach at Port Melbourne, Australia. [Advert (PDF)] The child care, gym, swimming pool and tennis court complex was built in 1996 as one of the first buildings in the estate. Beacon Cove is a relaxed, fun and safe beachside community, attracting residents who enjoy the friendly community atmosphere. There are no community facilities for the Beacon Cove area other than those located at Waterfront Place.

Waterfront Place is currently protected from development by restrictive covenants (although a developer is seeking to have these covenants removed). The covenants were put into place at the establishment of Beacon Cove, so as to preserve the amenity of the wider area for the whole community.

The developer

The Waterfront Place complex was purchased in March 2007 by Action Group Australia (AGA), a private holding company established in April 2005 in Melbourne. AGA’s purpose is to act as a diversified investment vehicle for its parent company, Action Group Holdings Co (K.S.C.C), which is owned by Kuwaiti sheikh Mubarak Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. AGA’s managing director is Mr Andrew Nehme.

Initially the gym and swimming pool were shut down, and shortly afterwards a proposal was developed to demolish the community’s only shared facilities so as to erect a major hotel.

The first design, in 2009, was for a tower of 25 storeys. When this design was rejected by the City of Port Phillip the developer approached the then Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden (ALP) to remove height restrictions on the site. Andrew Nehme is reported to have threatened that the Kuwaiti royal family could withdraw from Australia if Mr Madden refused to overturn a three-storey height limit. [More]

The original design has now been replaced by a complex of three towers (5 storeys, 10 storeys and 19 storeys), of a rectangular style akin to an office tower in the CBD.

1-11 Waterfront Place Port Melbourne - Original design

Waterfront Place: original design

1-11 Waterfront Place Port Melbourne  - Looking north

Waterfront Place: current proposal, looking north

The covenants

Restrictive covenants over 1-7 Waterfront Place are held by residents to prevent any development outside the original architectural plan for the Beacon Cove estate.

In August 2008 the developer initiated action in the Supreme Court of Victoria to have the restrictive covenants removed under Section 84(2) of the Property Law Act with the Department of Infrastructure joined as Defendant, but this action was dropped.

In July 2012 the developer again applied to the Supreme Court of Victoria to have the covenants removed under Section 84(1) of the Property Law Act with Mirvac anor joined as Defendants. This application has not yet been judged.

The developer also applied to the City of Port Phillip to have the covenants removed, but this application was refused in April 2013. The developer immediately applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a review of that decision in parallel with the Supreme Court action, which is still current.

Why is this development a problem?

Community reaction

The community is strongly opposed to the development. Local residents, local businesses and visitors all consider that the project will create substantial problems including:

  • loss of precious public community facilities such as the childcare centre,
  • the total destruction of the area’s “social and environmental amenity” …. transforming the area from a friendly, family-oriented, low-rise residential community with lots of green areas and lots of public space … to an ugly, high-rise commercial area more like the Gold Coast,
  • privacy intrusions for all the residents currently living in the area, as the 19-storey tower will look down into residents’ private gardens,
  • massive traffic congestion, especially affecting ferry, freight and cruise ship traffic, as the streets in this area are single-lane residential streets,
  • serious negative impacts on local businesses for the years during the construction phase, as the entire area will become very unattractive to residents and visitors during construction,
  • reductions in property values throughout the Beacon Cove area because of the bulk of the 19-storey building in such close proximity to houses, and
  • a significant loss of sunlight to the whole beach area due to the shadows cast by the building. This is an impact that will be felt by everyone who currently enjoys the Port Melbourne Beach.


Shadowing Study (Source: MGS Architects, 2009 [Report])

This sun carver study shows the limits on built form massing necessary to prevent shadowing on Port Melbourne beach. Any built form higher than 6 storeys at the Waterfront Place edge of the street would shadow the beach. A 19 storey tower would have a major shadowing impact.

Community Group Submissions

State Government Member’s reaction

Martin Foley, State Member for Albert Park (ALP) has committed to oppose any planning application for a tower at Waterfront Place [More] [Cached PDF]

Council reaction

Council based its decision on submissions and reports from the developer, consultants and the community. Council sent letters to 4,000 owners and occupiers in the vicinity of the site and received 204 submissions, including 5 in support.

Issues raised included (quoting from a Council report – not a complete list):

  • Relationship to strategy, policy and process:
    • the urban design framework is not complete, and decisions should not be made in advance of that.
    • over-development/increased density
    • the application for variation of plans goes beyond the scope of variation.
    • out of character with the existing neighbourhood.
    • detrimental impact on the historic areas of the site (especially the heritage listed railway station)
    • proposed development does not represent design excellence.
    • would set an undesirable precedent (opening the way for a similar project on the Foodstore site).
  • Covenants:
    • the covenants preserve the integrity of the unique, architecturally cohesive and planned Beacon Cove development.
    • purchasers in Beacon Cove reasonably expected that the covenants would endure after the completion of the existing development as a safeguard against future inappropriate development and to preserve amenity for residents.
    • the application disregards the existing covenants and should not be determined in advance of the removal of covenants.
  • Impact on property owners, residents and visitors:
    • reduction in property values and rental returns (especially during a multi-year construction period).
    • impact on the operations of the Port of Melbourne (Station Pier).
    • loss of community feel.
    • reduction in open space.
    • would not provide appropriate links to the foreshore.
    • overlooking/loss of privacy for properties within several blocks.
    • sun reflection/glare from the 19-storey glass surface to residences.
    • would compromise pedestrian and bicycle routes and safety.
    • impact on key views.
    • increased pressure on local facilities – i.e. schools, kindergartens
    • increased noise during construction and afterwards.
    • loss of community amenities/facilities – child care centre, gym, swimming pool and tennis courts.
    • increased strain on public transport (buses and trams) and other infrastructure which is already at capacity.
    • traffic and parking congestion.
    • overshadowing (especially of the beach to the south of the towers).
  • Other:
    • inadequate building setbacks – the building goes out to the sidewalk.
    • proposed buildings are too high.
    • vehicle access from Beach Street (north of the building) is inappropriate.
    • developer’s traffic study is flawed.
    • wind tunnelling.
    • inappropriate development for this gateway location.
    • the development could deter tourism – especially day visitors.
    • adverse impact on local commercial operations and also commerce in Bay Street.
    • impact of construction activities.

A report prepared for Council by its Manager of City Development concluded that:

  • The height, massing and design of the proposed buildings would not appropriately respond to or respect the local content and neighbourhood character, including the heritage listed railway station to the west.
  • The pedestrian access through the site is considered to be a poor design response due to its level of enclosure and its failure to provide direct access from Beach Street to Waterfront Place.
  • Council cannot be satisfied that the traffic generated from the development would not have a detrimental impact on the local traffic network.
  • The proposal fails to adequately consider the impact on the commercial operations at Station Pier.

After consideration of submissions and other feedback from the community and the developer’s representatives, and the report from its own officers, Council rejected the application.

The developer has applied to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a review of the Council’s decision.

Port of Melbourne Corporation reaction

The Port of Melbourne Corporation (POMC) is the strategic port manager for the Port of Melbourne, with the functions and powers to undertake the integrated management and development of the land and water side of the port.

In relation to Waterfront Place these functions include all operations at Station Pier, which handles:

  • around 58 cruise ship visits per season, many of which involve 4,000 passengers and crew, requiring special security and traffic management arrangements for buses, cars, taxis and freight vehicles for reprovisioning etc [Schedule] POMC estimates that 160,000 passengers and crew arrive at Station Pier, and this number is expected to rise to 640,000 by 2030. [More] [Cached]
  • Spirit of Tasmania (Tasmania ferry) operations with two daily sailings in Summer. These operations attract truck freight, buses and very large numbers of cars (often with caravans and trailers) entering and leaving the area. Each ferry has a capacity of 1,400 passengers and 1,000 cars (or a lesser number with trucks). That adds a potential 5,000 or so passenger movements and 4,000 vehicle movements per day to the cruise ship season traffic.
  • Australian and foreign naval vessels.


The Port of Melbourne Corporation has criticised the impact of the proposed development on its operations. In January 2013 acting executive general manager of business and planning, Robert Woodside said in its submission to Council “PoMC considers that the proposal is an encroachment of a sensitive and potentially incompatible use on the port … It has the potential, demonstrated by our current experience of receiving amenity and traffic-related complaints, to prejudice the efficient and curfew-free operations of the port.” [More]

A gridlock of trucks, buses and cars in front of Waterfront Place backed up to Bay Street

A gridlock of trucks, buses and cars in front of Waterfront Place backed up to Bay Street

POMC probably expects that the residents of the proposed development would soon complain about:

  • the noise of refrigerator compressors on freezer trailers parked directly across the street while waiting for loading onto the ferry
  • traffic noise and congestion, including traffic control and security arrangements during the cruise ship season.

The proposed development is incompatible with the constraints of that area.

Major impact of construction operations

A major construction project involves demolition and excavation (with removal of material), pile driving, delivery of equipment, materials, and on-site accommodation and project offices. This would create significant problems for traffic operations, businesses and residences.

Encroachment of construction works onto adjacent roads and public areas can last for years

Encroachment of construction works onto adjacent roads and public areas can last for years

Last updated: 22 May 2013 | Shortlink: http://wp.me/P3tOu9-8