Keen email openers will have noticed an increase in communications about the Fragrance Towers. Since our last newsletter in May, the Trust has been fighting a battle with a Singaporean property developer to preserve Tasmania’s unique cultural and urban identity.
The Fragrance Group is a Singaporean property development company majority owned by one person, Mr Koh Lee Meng. The networth of the company is just over $1 billion AUD.
The company began buying property in Tasmania in 2014 after a trade expo organised by the current Liberal Government. As far as we know, the company currently owns: six properties in Hobart, including the former University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music building, one in Launceston, one on the Tasman Peninsula and Waterhouse Island in Bass Strait. It is also developing several other highrise towers in Western Australia and Victoria.
Currently the Hobart City Council (HCC) is considering two planning applications for high rise skyscraper developments from Fragrance. One at 2-6 Collins St is 95 metres high and the other at 28-30 Davey St is 210 metres high. The highest buildings currently in the vicinity of the Davey Street proposal are 40-45m high and the tallest building in the CBD currently is Royal Hobart Hospital at 60 metres. Both are to be hotel accommodation. The combined worth of the projects is in the vicinity of $250 million.
The two Hobart towers both fall within Hobart’s unique Sullivans Cove precinct (and planning scheme). Typified by sandstone buildings, Georgian style architecture and dominated by the Sullivans Cove wharf area, the Sullivans Cove precinct and neighbouring Battery Point village are Hobart’s top tourist draw cards. The addition of these two out-of-touch buildings would change the fabric of the area and could act as a precedent for more buildings that contradict the values that make Hobart a special place for locals and visitors: heritage, human scale, viewfields, light in the city and minimal traffic and congestion.
It is our view that neither of the Fragrance proposals can go close to complying with the very strong Sullivans Cove Planning Scheme. Under the Scheme any building above 15m in height is assessed by the council as ‘discretionary’. A building above 15 metres must be assessed against a range of standards such as ‘not being individually prominent’, which the Fragrance proposals cannot hope to achieve. The impact on built heritage, skyline views and neighbours must also be taken into account.
Private discussions with Aldermen and council planners indicate the towers are not likely to be approved by council. They are feeling significant pressure from electors on this issue.
But we cannot assume the HCC will refuse these proposals. Recently a 60 metre hotel was approved for Hobart CBD. Many argued that it breached the subjective criteria of the planning scheme. It has subsequently been purchased by the Fragrance Group. The Hobart community must participate vigorously in the planning assessment process and ensure the HCC applies the planning scheme to the letter.
If the state government sticks to its promise that the new Major Projects Legislation will not be used to fast-track the Fragrance Towers and the Labor party sticks to its policy opposition to ministers calling-in the Fragrance proposals, the chance of Hobart getting is first skyscrapers looks very slight.
We believe the applications are currently being stalled by the developer, probably waiting to see how the cards fall at the state election next year before proceeding.
Fragrance owns the site of the Clarion Hotel at 22 Tamar Street, Launceston (adjacent to City Park) and is rumoured to be considering a 70 metre tower at the site, with a planned construction date of 2020. Little other information is available for this site at this stage.
Article by Jack Redpath, TCT Community Engagement Officer
Top image: an artist impression of the Fragrance Towers in Hobart. Graphic by Jack Redpath.
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At the Tasmanian Conservation Trust we have been fighting hard to protect Tasmania from the Fragrance Towers that are completely out of touch with everything that makes our cities unique.
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust has a proud history of defending the places that Tasmanians and visitors love. We have had some significant wins in our efforts to stop the Fragrance Towers, but there is still more to do. We must keep fighting to ensure that Hobart and Tasmania are not ruined forever.
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