22 August 2017
The General Manager,
Mr Robert Dobrzynski
Launceston City Council
Town Hall St John Street
LAUNCESTON TAS 7250
By email only toRobert.Dobrzynski@launceston.tas.gov.au
Re : DA 0377/2017, Visitor Accommodation - hotel: Food Services - restaurant; construction of a hotel, subservient uses and a restaurant; associated works including demolition, provision of landscaping, fences, access and parking; associated works in the adjoining road reservations including removal of 3 kerbside parking spaces for the provision of vehicle crossings in Tamar Street and Cimitiere Street (re-advertised) - Cimitiere St Carpark 71 Cimitiere Street LAUNCESTON TAS 7250.
We refer to the Notice in The Examiner newspaper on August 9, 2017.
Having perused the documents published on Council's website, we wish to make the following representation in relation to this Discretionary Application.
For some time, many residents of Launceston have been trying to reconcile high-rise development with heritage protection. From our research of cities world-wide, in almost every city where Tall Building Policies have been implemented, such policies were introduced only as a consequence of public outrage sparked by the construction of an individual building popularly perceived as violating the character of the city. Since 1977, Launceston City Council has promoted restraint in the construction of tall buildings in the central area. The LCC's Launceston National Estate Conservation Study promoted low-level developments of 2-3 storeys, and when taller buildings were proposed, these were to have a 3-3.5 storey podium at the street alignment, with the upper 5-6 storeys of taller buildings set back below a 35 0 line projected from the property boundary on the opposite side of the street.
The HPS(T)Inc. subscribes to the views and philosophies expressed in The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, The Burra Charter, where the Charter advocates a cautious approach to change : do as much to care for the place and to make it useable, but otherwise change it as little as possible so that its cultural significance is retained. Launceston is Australia's third oldest city, and an essential cornerstone of its cultural heritage significance is its limitation in the height of new developments. Tasmanian tourism authorities and including Launceston City Council itself, commonly describe Launceston as having the best preserved cityscape and with a fascinating history traced in its beautiful old buildings and streetscapes.
To many people, the understanding of Launceston as a place of cultural heritage significance, may be difficult to express in words and whilst remain important and essential to their sense of well-being, can remain somewhat elusive and difficult to readily define. Quite recently, on 7th. April 2017, Historic England published a highly regarded and commendable research document UNDERSTANDING PLACE content.historicengland.org.uk that, we submit, may readily be applied to undertaking an historic area assessment here in Launceston. We recommend that Launceston's planners investigate this document and follow the advice therein to establish the qualities and contributions to urban planning that gives Launceston its cultural heritage significance.
The failings of the Launceston Interim Planning Scheme 2015 have been well stated and agreed, including the failings and incompleteness of its heritage provisions. Your planners will have an opportunity when finalising Launceston's version of the Statewide Planning Scheme to rectify and complete the task, and by formulating an understanding of place, a sound foundation for the sustainable cultural heritage development of Launceston can be achieved.
Prior to the establishment of modern planning controls in Tasmania and Launceston in particular, from around the early 1960's , a number of adverse developments have been allowed in Launceston. These buildings are regularly referred to by notable visiting cultural experts, with the question put "How ever did you allow the construction of these buildings to occur ?"
The list of inappropriate developments include: The Telstra Building in St John Street, (constructed as the Telephone Exchange to half this height in 1960's and then doubled in height in the 1970's) so as to alternatively prevent the demolition of the historic Johnstone & Wilmot buildings next door, previously acquired by the Commonwealth Government as a site to expand the telephone exchange. It is an interesting note that during this period the Commonwealth Government was exempt from Local Government planning provisions. .
Grand Chancellor Hotel, Cameron Street, (constructed as Launceston International Hotel in 1984) but illegally constructed to an additional height 2m in excess of the permit conditions. 93 York Street (constructed as MLC Building in1958) Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital (constructed in the 1960's on a very restrictive site as a part of the older maternity hospital complex and limited by encircling residential development. Henty House, Cameron Street Civic Square (constructed 1983 to a much reduced height following very widespread public objection and condemnation of the State Government's 1970's proposed office tower 12 storeys high). The present building was begrudgingly accepted by the public as a less-damaging concept. Quest Hotel 16 Paterson Street,( constructed as D W Murray, originally only 3 storeys, then significantly raised to 6 storeys due to commercial expansion of the Murray warehousing business early in the 20th. century. .
Launceston is a low level city with only a handful of church spires, the Post Office Centenary clock tower and the celebratory tower of Albert Hall punctuating the townscape. Some industrial chimney stacks at the Railyards, Launceston General Hospital, Patons and Baldwin, (several now demolished), and industrial structures such as the Vertical Retort at the Gasworks, the Grain Silo's at King's Wharf, and brewing equipment at Boags Brewery, remain and if not still in operation, are recycled for new and adventurous purposes.
The pressure for increased density for development in our current day cities does not always demand high rises. In enlightened communities, where the level of living and working amenity is not so highly respected or regulated, high-rise development spores a 'Geography of Nowhere'.
Paris, a much adored low-rise city referred to as le ville lumiere (city of light, where daylight and sunlight penetrates deeply into its apartments and workplaces right down to pavement level) has a well-researched benefit of a lower level of sufferers of depression, due to the positive influence of light on the wellbeing of Parisiennes. Paris outlawed tall buildings in the city centre in 1974, and in the Tsarist Russian capital of Saint Petersburg, (now identified by UNESCO) buildings could not be taller than the Winter Palace. In Rome there cannot be a building higher than St Peter's Basilica. Even in the highly commercialised city of Bali, Indonesia, following the unpopular construction of the tall Bali Beach Hotel, nothing can now be built higher than a coconut tree at 12m !
There are spectacular views to be gained from low level developments on Launceston's surrounding hills, so unlike the 'flat' featureless terrains of many other cities, Launceston does not need to build up to gain elevation and outlooks. Please don't gamble with the 200-year old legacy that exhibits the cultural heritage of Launceston. The height limit at 12m for Launceston may be the single most powerful thing that has made our city so amazingly fulfilling. Once you make a change, in any place or regard, it is essentially irrevocable, and you have stepped on a slippery slope that makes other undesirable changes more likely.
The irreverent prize for Britain's worst building the Carbuncle Cup is awarded each year, with such places as the building dubbed the "Walkie Talkie" because of its obvious likeness, being one of the notable recipients. In Launceston circles this proposal for the Verge Hotel on Council's Cimitiere Street Car Park site fronting Tamar Street and our much valued Albert Hall, has already been dubbed the "Noodle Box". Please do not allow this potential carbuncle to be dubbed as Launceston's version of a recipient the Carbuncle Cup, a violation of the principles of the cultural heritage character of Launceston.
In conclusion, we ask that in view what we believe to be a significant opposition to this tall building development application, that Council does not approve the application, instead encouraging this applicant to reduce the height to a limit of 12m and expand the footprint to encompass additional land if necessary to achieve their required room capacity. .
We look forward to your consideration of this representation and feedback on this project.
President Heritage Protection Society (Tasmania) Inc.