The Victorian parliament this week has made the extraordinary and unprecedented move to lodge a formal planning objection against the planned redevelopment of Melbourne’s Palace Theatre into a a $180 million luxury apartment complex.

The controversial proposal made by property developers Jinshan Investments in June calls for the 31 storey construction of a W Hotel branch: a 205-room, 145 apartment complex built across 20,000 square metres – at the top end of Bourke Street at the site of the 2,000 capacity live music venue.

Local music advocates and heritage campaigners have been vigorously fighting the redevelopment, which has recently been modified after comments made by the Melbourne City Council and Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

Speaking to The Age, upper house president Bruce Atkinson says that he was not aware of parliament lodging a planning objection before, but despite the move being unprecedented the parliament has lodged an objection, raising concerns about the development overshadowing Parliament House.

“At the moment there are height limits in place for this precinct,” Mr Atkinson said. “The Palace hotel seeks to pursue a development that is much higher than those.”

Mr Atkinson announced that he had lodged the objection in state parliament on Tuesday afternoon, following months of protests and community discontent over the redevelopment.

Final approvals for the building plans were dismissed by Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy in early July, who said that Jinshan Investments were “dreaming” if they though their submissions would be approved in their current form. “It is too tall, it is in the wrong location,” said the Minister.

Alarming renderings of the proposed hotel development, showing what the top end of Bourke Street would look like without the Palace Theatre, also emerged online to much community backlash.

(Image: An artist rendering of the amended W Hotel Complex proposal. Source:

Heritage concerns aside, the Victorian music industry is also concerned about the loss of a venue of that size in the Melbourne CBD. As Music Victoria CEO Patrick Donovan emphasises, the iconic Melbourne venue is “one of the few medium sized venues that can host the bigger Australian acts as well as international touring bands. Its absence would leave a huge gap for 2,000 capacity standing room venues.”

If demolished, Melbourne would be left only with the likes of the 1,050 capacity Billboard, the 1,500 capacity Forum Theatre, and the 2,896 seats of St Kilda’s The Palais for promoters left to choose from, either downsizing or upsizing their capacities, while competing with other cultural events like the comedy and film festival.

A Melbourne Council meeting on the planning application took place back in August, where Lord Mayor Robert Doyle excused himself from proceedings when the $180 million project was raised, citing an indirect conflict of interest because his former chief-of-staff, Alister Paterson, is a consultant on the CBD hotel complex proposal.

But the Victorian parliament isn’t concerned about such conflict. Mr Atkinson says that no conflict would arise because of the separation between parliament and government.

“The government is not the parliament and the parliament is not the government…it’s the parliament that is indicating its concern with the development.”

Melbourne Heritage Action have also sent a formal objection go the proposed development (which can be read here), the detailed objection focuses on heritage issues, the height of the proposed structure and its impact on the culture of the Bourke Hill and Parliament precinct.

They have put forward an application of the venue’s heritage listing to be updated, currently the venue’s facade is protected, but an update would protect the entire building.

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