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Epworth loses fight against 7-storey apartment

Robotic surgery at the Epworth Hospital. Photo: Michael RaynerThe private Epworth Hospital in Melbourne’s trendy inner-city Richmond has lost a battle to halt a seven-storey apartment going up next door amid concerns residents will look into the windows of patients in the hospital’s wards.

The hospital, which itself is undergoing a massive $350 million multi-storey expansion, opposed plans for a mid-rise building with 15 dwellings above two shops now leased to retailers The Body Shop and Claudia on Bridge Road.

The hospital’s extension will house a new emergency room and new wing with operating theatres and cardiac centre.

The apartment at 123-125 Bridge Road is being developed by a company called Lee Enfield which bought the larger of the two buildings in 1998 for $1.3 million.

The building will retain the heritage facades of the shops and include three new retail spaces on the ground floor with residents to access the building via the rear laneway, which backs onto the hospital.

Epworth Healthcare takes up most of the block between Normanby Place, Erin Street and Leigh Place near the crest of the city end of Bridge Road.

The healthcare provider objected to the proposal at Yarra Council and when the council approved the building, took its concerns to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

It argued that the rear rooms of the apartments would overlook the hospital’s room and the beds of patients being treated on several of the hospital’s floors.

“It maintains its objection to all north-facing bedroom and living room windows and all balconies on levels 1 to 5 on the grounds of unreasonable overlooking of the single-bed wards on levels 1 to 3,” the tribunal stated.

But tribunal members Geoffrey Code and Cindy Wilson dismissed the concerns, saying the council and the hospital’s insistence on extensive opaque glazing on the apartment windows at the rear of the building was unnecessary and would impact on residents.

A spokeswoman for Epworth said the hospital was still considering the VCAT judgment and had not made a decision on whether it would appeal.

The Lee Enfield proposal is one of the smaller projects either in planning or under way on Bridge Road which is undergoing a development-led renaissance.

Multiple apartment projects have been proposed along the strip that are expected to revitalise retail outlets whose traditional clothing trade was decimated by online shopping and an abundance of DFO-style factory outlets.

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