The Dartmoor Police Station, a historic building listed on the Victorian Heritage Database, would appear to have been ‘illegally’ moved from its Dartmoor site to Port Fairy. Dartmoor is located within the boundaries of the Glenelg Shire Council. Port Fairy os located within the Moyne Shire boundaries. No permit was issued for the building’s demolition by Glenelg Shire Council, in fact the shire issued a cease works notice on Friday the 7th of June. Moyne Shire Council had separately issued a permit for the property for use as a dwelling.
It’s a confusing story, but it seems obvious that Victoria Police have ignored both the Heritage Listing by the Shire of Glenelg, and the Shire’s cease works order of the 7th of June.
Let’s put this in context. Here is the Victorian Heritage Database ‘Statement of Significance’…
The Dartmoor Police Station complex was completed in 1892. The new residence, stable and lock-up replaced the first police station in Dartmoor, close to the existing station, which had opened in 1862 and operated intermittently during the 1860s and 1870s, and the new site was reserved in 1884. The architectural drawings for the new residence and the stable were signed by HJM (J H Marsden) and also JHB (J H Brabin) and HRB (H R Bastow) of the Public Works Department. The first constable in the new station, the mounted trooper Constable Moore, was responsible for an area covering 650 square miles (almost 1700 square kilometres). In 1930 tenders were let for the renovation of the residence, and an additional office was added to the side of the original one. A new residence adjacent to the old one was built in the late 1980s, and the 1930s office was demolished in 1990. Plans to remove the rest of the residence and the stable at that time did not go ahead. A new police station was built in front of the stable in 2006.
The Dartmoor Police Station complex comprises a police residence with an office, a two-stall stable and forage store, and a small lockup. The residence is a single storey double-fronted timber building with a corrugated iron roof, and a projecting gable and a verandah across the front. The former office is in a small room on one end of the front verandah. The residence had a parlour and dining room off one side of a central passage and two bedrooms opening off the other side, and at the rear a kitchen and a pantry opened off a small back verandah. Minor alterations have been made at the rear with the addition of a bathroom and an opening made between the kitchen and the adjacent room. The two-stall stable and forage store is a timber building with a corrugated iron gable roof and a brick cobble floor. It was later used as a garage. A roller door has been added to the entrance and the horse stall partitions and feed boxes have been removed. The portable lock-up is a timber lock-up typical of many that were distributed through remote country areas in the late nineteenth century.
The Dartmoor Police Station is architecturally significant at a local level as an intact police complex of the early 1890s, comprising a police residence with an attached office, a two-stall stable and forage store, and a portable lock-up. It is historically significant at a local level as a demonstration of police practices in the remote parts of Victoria in the late nineteenth century, when the police office was responsible for policing a large area and was dependent on his horses for transport.
Construction date: 1892
Again, the situation is that the building had been ‘recommended for Heritage Overlay’, a limbo that often sees demolition occur before the Heritage Council of Victoria can inspect a building and report on its findings. But in this case no permit for demolition was authorised so the demolition was in fact illegal.
The ABC reported on the matter on Saturday June 15th. For your information here is the report…
Dartmoor residents angry with Victoria Police over ‘theft’ of heritage-listed police station
Residents of the small south-west Victorian town of Dartmoor are up in arms over the “theft” of their historic former police station.
The heritage-listed building was relocated by Victoria Police despite a council order demanding works be stopped due to a lack of appropriate permits.
Built in 1892, the former police station was the subject of a community campaign in the early 2000s to save it from demolition.
But about two weeks ago, residents noticed contractors were working at the empty building, which was located next to the new police station built in 2009.
Half of the building was put on a truck and taken to a residential block on the fringes of Port Fairy, just over 100 kilometres away.
- The original 1890s Dartmoor police station has been relocated by truck. Only one half of the building was initially taken
- Glenelg Shire Council issued a cease-works notice to Victoria Police but the rest of the building was relocated in the early ours of Tuesday morning
- Victoria Police say the building has not been sold and are working with council to find a “community-based” solution
No permits issued
Dartmoor District Museum proprietor, Michael Greenham, said he and other residents assumed the Department of Justice had “managed to rescind [the] heritage overlays … so that whatever they were doing was above board”.
But the bush telegraph started to suggest things were not above board, and Mr Greenham contacted Glenelg Shire Council.
A Glenelg Shire Council representative told Mr Greenham on Friday, June 7 that shire officers had left a message with the contractors and spoke with Victoria Police to issue a formal cease-works notice.
No permits had been issued for the heritage-listed building to be removed.
However when Dartmoor residents woke on Tuesday, June 11 the remaining half of the police station had also gone.
“It seems like it was either deliberate or ignorance,” Mr Greenham said.
“To have it quietly disappear — and the second half went before light early on Tuesday morning — it seemed a little bit too deliberate.”
Police put their case
Victoria Police is understood to have lodged a retrospective permit application, according to Glenelg Shire Council.
A police spokesperson said it did not receive a cease-work notice from the council.
“The old police station has not been sold, however it was recently relocated to a rural property in Western Victoria,” the spokesperson said.
“This was approved based on a 2009 report which stated that no planning overlays were in place for the site.”
The police spokesperson said that Victoria Police was actively working with the council to “mediate a community-based solution”.
The former police station and its nearby lock-up and stables, which remain on the block, were gazetted by Heritage Victoria in 2014.
The heritage organisation’s report described the former police station as:
“Architecturally significant at a local level as an intact police complex of the early 1890s … [and] historically significant at a local level as a demonstration of police practices in the remote parts of Victoria in the late nineteenth century.”
‘A bit of subterfuge’
Mr Greenham said the empty building “was always a bit of burden” for Victoria Police.
“Their main role isn’t to look after heritage buildings,” he said.
“They’ve got to man the streets and keep us safe.”
But Mr Greenham described the “theft” of the historic police station as “a little bit of subterfuge”.
“I reckon if I did something like that then Victoria Police would be down on me like a tonne of the demolished chimney bricks that are still sitting on site,” he said.
“It would indicate they didn’t want to go through that public process because they might have encountered some opposition to their plans.
“We could have easily come up with other alternatives; relocating it within the town, offering for public display somewhere else within our police district.”
A painting of the former police station by David Williams in 2004
The case highlights the inherent weaknesses of the current Heritage classification system. By applying for a heritage classification, Councils can freeze the issue of demolition permits. However with only limited staff, a full classification by the Heritage Council of Victoria can take up to 2 years.
In this case, there has been seemingly blatant disregard of the Glenelg Shire’s Heritage Overlay recommendation and the order to cease works. Police claim that they did not receive the cease work notice. This would seem to be an improbable claim.
The 1892 weatherboard building had been vacant for 10 years. It had been deemed ‘unsafe’ and ‘unfit for renovation’ (It’s not clear who made these declarations).
We conclude with an excerpt from the report by local newspaper for South West Victoria ‘The Standard’…
A council spokeswoman said the building, which is included in the council’s planning scheme heritage overlay, was removed from the Wapling Avenue address without council permission.
“A planning permit is required to remove or demolish a building, irrespective of size,” the spokeswoman said.
The 1892 weatherboard building was vacant in Dartmoor for 10 years and was deemed unsafe and unfit for renovation.
But the council attempted to stop the removal and issued Victoria Police and on-site contractors with a cease-works notice on Friday June 7.
“Council is still investigating the matter to consider appropriate enforcement actions and restitution,” the spokeswoman said.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman refuted that police received the cease-works notice and said a planning application had been lodged for the property’s address.
“The old police station has not been sold, however it was recently relocated to a rural property in Western Victoria,” she said.
“In relation to concerns raised by local residents, Victoria Police is actively working with Glenelg Shire Council to mediate a community-based solution.”
Moyne Shire Council planning manager Robyn Olsen said the council had granted a permit for the building to be moved onto private property in Port Fairy for use as a dwelling.
“Council was aware that the building was the old Dartmoor police station and have been in contact with Glenelg Shire for the planning permit information. There is a current building permit for the re-erection of the building,” Ms Olsen said.
It’s the principle that the application of the law in heritage terms should apply to everybody, and ignorance is no excuse.
Dartmoor District Museum’s Michael Greenham
Glenelg Shire mayor Anita Rank said it was “extremely disappointing” the council’s planning processes and heritage overlay had been disregarded.
“It’s relevant to its area of (original) location,” Cr Rank said of the structure.
“It’s of significance with regards to the history of law enforcement in Dartmoor and they have a very strong historical group up there who deem it significant.”
Dartmoor District Museum’s Michael Greenham said he believed the building had been sold and the community were disappointed with the principle of the sale.
“It’s the principle that the application of the law in heritage terms should apply to everybody, and ignorance is no excuse,” Mr Greenham said.
“It was bought as a dwelling from the house removalist and to my understanding (the buyer) is unaware of its significance.”
He said while the community had treasured the building, he believed there was little support for the building to be returned unless the town could put it to use.
In plain English, a house removalist has purchased and sold this historic building to an unwitting buyer.
This simply isn’t good enough. The buyer ends up with half a house, the township of Dartmoor loses it’s historic building, and the State of Victoria’s heritage is diminished once again.
There needs to be significant state-wide punitive measures put in place. In the UK if you illegally demolish a heritage building then you will be required to rebuild it to its original state and condition.
This plus much heavier fines may stop the cowboys of this world wreaking destruction on the valuable heritage of our state.
“It’s the principal that the application of the law in heritage terms should apply to everybody, and ignorance is no excuse.” – Dartmoor District Museum’s Michael Greenham.
We agree with Mr Greenham. This was an appalling blunder and quite simply the responsible parties should be held to account. Heritage values cannot be continually undermined by expedience, developers and profiteers.
It really is time to strengthen Heritage controls and prosecute those who disregard them.
Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.