Unfortunately, this is getting to be a recurring theme. The current legislation permits builders and developers holding an existing building permit to demolish properties with interim Heritage orders. The legislation being utilised is a State Government amendment to its planning scheme specific to Booroondara – Amendment C299.
Booroondara provides the setting for the perfect storm. Large blocks, older homes and developers with deep pockets. The situation is simple, Booroondara Council’s Planning Department has previously issued Demolition permits on older homes – all over 100 years old – in particular this one at 368 Auburn Rd which was 130 years old. The home demolished is directly opposite Currajong House, which was saved by Government intervention by Minister Wynne in May this year. Currajong House is 135 years old. Booroondara applied a Heritage Overlay application to stall demolition but in reality unless it can rescind its demolition permits (which without great expense it can’t), then the only avenue to protect such homes now covered by interim Heritage protection was for the Minister and his department to intervene.
From the outside, there would appear to be some shortfalls in action by the Booroondara Council. Surely being aware of the demolition permits issued against Heritage properties with interim protection, there needs to be a co-operative response with both Council and the State Government Planning Department, the Minister and the full Council Chamber or Booroondara working together to protect these beautiful and historic homes.
Tim Smith the Member for Kew is the Shadow Minister for Planning. Booroondara is in fact located within very safe Liberal Party seats, and the Council is very much cast in the same mould. Time to stop politicking and get down to preserving the rich heritage of the area. These homes are irreplaceable and form a very rich and visible link to our past. It is a tragedy to see them being demolished to build nondescript blocks of apartments.
As we have stated here over and over, it is high time that the State Government, Local Government, the Victorian Heritage Council, the National Trust and other legitimately qualified parties get together and create a Heritage plan based on today’s values, not those of the 1970s, ‘80s or ‘90s. So much is now gone. Let’s protect what remains for posterity and the fabric of our city and State.
Here is a report from the Age dated September 1st 2019…
‘Irrevocably wrecked’: Fury as another old house razed
A “bizarre’’ loophole created by the state government in a local council’s planning scheme is being blamed for the demolition of a Victorian-era house in Hawthorn.
The 130-year-old brick house was razed last week to make way for 14 apartments, despite being the subject of an interim heritage order.
The City of Boroondara, the National Trust and locals now say they fear the destruction of other heritage buildings under an amendment introduced by the state in 2018.
Amendment C299 allows property owners with an existing building permit to demolish buildings, despite interim heritage orders.
The City of Boroondara says it is the only council to have the amendment.
The controversial amendment is now at the centre of a stoush over who is responsible for reducing a building of heritage value to a pile of rubble.
Opponents say the state’s amendment – and its subsequent failure to intervene in the demolition – enabled the destruction of the double-fronted brick house at 368 Auburn Road.
But the state government argued that councils were responsible for heritage and it was the City of Boroondara that issued the home’s owner with a demolition permit in July 2018.
The state claims that following local outcry, the council then put a heritage overlay on the property in April this year, knowing that it would be trumped by the demolition permit.
“If the council was serious about protecting this house, it would not have issued a demolition permit to knock it down last year,” Planning Minister Richard Wynne said.
The National Trust called on the state government to close what it termed a “bizarre’’ loophole in the Boroondara planning scheme that it said allowed protected places to be demolished.
National Trust CEO Simon Ambrose said homes granted interim heritage protection, which meant they were being considered for permanent protection, could be bulldozed if a demolition permit had been obtained before temporary protection was granted.
“Unless this loophole is closed, more houses will be lost,”’ he said.
The City of Boroondara said that due to the amendment, its hands were tied to prevent the demolition.
The council said in a statement that it also meant other houses in the precinct were at risk.
It said it was disappointed with the minister’s “lack of action to preserve heritage in the City of Boroondara”.
“The impact of this exemption cannot be understated as evidenced by [Friday’s] destruction of an identified heritage home,” it said.
In May, Mr Wynne intervened to stop demolition of 135-year-old Currajong House, across the road from 368 Auburn Road.
The state government said the council didn’t inform it about number 368’s impending demolition until bulldozers were moving on the house on Friday.
“The council has had ample opportunity to request state intervention, but instead has sat on its hands until bulldozers are out the front,” Mr Wynne said.
The council said the demolition order had been issued by a private building surveyor and it had campaigned for months to have the amendment removed.
Before the exemption, when an interim heritage overlay was introduced a planning permit would be required for demolition works.
Resident Christopher Blanden said he sent an email in February to the Planning Department, Mr Wynne and local MP John Kennedy, warning that the owner of the 1890s Victorian house had obtained a permit to demolish the building.
The letter called on the state government to revoke its amendment so that the owner couldn’t demolish the house without applying for a council planning permit.
Mr Blanden’s wife, Rose, said she feared “many, many beautiful houses across the whole of Boroondara can be demolished’’ under the amendment.
Mrs Blanden said it was vandalism that the “beautiful’’ house with established trees would be replaced by units she believed would be more suited to the Gold Coast.
Tim Smith, the member for Kew and the shadow minister for planning, said he was appalled as he witnessed the demolition.
“We can’t keep letting houses like that get destroyed, otherwise Melbourne will be irrevocably wrecked forever,” he said.
Mr Smith believes similar demolitions are inevitable “unless the planning amendment C299 is revoked” due to land values in Boroondara “and this government’s bizarre priorities when it comes to heritage”.
“They want to list the Eastern Freeway [for heritage protection], but they wouldn’t give a toss about a 130-year-old property in Hawthorn,” he said.
For opponents to such Heritage Overlays and Listings, they point out that they ‘own the property’ and ‘it’s their right to do what they please’. Under current legislation without a valid Heritage Listing or at least a valid interim Heritage protection order that trumps any demolition permit, they’re correct and there is not a thing anyone can do about it.
The contentious amendment C299 must be revisited to ensure Heritage protection is guaranteed whether in Booroondara or any other municipality. It is a deficiency in both planning policy, State legislation and Local Government building regulations.
Armidale, Kew, Hawthorn, Malvern, Black Rock, Beaumaris, Moonee Ponds, Toorak, Caulfield – the list continues to grow. It’s getting to a critical situation. Demolitions are occurring weekly.
[In the next week we will post Heritage Listing application forms on our website. It does require a good understanding of what is possible, but there are recent cases that demonstrate Community action can be successful, example the Albert Park campaign for No. 1 Victoria Ave.]
Time for change. Time for both sides of politics to co-operate and look at the long term future and viability of Heritage Overlays, Listings and values within this State.
Heritage protection is for all now, but where it should really resonate is with future generations – they will surely thank us for our actions now if we can prevail upon the powers that be to act decisively.
“Heritage – protecting the past to enhance the future.”