How to develop Heritage in Australia’s first colony remnants. Sydney – the place of Opportunity.

Heritage and development – are the two qualities mutually exclusive? perhaps by revisiting a significant battle in Sydney, it’s rather intriguing to follow the process. For in many cases the battle continues. In this case the area is Millers Point, one of Sydney’s earliest settled areas.

The exposed promontory proved to be the best place to situate Windmills in early Sydney Town. As well Sandstone was extracted from a quarry at the end of Windmill St.

The area quickly became a hub of activity with wharves and warehouses. The ‘mercantile’ elite built fine homes on elevated streets whilst the workers lived in small cottages near the wharves. Millers Point had by 1850 become the maritime heart of Sydney and was set to experience a long economic boom.

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Millers Point

In the 1890s the Great Maritime Strike was focused on Millers Point. It was a pivotal event in Australia’s short history. Between 1900 and the beginning of World War 1, there was an outbreak of Bubonic Plague, with the result being a massive clean-up of what was very sub-standard housing and the very first public housing ever constructed in Australia.

From post World War 2 until the 1970s saw the Maritime Services Board run worker housing and tenancies with homes often passed down through families over generations. Developers eyeballed the Rocks and adjacent areas but the BLF and its leader Jack Mundey enforced the now famous Green Bans preserving the area from demolition and devastation. Millers Point residents were very supportive of the bans fearing the ‘Development’ engine may consume their suburb.

In the 1990s the Maritime Board transferred control of its housing stock to Housing NSW. Residents were no longer wharf workers with maritime activity transferring to Port Botany.

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Walsh Bay

Walsh Bay saw a development between Dawes Point and Millers Point. Luxury apartments, restaurants and a new ‘cultural precinct’ whet the appetites of developers for prime locations like Millers Point.

In 2003 Millers Point and Dawes Point village precinct was listed on the State Heritage Register. More Wharves were sold off and the new urban precinct known as Barangaroo was established.

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Residences at Millers Point

By 2006, the State Government was selling off 99 year leases on 16 of the Millers Point properties, with a further 20 added in 2010 – many fetching more than $1 million. As the houses left fell into disrepair the residents were beginning to be relocated.

Enter Crown Casino – James Packer and Crown Resorts in partnership with Lend Lease announced their plans for the Barangaroo hotel and Casino. The Government proposes selling 250 public housing properties on Millers Point, by 2014 is would be 300 dwellings. The Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore is outraged by the decision and an MP Alex Greenwich called it Social Cleansing. The first 6 Heritage properties are sold for up to $3 million each. Heritage rules were ‘relaxed’ for new buyers of the Millers Point properties.

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Millers Point viewed from Observatory Hill

Fast forward to 2016. Shirley Fitzgerald, the former Historian for the City of Sydney spoke at the NSW Parliament.

‘Millers Point today. Woolloomooloo tomorrow. Glebe. Ultimo. Pyrmont. Surry Hills. And so on. There are pockets of public housing everywhere. Public housing that helps to make for a good city that works… So, sell them. For a quick and dirty profit today and pile up social problems for tomorrow. When we’ve achieved a completely socially segregated city where there isn’t any affordable housing in any neighbourhood which commands high land prices then we will really have problems. Social problems. Human problems. Environmental sustainability problems as the rich clog up the centre and the workers travel from the outer areas to service these inner areas. And right now, where is the government’s accounting of the immediate social costs of breaking up the Millers Point community in the unnecessarily cruel way it is being done?

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Millers Point

‘We have mentions of substitute housing elsewhere in the inner city but no promises. And rumours of further sell offs down the track. Others will talk about all this. My role here is to say something about the heritage issue.

‘What is heritage? We tend to think of it as ‘old stuff that we like.’ Buildings. Places. It is these things but it is far more. Heritage is what explains our past to us, and that includes far more than just the physical fabric of places. The State Heritage Register lists places that are protected under the heritage legislation. It lists things against a complex range of criteria: historical, aesthetic, social, research potential, rarity, degree of intactness – the list goes on. Significance can arise from who the people are and what the communities represent.

‘So forget definitions that are just about buildings. There are dozens of buildings on the State Register in Millers Point but there is also a listing for the ‘Millers Point Conservation Area’ (1999). This listing is not for this or that building in Millers Point but for the totality of the place. And ‘place’ is defined as its social fabric along with the physical fabric.

A heritage listing under the Heritage Act gives preservation some teeth. But it is a sad truth that heritage listings get updated – i.e. watered down – and when they do it is really hard to find official references to older listings. It is rumoured that the Heritage Council will have to review the Millers Point Conservation Area listing because it will be wrong once the government has kicked out all the public tenants. It was reported in the Herald at the time of the announcement of the sell off that the conservation guidelines would also be reviewed to put in place a heritage strategy that would ‘interpret’ the period of public housing. It will need ‘interpreting’ because we will no longer have it as a reality. Could anything be more cynical?

‘I have a reference to the 2003 listing of the significance of Millers Point as a ‘living cultural landscape’ with ‘an unusually high and rare degree of social significance’. Social significance. I cannot find this in the current listing. Even so, this is what the Heritage Register said when I last looked at it this morning. [day of the screening in Parliament House, 19 March 2015]:

‘There are many paragraphs, including:

  • 1.3 Its demonstrative capacity is heightened by [building listings] and by the experiences and memory of its long term community.
  • 1.4 Its public housing …and its development into a Government corporate town were probably the first such developments in Australia (apart from first settlement) and may be of international significance.
  • 3.3 [refers to ]… a pioneer programme of public housing and social improvement, demonstrated by development of a company port town by the Sydney Harbour Trust. This encompassed construction of purpose designed workers’ housing and support services.
  • 6.1 Its unity, authenticity of fabric and community, and complexity of significant activities and events make it probably the rarest and most significant historic urban place in Australia.

‘I’m reading all this to get it on the record before it too all disappears if the listing gets ‘modified’. I’m not a lawyer, but there is a Heritage Act and the Millers Point Conservation Area is a state significance listing under that act. And its listing unequivocally includes its significance as public housing and as community. It reads to me as though the government is in contravention of the law.

‘They are trashing Millers Point. Not the physical fabric, maybe. But the community, the rarity. Of course they are. This government does not want to be reminded of a time when governments undertook great public works for the public good. The Labor opposition mouths allegiance to a great social housing heritage and genuflects to people like Jack Mundey and Tom Uren, but promise little and fight for less.

‘That quaint old thing called public housing. Governments in the early 20th century understood that you had to have a place for workers to live in the city. They were motivated by ideas of what makes a city work efficiently as much as by ideas of the welfare state – these were and remain good ideas and they are ideas that leave for dead the current sterile ideas about maximising the bottom line.’

Source: millerspointcommunity.com.au

The National Trust was so concerned with the trashing of Heritage values that it put out its own statement.

Millers Point Under Threat

National Trust of Australia (NSW) says the sale of 293 heritage buildings in Millers Point is the most devastating attack on Australia ís nationally significant heritage since The Rocks were saved in the 1960s.

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National Trust of Australia (NSW) CEO Brian Scarsbrick warns rare heritage – some buildings dating back to 1820 – are being sold with no contractual heritage protection. He says all political parties should state their policy on this issue highlighting a ‘test sale’ of nine of these precious heritage properties which has produced disturbing results.

The Millers Point sale of 293 heritage buildings is the most devastating attack on Australia’s nationally significant heritage, since Jack Mundey working with the National Trust, saved The Rocks’ unique heritage during the 1960s.

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“Australia’s rare heritage provides a vital “sense of place” for communities. Selling off heritage buildings, some dating back to 1820 (only 32 years after the First Fleet arrived), with no contractual heritage protection, exposes that precious heritage to destruction and loss” – Brian Scarsbrick AM, CEO of the National Trust of Australia (NSW)

Irreplaceable properties that go back to Sydney’s colonial roots are being sold without full protection. The Millers Point area is not just built heritage, it is social heritage. For 200 years, it has been the home and workplace for merchants, shipping companies and waterfront workers and many of the people still there are descendants together with a range of public housing tenants.

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“We are deeply alarmed at the damage facing the 293 State heritage listed properties located at Millers Point because State Heritage Register Listing alone has been proven not to be sufficient protection,

A “test sale” of nine of these heritage properties, sold outright before Christmas on freehold title with no contractual obligation to protect their heritage value, has produced disturbing results.

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Already a third of the properties sold in the “test sale” are subject to unauthorised works and Sydney City Council is issuing stop work notices”, said Mr Scarsbrick

The National Trust of Australia (NSW) is calling on all political parties to clearly state their policy on the protection and conservation of our nationally significant Millers Point/The Rocks.

The National Trust is not against the sale of the Millers Point properties- but it is against the inadequate conditions and manner of sale which fails to protect the heritage values of the properties. This heritage destruction must be stopped and the Trust is asking the community to stand up against this inappropriate selling off of public assets.

“History shows that selling properties in The Rocks area on 99 year leases results in only a 5% – 10% discount and the assets can return to the public estate at a greatly increased value after the lease expires”, stated Trust Director – Advocacy Graham Quint

More than $700 million worth of public heritage assets are being sold freehold and not as in the past, on 99 year leases where approvals to undertake works had to be obtained from the owner – the government. The current freehold sales of the properties have no contractual obligations to ensure that conservation works are approved and no Compliance Bond to ensure that works are carried out in a timely manner using qualified heritage architects.

Brian Scarsbrick stated “these properties could easily be sold on 99 year leases which would involve purchasers being contractually obligated to protect the properties’ heritage values. They should remain ‘in the public estate’ and return to the Government in 99 years at massively increased values. Properties could be sold and the Government and the NSW public benefits now and later. This area is a rich part of the heritage fabric of Sydney located close to The Rocks and its wealth of State Heritage Register listed buildings”.

The heritage significance of the oldest surviving, continuously inhabited urban residential precinct in Australia’s European settlement history deserves the better protection that 99 year leasehold sales can provide.

Source: nationaltrust.org.au

The key lesson in this very unfortunate saga is that Heritage Listings and the Heritage Database must be kept intact. History doesn’t change. Rewriting history suits some parties but does nothing to preserve our heritage.

What has happened in Sydney is now beginning to occur in Melbourne. Areas without appropriate up-to-date Heritage overlays in operation are being savaged by developers. And here it is even worse in that buildings with heritage protection or interim heritage protection are being toppled at a rate of knots. In all the lesson is that it is a Government responsibility to provide protection for Heritage listed or proposed properties. The legislation must be current, workable and provide genuine protection

Of course, we can always subscribe to the ‘feel good’ version of such developments. From Domain…

First renovated Millers Point properties back on the market, attracting prestige buyers

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Several rundown Millers Point public housing properties sold by the NSW government in recent years have now filtered back onto the market, renovated and with hefty price tags to match.

One such property is 60 Argyle Street, listed for sale for $4.5 million, after selling for $3.175 million just over two years ago.

It’s one of Sydney’s oldest terrace homes, built by whaling captain George Grimes about 1845.

A development application submitted to the City of Sydney shows the property was changed from a boarding house to a residential dwelling at the end of 2015. It was put up for auction as part of the government’s Millers Point public housing sell-off in February 2016.

Agent Richard Shaloub, of Sotheby’s International, said the home was an investment property for the owner, with records showing it was advertised for rent, fully furnished, initially for $2,700, and then for $2,500 in April of this year.

Many of Millers Point’s terraces were home to Sydney’s low-income families and pensioners but they were evicted and moved elsewhere after the government announced plans in 2014 – despite protests from the community – to sell off its inner-city housing.

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The area has since undergone a metamorphosis, attracting prestige buyers with its large heritage buildings, proximity to the city and the Barangaroo precinct, as well as harbour views. The suburb’s median house price rose 36.15 per cent over the year to $2.78 million.

If the property sells for its $4.5 million asking price, it will represent a $1.325 million windfall for the seller over the two-year period they owned the property.

“A lot of people buying into Millers Point are going in for the high-end properties,” Shaloub says. “Being historic, heritage homes there’s a really strong appetite for restoring historic features. From my experience, buyers are not afraid of putting in a significant amount of capital for improvements.”

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“It’s a rare opportunity to buy something [in Millers Point] that has been renovated”, Shaloub says. “Everything that has been traded has been run down or dilapidated. This is one of the first that you can move straight into.”

Shaloub has another renovated Millers Point property on the books – 60 Kent Street, which sold for $1.75 million in May 2016. Also bought as an investment property, the home is currently listed for $2.75 million.

“They were both purchased for a good price. They’ve put some money in, but it’ll be a nice earner for them,” Shaloub says.

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“It’s a very unique proposition, it’s a very highly sought after area in the precinct”, he adds.

A five-bedroom renovated home at 53 Lower Fort Street is also currently listed for sale, with an advertised price guide of between $4.8 million and $4.9 million. It last sold for $1.575 million in 2009.

Billionaire Kerr Neilson recently bought into the precinct, paying about $5 million at auction for an unrenovated set of three apartments, formerly known as George Talbots Townhouses.

Investment banker Richard Kovacs has also purchased property nearby, paying $9.9 million for two Georgian townhouses.

A reported $550 million has been raised from the sale of 177 NSW Government-owned properties so far.

Source: domain.com.au

Median house prices in the area have risen by 36.15% in one year – 2018.

Therein lies the story. Keep in mind these properties were all Government owned. A slice of Australia’s earliest history. But hey – it’s a good investment. The plan was that most people would purchase and spend substantial capital on heritage base renovations. The actuality is many are simply being rented out as Airbnb, to the extent that Kent St is now known as ‘Rent St’.

So beware, development is not always going to support heritage or produce the results intended or expected. And without proper Heritage protection – it’s just another building – land banked for an uncertain future. Such is life, a famous fellow once said.

Time for action we say.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Spring Time – Refresh, Renew and Revitalise – Heritage restoration with Space, Comfort and Style – with a Heritage Architect

At this time of year Melbourne is now heavily into the Auction Season. Homes in inner Melbourne are being offered for sale with the gardens in full bloom, the interiors freshly painted, new flooring or freshly sanded, as well as refreshed and renovated kitchens and bathrooms. Should you be lucky enough to purchase one of the many heritage properties for sale right now, it is a clever move to contact a Heritage Architect for an inspection and assessment of your new property acquisition.

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Andrew Fedorowicz (FAIA) is our principal Architect and is well situated to assist you in all Heritage property restoration and refurbishment.

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In Inner Melbourne, ‘land banking’ is a common practice. People buy properties in reasonable condition and let them out to tenants for 5-10 years (depending on the rate of appreciation and the deposit applied to their purchase). The tenants pay off the loan and then these ‘land bankers’ apply a quick makeover. Hardiboard with tile surfaces, new lighting fittings and garden makeovers provide a refreshed and seemingly well cared for appearance to prospective buyers.

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On one street in South Melbourne, two houses were offered for sale in quick succession. One had $200,000 spent on renovation with a proper architect design creating a purposeful living area and retaining all the heritage features, enhancing some that were previously neglected to bring the whole property into line with its original 1880s construction, yet offering comfortable modern liveability.

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The other was given a quick makeover by the family who owned it and had rented it out for 10 years. The actual façade was intact in original bluestone, but the sidewall featured a major crack running from the roofline to nearly ground level. Internally it was repainted, the flooring sanded and the kitchen and bathroom tiling replaced with more ‘modern’ tiles. About $25K was expended. It was a cosmetic makeover, but it ‘looked’ very good.

The first house sold within two weeks. House number two has been passed in at Auction and attracted no buyers at the price it was offered. The valuation was put at about $1.9 million by independent valuers. The owners were asking for $2.5 million. Sometimes ambition clouds judgement. Buyers also recognise quality over cosmetic coverups.

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Balance Architecture and Interior Design have a wealth of experience in creating and providing elegant solutions in the presentation and living areas of Heritage properties. Many earlier properties were built with structural internal walls, separate anti-rooms for servants, stables and slate roofing.

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Electrical wiring, plumbing and lighting were set to standards we no longer find acceptable. Foundations were often bluestone lintels laid on a sand base.

Add to this some truly appalling ‘renovations’ of the 1950s, ’60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Ironwork was removed from ornate verandahs on Victorian Terraces by migrant families buying cheap then looking to ‘modernise’. Feature tiles were ripped up and more ‘modern’ tiling replaced the delicate Victorian mosaic tiling. Architectural mouldings both internal and external were removed. Ornate glass, be it leadlight or the original window glass was often replaced with ‘feature’ glass (whatever that meant). Old gardens with 60 year old well kept roses and old fashioned perennials made way for eucalypts, grevillias and kangaroo paws. And dietes, so many dietes.

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To restore a home to its original glory takes vision and capital. It takes an experienced eye to take hold of the rudder and steer the project in the direction of faithful restoration yet incorporate entirely liveable spaces. Andrew Fedorowicz of Balance Architecture is such a visionary. A fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects, Andew can explain to you the very real options available to you in developing your heritage property. (Andrew is in fact the Principal Architect of Balance Architecture). A true understanding of Heritage Architecture and its restoration will add real value to your new home, and Andrew will provide this.

Whether you’ve purchased in inner Melbourne – Albert Park, South Melbourne, Clifton Hill, Moonee Ponds or Carlton – if your property is considered ‘heritage’ or you live in an area with a heritage overlay, please call Andrew on 0418 341 443 and book a consultation to ensure a professional assessment of your proposed renovations. Andrew is also both interested and experienced in the restoration and renewal of rural heritage properties.

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If more convenient, please leave your contact details here for a prompt response.

Heritage Architecture is a holistic pursuit. It’s not just creating a façade, it’s maximising the value of your historical and beautiful home.

Heritage – It’s worth saving, it’s worth preserving.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage Knock-Downs and the ‘Politics’

There is an old saying many of you will have heard – ‘The law is an ass’. It’s an interesting statement. The ass or donkey is not renowned for its intellect but it is in fact a sturdy beast of burden that will carry heavy loads without complaint. Heritage law for some Councils is in fact ‘a heavy load’.

With competing agendas creating and angling for different outcomes, the current situation in Boroondara Council is an excellent example of legislative failure, at least at a local level, and an inability at a State level to ensure compliance with heritage values enshrined in legislation. The amendment simply makes no sense as currently applied by the State Government.

At 81 Charles Street, stands a striking Victorian-era weatherboard. Built 134 years ago, it could all be replaced by three townhouses.jpg

At 81 Charles Street, stands a striking Victorian-era weatherboard. Built 134 years ago, it could all be replaced by three townhouses

At a Council level, Planning Departments have competing agendas. On the one hand multi-occupancy on single occupancy sites makes for significant increases in rates and revenue per property.

It would also seem that it is somewhat mischievous to permit demolition permits on properties known to be included in projected Heritage overlays being submitted to Heritage Victoria and the Victorian Heritage Council for approval. In saying this, it’s recognised that the approval process for heritage listing can take up to 12-18 months. In this case Boroondara is imploring the Planning Minister to intervene.

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

The Toorak mansion bought for $18.5 million and razed. The empty block is now on the market for $40 million

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18 months on, the site is an ‘ugly paddock’

There are several deficiencies at work. The Heritage Council is seemingly underfunded and understaffed. With this in mind, it would be sensible of the Council’s in question with outstanding demolition orders on properties included on proposed heritage overlays, or indeed properties to be heritage listed in their own right, to apply a freeze, an injunction on these properties until a decision has been handed down by the Heritage Council. In turn this could be added to current State Heritage legislation as an amendment to current legislation to prevent any such demolitions being pursued through VCAT or the courts.

This is a most serious issue for Heritage protection. To date this demolition permit loophole has been used to demolish properties in Armadale, North Caulfield, Hawthorn, Kew, Black Rock and Beaumaris. Councils such as Boroondara, Stonnington, Glen Eira and Kingston have all been placed in such untimely dilemmas.

It comes down to properly maintaining heritage listings and overlays within their province and keeping them up to date.

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This historic house at 55 Seymour Road Elsternwick was demolished in August, despite outrage from locals

It would appear the dilemma between development offering significant revenue increases and the preservation of heritage style properties is somewhat daunting for our elected officials.

As has been stated previously, the maintenance of the Victorian Heritage Database is unfortunately not keeping pace with the shift in Real Estate valuations and the mounting pressures for development. The process, due to lack of Heritage Inspection staff is interminably slow.

This article from Melissa Heagney in Domain covers much of the current angst.

Heritage knockdowns: Boroondara Council calls on government to close a planning ‘loophole’

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368 Auburn Road was demolished on August 30

Boroondara Council is calling on the state government to close a planning “loophole” which has seen a Victorian-era home torn down, and puts another six homes at risk.

An amendment made to the council’s planning rules by the state government last year allows home owners who have approval to tear down and rebuild a house, to push ahead even if the council attempts to stop them by placing an interim heritage overlay on the property. The council is calling on Planning Minister Richard Wynne to change this.

The properties the council argues are now at risk include homes on Belford Road in Kew East, Toorak Road in Camberwell, Moir Street in Hawthorn, and on Auburn Road and Burwood Road in Hawthorn East. Each has approval for demolition.

Local residents were dismayed at the recent demolition of a 130-year-old home at 368 Auburn Road in Hawthorn, knocked down two weeks ago.

In wake of the razing, the council fears for the other residences in question.

“All six properties can be demolished in accordance with the loophole implemented in the Boroondara Planning Scheme by the minister through Amendment C299,” Boroondara Mayor Jane Addis said.

“Typically, an interim Heritage Overlay would invalidate these building permits, thereby protecting properties from demolition and maintain their contribution to their respective heritage precincts.

“We fear that without the removal of the loophole, these six properties will share the same fate as 368 Auburn Road, Hawthorn.

“Council has requested the minister to remove this loophole four times now and we are hopeful the Minister will now act.”

Planning Minister Richard Wynne has argued that the changes to Boroondara’s rules made the planning process fairer for home owners.

“I introduced the planning amendment to stop this council from continually moving the goalposts,” Mr Wynne told Domain in an email. It was the only council with such an amendment, he said.

Since February 2018, more than 20 amendments had been approved for the Boroondara planning scheme to provide heritage protection for precincts and individual sites, Mr Wynne said.

It was the most extensive application of interim heritage overlays in any council area in Victoria in recent times, protecting thousands of properties.

He said Boroondara had been too slow putting together its heritage applications.

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This house on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East is one of the six homes set to be demolished

The issue in Boroondara came to a head after approval to tear down a home at 25-27 Victoria Avenue, Canterbury was brought into question when the council introduced an interim heritage overlay on the property after it had been torn down.

The Victoria Avenue property was legally demolished in early 2018.

“It doesn’t make sense for the council to seek heritage protection for a house … many months after approving a demolition permit to knock it down,” Mr Wynne said.

But Boroondara Council argued Mr Wynne had taken six months to review some of these studies before a decision was made.

The council had been undertaking heritage gap studies while some home owners applied for demolitions. As there had been no heritage protection in place at the time, the council was unable to protect such houses.

Under Victoria’s planning rules, a council permit to demolish a home is only required in certain circumstances including: if it is listed on the heritage register; is larger than 40 square metres; or would create a danger to the public when being torn down.

Losing these types of homes has raised the ire of local residents, politicians and the National Trust, with two state MPs airing the issue this week.

The National Trust raised concerns about the number of homes under threat as a result of the Boroondara-specific planning scheme amendment.

“This issue has highlighted the need for clearer and more consistent State Government guidelines around heritage protection, including interim heritage overlays,” National Trust of Australia (Victoria) chief executive Simon Ambrose said.

Boroondara Council and other councils should be “identifying places of potential heritage significance and seeking heritage protection before demolition permits are issued”, he said.

“The best way to do this is through implementing strategic heritage studies, like the gap studies recently undertaken by the City of Boroondara,” he said.

“But even in individual cases, councils have a safety net under the Building Act to withhold consent for demolition and apply for interim heritage protection if it’s warranted.”

Source: domain.com.au

So as the Chief Executive of the National Trust has stated, Councils have a safety net under the building Act to ‘withhold consent for a demolition and apply for interim protection if it is warranted’. We would also suggest ‘if they have an appetite for it’.

The whole scenario illustrates perfectly that the time to act is now. The minister must step in and prevent demolitions until heritage status is determined.

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Currajong House in Hawthorn was saved from demolition by Planning Minister Richard Wynne in May

Councils must urgently create ‘Gap’ studies and ensure that their heritage registers are up to date. Local Government and State Government bureaucracies can move slowly and often it’s too slowly. It’s time to step in and intervene – co-operatively to save our valuable heritage buildings and precincts – State Government and Local Government – co-operatively. We simply cannot afford to lose further heritage treasures. Act now and stop politicking. This is far too important.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

Heritage – a true appreciation has evolved. Can this be matched with Government action on preservation?

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, if it was ‘old’ then it had little or no value. There was very little appreciation or understanding of heritage – whether it was architectural, historical, social or community based. The mantra was knock it down and build a nice new facility. Today we look at both ends of this spectrum, the ignorance of the past and the appreciation of present heritage values.

In 1972, the once powerful Victorian Railways was being usurped by Road Transport. Steam Engines were largely replaced by Diesel Locomotives, the main line from Sydney to Melbourne had been converted to standard gauge from broad gauge (track widths) enabling an express train to run without impediment between our two largest cities.

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Benalla Railway Station

What was actually happening though was rather sad. Branch lines were neglected or closed. And the substantial buildings that had served the public for many years were either demolished or repurposed in renditions of the architecture of the times. People drove cars, cars needed carparks. The old steam locomotive infrastructure paid the price. Buildings were demolished, tracks removed.

But the real travesty was the destruction of what were in effect community assets – the actual station buildings.

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Benalla Railway Station

Benalla was a good example.

From The Age, Nov 14th 1974, by Jennifer Byrne.

“It’s just an old railway station”

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71822892_131636181553441_331139362886516736_nThe battle to save Benalla’s historic railway station has been lost.

Demolition of the 19th century brick building is now well advanced, despite strenuous opposition from a local preservation group and intervention by the National Trust.

Both groups have struggled for years to retain the building-former refreshment rooms and tower section of the station-claiming it has architectural and historical significance.

But a railway wrecking crew moved in several days ago.

Preservation is now impossible.

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Bar at Benalla Railway Station

The chairman of the National Trust (Mr. Rodney Davidson) has called on the Premier (Mr. Hamer) to halt the demolition.

The demolition marks the end of a 14 month fight by the Benalla Railway Preservation Society-an offshoot of the Benalla Tourist Association-to save this dilapidated yet impressive section of the building.

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They planned to build a $60,000 museum-type complex in the old refreshment rooms.

A society spokesman said townspeople had been “totally apathetic” to the idea of saving the building.

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Benalla station master Mr. George Pryor, 47, said yesterday he wanted a new railway station and carpark-not an old museum.

“It’s all right if you’re an historical bod about these things, but if you’re a passenger waiting in the rain or someone working in a cramped hot office it’s not so good,” he said.

“It’s attractive but it’s not really historical at all…it’s just an old railway station which has been here for almost 100 years.”

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Mr. Pryor said the building had been closed for more than 10 years.

A recent report said it was infested with white ants.

The society has one small consolation-the Victorian Railways has offered it nearly all the station’s internal and external fixtures, to be used in a museum which may be built of Benalla station bricks in the public gardens.

[Picture: Benalla station master George Pryor, holds wrought iron from the old building…”It’s just an old railway station”]

Source: facebook

“It’s not really historical at all – it’s just an old railway station which has been here for almost 100 years” – Stationmaster George Pryor

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What a staggering attitude – but one very common at the time. It was this attitude that gave free reign to the ‘Whelan the Wreckers’ of the time in demolishing much of our heritage.

At the time, the National Trust was but a fledgling organisation. There was no Victorian Heritage Database. It was open slather.

The building was an extraordinary architectural marvel complete with tower. Gothic in style, it was a striking edifice with fully capped chimneys, polychromic brick bands and curious upper level windows. It appeared to have a mansard roof in slate, high pitched with circular windows in the tower.

This was a building built with purpose, designed to be a landmark for generations to come. Today the demolition would not have got past the architects report.

Contrast that to the vision shown by Maldon couple Kieran and Karen Moy. Moving to a town nominated by the National Trust as ‘Australia’s first notable town’, the Moys showed sensitivity and respect for the town and its heritage by transporting and restoring (although already in fine repair) an original California style bungalow dwelling (which would otherwise have been demolished) from McKinnon to Maldon.

And there’s more to the story.

Maldon heart of gold saves McKinnon home from wrecking ball

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The recently relocated home with the historic Maldon Dairy in the foreground.

A historic dairy with ties to a renowned Australian philosopher is on the market with a relocated house saved from a developer’s wrecking ball in one of Victoria’s most historic towns.

The Maldon Dairy and a family home are for sale at 36 Parkins Reef Rd with a $640,000 asking price.

The milking shed was home to farming equipment built by Romulus Gaita, father of renowned philosopher Raimond Gaita and titular character in his esteemed 1998 book, Romulus, My Father.

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The Maldon Dairy contained equipment built by local figure Romulus Gaita.

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Kieran and Karen Moy at the home while it was still in McKinnon

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and after they relocated it to Maldon

The vendors recently donated the galvanised steel stalls and cow bails made by the builder to the Maldon Museum.

They sit alongside the motorbike used by actor Eric Bana when he played the title role in the 2007 film version of Romulus, My Father.

The movie was based on Mr Gaita’s 1998 memoir of his childhood at a dilapidated farm in the Maldon region.

Bana travelled to Maldon, dubbed by the National Trust as “Australia’s first notable town”, to shoot the film.

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The Moys recently donated equipment used at the dairy to the Maldon Museum.

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The property has a price guide of $640,000.

The weatherboard house was moved to the block by vendors Kieran and Karen Moy, who saved it from destruction in McKinnon a few years ago and finalised the move last year.

Controversial plans to build a three-storey apartment block at 2-4 Penang St, McKinnon had locals seeing red and two weatherboard homes in jeopardy of being demolished.

Luckily for residents — who were unhappy to see dramatic changes to the quiet street’s character — Kieran and Karen Moy, both 58, purchased the dwelling and relocated it.

Mr Moy said getting approval to move the house to the town was straightforward because it was in keeping with the style of historic homes in Maldon.

“We couldn’t just build a new house in that area — the old California bungalow fit into the council criteria,” Mr Moy said.

“My wife and I wanted to put a house on a block and we decided we’d look at our options with a house for sale for removal — that’s how we came across the house in McKinnon.”

“When we went down to look at the house to inspect it, we saw all the signs around McKinnon in people’s yards saying, ‘Save Our Neighbourhood’ — we thought it was a bit odd to start with.

“We realised it was developers who had bought the houses to be demolished — we were getting looks from some of the neighbours, so we wandered over and, after talking with them, they were so relieved and happy that we were saving the house.”

Mr Moy said the couple were thrilled with the way the house fit into Maldon’s landscape.

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Inside the old dairy, which is now more suited to short-stay accommodation than milking.

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The Moys are selling because they have moved interstate.

“I wish we knew the people that owned it — they obviously loved it because it was a beautiful house that was maintained wonderfully,” he said.

“Now that we’ve finished it’s sitting there in Maldon, proud as punch.”

Jellis Craig Castlemaine agent Kate Graham said the dairy, the facade of which could not be altered, had potential to become short-stay accommodation or studio.

“Much of the town has been assiduously preserved, including the old 1954 dairy,” Ms Graham said.

She said the property would suit downsizers and tree-changers alike.

Source: realestate.com.au

The property is still on the market if anyone is interested.

Heritage is largely an educated perception. Victorian history dates from the 1830s and ’40s when the State was established. The Benalla Station building would now be 146 years old if it had been protected and retained.

There are still too many people out there with the attitude ‘it’s just an old building’. An old building designed and executed by amazing architects, tradesmen and artisans in a fashion no longer practiced in many cases. A gem, an iconic location.

The Victorian State government and local Councils must endeavour to ‘catch up’ again and provide legislation that precludes such travesties ever occurring again. Certainly, these beautiful buildings are eye catching and show extraordinary architecture in stunning detail. But more than that, given the times, the materials involved and the mechanisation of the times, they provide a unique and precious vision of our past and where we have come from. It’s well past time to ensure their protection, maintenance and prominence as integral elements of Victoria’s development as a State. Heritage protection is critical. A timely message would be that “those who neglect the lessons of history are destined to repeat them”. Let’s hope not.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.