Over the last few years it has become increasingly obvious that there is a need for a stronger lobby group in presenting the arguments, the cases for retention and protection of heritage buildings in Greater Melbourne and Victoria.
Right now, the Government agencies responsible for such protections are simply overwhelmed with the sheer volume of requests for Heritage protection. The budget allocated to Heritage Victoria and the heritage Council of Victoria seems to be inadequate.
Heritage has become a political football. The public and our grand heritage inheritance are the losers. Countless buildings are demolished whilst Heritage overlays are investigated by the Heritage Council. Without publicity, the problem is hidden and the solution becomes moot – often the building just simply disappears. There are loopholes upon loopholes. The recent events in Booroondara bear testament to this.
Beautiful residential dwellings in Kew, Toorak, Hawthorn, Elsternwick, Caulfield North, Black Rock and Beaumaris have been destroyed. Old Hotels built in the 1880s, modified in the 1920s to an art nouveau style have been demolished. Why? Well, because their original architecture was diminished. What about the fabulous Art Nouveau transformations? Look at the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda and the London in Port Melbourne, both now vacant blocks.
At Balance Architecture, we are passionate about Heritage Architecture. The richness of Victorian era opulence engendered by the 1850s Gold Rush, the extraordinary craft and skill in the simple yet intricate details of masonry, tiling, slate roofing, monochromatic brickwork, stained glass windows – the Ballroom and Staterooms. The drawing rooms, the huge and impressive stairwells – the symmetry, the grace.
Over the last few years we have brought you the passing vista of homes and buildings saved and preserved, of those that are derelict and in need of restoration, and of those demolished and gone forever.
We now arrive at a crossroads. It is time for genuine action. We propose the formulation of a new group. The purpose of the group will be to lobby the government (State) to improve Heritage protections, to ensure Heritage Overlays across the entire state are up to date and to commit to the ongoing protection of our precious Heritage assets.
We are aware of other groups operating within the same arena but want to apply a more modern approach utilising online and social media opportunities to not only demonstrate the community depth of feeling on the issue, but to focus the various local groups into a strong voice for Heritage stability and protection.
Preparing for Heritage Listings can be both a daunting prospect and a set of difficult procedures. Quite frankly it shouldn’t be, and this is one of the objectives we believe we must work towards – a simplification of the processes combined with much increased funding to the state government bodies charged with doing the relevant inspections and determining the Heritage listings or otherwise.
In many cases, the ultimate process will find its way to VCAT or a higher court. Often it is Heritage that is the loser. Time’s up on that nonsense. No more Corkman Fiascos, no more Currajong interventions.
Let’s get a clear, open process in place. Let’s call all parties to the table – Architects, Developers, Residents and Bureaucrats, Council officials, Heritage Council officials and the National Trust – and politicians of all persuasions.
It’s five past midnight and it’s time to act. Keep watching our page. We will provide details of a new group for those genuinely interested in Heritage protection. You will be able to join up on Facebook and then we can broaden the base from there. We will announce the new page here soon.
Heritage is our history, our persona, our character – the people of Victoria own it. Time to claim it.