Heritage and its Destruction – The nub of the problem

In this week’s news it’s Hampton – in Bayside, Melbourne (Bayside Council to be exact.) – another historic home has been demolished by developers with complete impunity. With an interim Heritage Overlay and a VCAT hearing scheduled to stop the demolition, the house was demolished – legally – through bureaucratic incompetence and red-tape.

Aerial view of the demolition. Credit: 7NEWS

It simply amplifies the disconnect between Heritage protection and the ability of Councils to quickly apply Heritage Overlays. Time and time again, Councils issue demolition permits then apply for Heritage Overlays. Bayside Council has an atrocious record in this regard, having overseen the destruction of many mid-century modern homes designed by architects such as Boyd and his contemporaries, whilst knowing that either there is good reason to apply a Heritage Listing – or a Heritage Overlay – yet allowing demolition permits to be issued.

The home demolished and an adjacent property were constructed in 1910 or thereabouts. The motive is simple – a huge return on investment for the developers. It’s their intention to build a $17 million apartment block on the four house blocks, with a rooftop entertainment area and pool. Consider this – the homes are located in a quiet suburban street with typical single storey dwellings. Imagine the disconnect with a new apartment block of 36 units.

A heritage home in Hampton constructed in the early 1900s being torn down in order to make way for a modern apartment complex. Credit: 7NEWS

In this case the Victorian Government has indicated that it is the local Council’s inaction since 1999 (when Council first recommended heritage protection for the homes) that has caused the problem.

This is not an isolated incident. It would appear this is a tried and true tactic utilised by property Developers across Melbourne and Victoria. Once a demolition permit is issued, it is very difficult to rescind… It shouldn’t be. It should be legislated that if a Heritage Overlay is in interim stage, then the demolition should be forbidden until the Overlay is confirmed or denied.

These properties are good examples of the general inadequacies of many Local Government Heritage Overlays, and the inability of some Councils to update their Heritage Overlays regularly.

But it also highlights, indeed red-flags the need for the State Government to introduce a more comprehensive workable Heritage protection program. Legislation must include failsafe methodologies to ensure the protection of irreplaceable buildings, architecture and streetscapes.

The proposed apartment complex. Credit: 7NEWS

The destruction has gone on for too long and to a great extent, developers have had ostensibly unfettered access to older properties in Boroondara, Stonington, Glen Eira, Bayside and other Inner-East and Bayside Local Government areas.

The Corkman developers were brazen and lawless. But it’s what is flying under the radar that is of far greater concern. Should you require advice and assistance for any Heritage matter, please feel free to call Andrew Fedorowicz – Balance Architecture’s principal Architect, on 0418341443 – or simply leave your details here.

Andrew is a fellow of the Australian Institute of Architects (FAIA). With many years of experience in both Heritage and contemporary Architecture, Andrew can provide expert opinion, analysis and reportage on all Heritage matters

‘Balance Architecture recognises the importance of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the restoration and renovation of Heritage properties and buildings.’

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