More than 120 CBD buildings and sites get heritage protection in ‘monumental’ planning change

More than 100 historic buildings in the CBD are set to receive permanent heritage protection in one of Victoria’s biggest reviews in more than two decades.

In what has been hailed as a ‘monumental’ change to Melbourne’s planning scheme, heritage protection will extend to 121 buildings and five areas of the Hoddle Grid, including Hardware Lane, Flinders Lane, Waiters Club restaurant, the Hill of Content bookshop and the Victoria Club building.

It follows over six years of hard work by the City of Melbourne which launched the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review over six years ago to save some of the city’s most important heritage buildings from facing the wrecking ball .

The news comes as State Planning Minister Lizzie Blandthorn recently approved an amendment to Melbourne’s planning scheme which will ensure the protection of the existing list of places in the CBD identified as having local heritage significance. .

Melbourne Heritage Portfolio Chairman Cr Rohan Leppert, who launched the heritage review in 2015, said he was delighted with the outcome, noting it was the largest heritage review ever by local government in Victoria.

“Melbourne is renowned for its architectural variation and interest, and today we have closed the gaps in our heritage checks and ensured that the next layer of Melbourne’s history is properly recognized in the development plan. of Melbourne, even as the city is constantly redeveloping,” he said. said.

Cr Leppert said the council’s heritage controls were almost all established in the 1980s and that ‘updating them to meet community expectations has been a monumental exercise, but one that we know future generations will thank us for “.

“The most important part of these heritage updates has been where the architectural variation is the greatest and the land values ​​are the highest, which is the Hoddle grid,” he said.

“The City of Melbourne’s heritage planning team are the best in the industry, as are the heritage consultants who undertook and reviewed the heritage study itself. But none of this would have happened without the relentless lobbying and support of Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) and the National Trust, which pushed the council to overcome its political stalemate in 2015.”

MHA Chairman Tristan Davies said it was “fantastic” to see the changes to the city plan, but he noted that historic building interiors, postmodern architecture and public art were ” always areas lacking adequate protection”.

“But we can now say that almost every building that most people would assume is protected now is,” Mr Davies said.

National Trust of Australia (Victoria) chief executive Simon Ambrose echoed Cr Leppert’s comment that the heritage review ‘closed some urgent gaps in the protection of the city’s heritage’, which according to it would ensure that the heritage values ​​of the protected buildings would be taken into account in any future redevelopment. .

“The Hoddle Grid Heritage Review was one of the largest and most complex heritage studies ever undertaken in Victoria, taking a comprehensive view of heritage across the city, including an in-depth heritage survey of First Peoples and contemporary community values,” he said. .

“The National Trust is proud to have supported this project since its inception in 2016.”

The new protections include 48 places dating from the post-war period, many of which were documented in the National Trust’s 2014 Melbourne’s Wonderful Modernism report.

Mr Ambrose said the venues “reflected the innovation and optimism” of the post-war period, when Melbourne became Australia’s commercial capital.

Council planning chairman Nicholas Reece said the review was a major step in “protecting our town’s beautiful streets and buildings for generations to come”.

“For those who have been heartbroken by the loss of too many of Melbourne’s heritage buildings, the introduction of these new protections in the CBD is truly heartening,” he said, adding that many CBD residents would be “shocked to learn” how the buildings had no protections.

However, while he said the review was a “huge leap forward for heritage”, there was “still an improvement in scope” with the consideration needed to extend heritage protections to building interiors and not only to their facades.

“A second area for progress is thinking about how heritage protections can be extended to better protect buildings that may be architecturally notable but also have significant cultural and social significance to Melbourne.”

Cr Reece said just because a building has been given heritage protection doesn’t mean it can’t be developed as long as it respects its heritage significance.

Professor Charles Sowerwine, chairman of the heritage committee of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, praised the government for approving the planning amendment which “represents a major victory for heritage preservation in Melbourne”.

However, Mr Sowerwine reported that the heritage overlay ‘did not offer absolute protection’ and that the City of Melbourne’s record on preservation was ‘poor’.

“For example, the Great Western Hotel from 1864 and the charming Theosophical Society from 1923 were left out because demolition permits had already been changed,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we have recovered from years of neglect, where many beautiful buildings were lost because they were not protected prior to the request for demolition. Hopefully this starts a new era for Melbourne.

According to the state government, the heritage overlay required the granting of planning permission for the demolition of a heritage building or to undertake certain types of buildings and works on the heritage place. Interim controls were in place to protect the buildings while the permanent controls approval process was underway.

Chairman of the East Enders People’s Group, Dr Stan Capp, said he hoped the expansion of heritage protections would respect the city’s most important buildings as a problem of facadism – where the hull front of a building with a heritage overlay was retained and the rest of the building demolished – had “almost been normalized”.

“We need to make sure that giving places heritage status actually means they are protected – not that they are subject to the vagaries of development to come up with fanciful ideas and still have your great building behind it,” he said. he declares.

“How can the destruction of a heritage building be justified if not the façade when it is listed? It’s almost indefensible, I would have thought.

Residents 3000 president Rafael Camillo welcomed the amendment but maintained that heritage reviews need to be carried out often to ensure more buildings are protected and the city’s history is respected .

Caption: Melbourne City Planning Chairman Nicholas Reece and Heritage Chairman Rohan Leppert in front of 30 Latrobe St.