THE MINISTER FOR PLANNING WILL NOT BE A FAN OF POST-WAR MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE
In 2012 Minister for Planning Matthew Guy nominated the 1965 AXA Building (former National Mutual Plaza) at 447 Collins Street as one of Melbourne’s top ten eyesores. In April 2013, Mr Guy refused to accept all the recommendations of the independent advice of the Planning Panel that reviewed the 99 places proposed to be added to the City of Melbourne’s heritage overlay. The Panel recommended all the places be added, being a mixture of Victorian, Edwardian, inter-war and post-war places. Whilst accepting the majority of places, the Minister declined to add the post-war places and asked Heritage Victoria to undertake more work on them. Nothing has been forthcoming.
THE MINISTER FOR PLANNING WILL BE A FAN OF MANDATORY HEIGHT CONTROLS IN SENSITIVE AREAS
The proposed demolition and redevelopment of the Palace Theatre at the top of Bourke Street was roundly condemned by live music fans and heritage groups alike – and Minister for Planning Matthew Guy, who said the developers “were dreaming.” Hamer Hall, the Spire, the Arts Centre and adjoining area were protected in 2010 by a mandatory 24m limit. The Yarra River was protected in 2012. One of the Plan Melbourne initiatives is to implement mandatory controls around the Bourke Hill precinct. A swag of controversial developments including the Windsor Hotel, the new tower behind Scots Church (which required demolition of Melbourne’s earliest multi-story car park), the Palace Theatre and now the Forum backdrop illustrate how , in practice, many of the height controls in the CBD are pretty-much useless. The non-mandatory 40m height controls were designed to accommodate minor breaches not wholesale evasion. Therefore 2014, with the accompanying state election, should emerge as the biggest year in the CBD heritage planning debate in recent history.
EAST-WEST LINK WILL BE THE SINGLE BIGGEST DESTROYER OF HERITAGE IN MELBOURNE IN SEVERAL DECADES
Overall there will be a loss of nearly 50 heritage-listed buildings and structures, the loss of at least 70 mature street trees, and significant loss of heritage-listed parkland and vegetation amounts to one of the most heritage-adverse projects of the last few decades in Melbourne.
9 Edwardian cottages in Bent Street, Kensington Heritage Overlay Precinct HO9; 17 Edwardian and Victorian cottages in Gold Street Precinct HO321; 20 properties (one Victorian and one inter-war factory, two Victorian commercial buildings and 16 Victorian residences) in Clifton Hill Western Precinct HO317; Removal of 66 mature trees on Flemington Road within HO3 and HO4; loss of Arden Street Road Bridge and Factory complex at 29-37 Barrett Street, Kensington; removal of four mature pepper trees in Arden Street; loss of 9.3Ha in Royal Park; demolition and relocation of a bluestone pitched laneway, and unquantified extent of loss of mature vegetation and trees (including River Red Gums) on Moonee Ponds Creek.
QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET REDEVELOPMENT PLANS WILL BE REVEALED IN 2014 – AND LORD MAYOR’S BIZARRE WORLD HERITAGE CLAIM WILL STALL
The Heritage Victoria classification for QVM was reviewed in early 2013, always a sure sign that major development is being mooted. In October, Premier Dennis Napthine and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle announced $250million would be spent on a redevelopment of QVM, but did not reveal any detail other than selling off some market land to pay for it. A consultation phase was opened, but the likelihood is that the southern part of the market will be developed with towers. The need to disturb burials – there are 8,000-10,000 below the market in what was Melbourne’s first cemetery – will be a major issue, as will height of the towers in an area with a 7m height limit. Robert Doyle’s suggestion that world heritage status will be sought once redevelopment is completed was ludicrous. QVM has to be entered onto the National list before UNESCO will even look at it, which in any event is extremely unlikely anyway.
NEW WINE IN OLD BOTTLES? PLAN MELBOURNE AND TRANSFERABLE DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS
Plan Melbourne seeks to rehabilitate and encourage reuse of heritage buildings and suggests investigation of transferable development rights for significant heritage development projects. This been tried and then dumped in the CBD in the 1980s, and that to reintroduce it would require reintroduction of plot-ratio controls, which were downgraded in 1999 and since then have been completely ignored, such that there are no ‘development rights’ to transfer.
This system only works where the development potential of any given site is limited by planning regulations (usually, plot-ratio which defines the maximum amount of floor space a particular site may accommodate). New York for instance has a defined plot ratio (known there as FAR, or Floor Area Ratio) for every part of the city, higher in some areas and lower in others. Melbourne however does not have any defined maximum floor areas that can be transferred. Since plot-ratio controls in the CBD were moved from applying to each individual site to applying to city blocks as a whole in 1999, the actual development limit of any site is unclear, and in any case numerous large developments have been approved that far exceed the plot-ratio both of the site and the block.
Transferring ‘air rights’ from other sites was not part of the system, but restoration of a heritage building not associated with the development site did result in plot-ratio bonuses. One resulted in the restoration of the Princess Theatre, and the other in the restoration and refurbishment of the Athenaeum Theatre, both extremely valuable heritage places made far more attractive and viable through this process.
SOUTH GIPPSLAND SHIRE’s call for voluntary heritage controls is primed to backfire
Having walked away (nay, sprinted) in 2006 from implementing its own (excellent) heritage study and instead offering up ‘voluntary ’controls to anyone who cared for them (excluding itself), the Council is now publicising an amendment brought forward by an owner to have a heritage control placed on their property (at the owner’s expense of course) and Council is extending the amendment ‘opportunity’ to anyone else wanting a control on their property, and talking up the benefits as well! Owners have until 7 January to take up the offer. It takes one committed heritage owner to show up 10 years of inaction by Council. The Council can only bury their head in the sand for so long until a major controversy over heritage demolition erupts.
MOORABOOL SHIRE will get THERE IN THE END
Moorabool Shire (the Shire that backed building a truck bypass and roundabout through its remarkable Avenue of Honour) this year finally gazetted heritage controls for Bacchus Marsh and the eastern part of the Shire that were first proposed in 1994. Like South Gippsland Shire, they walked away from an earlier study, but 19 years later finally plucked up some courage. A study for the western part of the Shire is imminent.
BUSHFIRE CONTROLS AND HERITAGE CONTROLS WILL BE A CONTINUING SOURCE OF TENSION
The community’s safety must always be the priority in the event of a bushfire. However we believe it is also important to find a balance between minimising the risk of an extreme bushfire event, providing for compatible community use and preserving the natural environment, biodiversity and landscape values.
In November 2009 we wrote to the government expressing our deep concern about the extensive removal of vegetation without permit. We felt that so-called ‘10/30′ bushfire regulation was an inappropriate reaction with little or no regard for long-term consequences. Of particular concern was permit exemption for clearing along boundary fence lines. In many cases natural regeneration has been aided by double fencing, and much of the replanting work undertaken by individuals and community groups such as Landcare, has been along property boundaries. Linear plantings along fencelines, including regeneration strips and windbreaks, are often important landscape elements and wildlife corridors, and their loss threatens both the aesthetic values of landscape and its biodiversity.
This topic will continue to cause tension in 2014, as another serious bushfire season looms, and the community struggles to find the delicate balance between asset protection and landscape conservation.
VICSMART WILL CREATE RISK OF ‘DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS’
The Consultation Draft (DTPLI 2013) highlights that the VicSmart process is designed for straightforward, low impact proposals to speed up simple planning applications. However, to remove, destroy or lop one tree (Class 8) is not necessarily a low impact proposal where the tree has significance.
Under the exemption 92.04 we note that the classes of works included under the Heritage Overlay are generally consistent with works that under s43.01 are currently exempt from notice and review. The two exceptions are Externally alter a building and Construct or install a solar energy facility attached to a dwelling. External alterations potentially covers a very broad range of works including:
- sandblasting a brick building
- rendering a building
- removing render from a building
- re-cladding a building in different materials
- punching new openings (doors, windows etc) in the external fabric of a building
- bricking-up existing openings (doors, windows etc) in a building
- re-roofing a building in different materials (eg replacing a slate roof with concrete tiles)
All of the above types of development are hardly minor and could be quite detrimental to the significance of a heritage building. They need to be most carefully scrutinised and considered.
On the other hand, some types of external alterations could be quite minor and/or even beneficial to the significance of a heritage building. Examples might include:
- reinstating missing decorative features and elements where evidence exists
- replacement of inappropriate aluminium windows with timber sash windows
- replacement of inappropriate aluminium or vinyl cladding of buildings with weatherboards
- replacing of a terracotta tile roof with original roofing materials
REALITY OF NEW NATIVE VEGETATION PERMITTED CLEARING REGULATIONS WILL SINK IN
On 20 December, the Minister for Planning gave the environmental planning industry a (largely unwanted) Christmas present in the gazettal of Amendment VC105. The Amendment waters down the objective for native vegetation clearing in Victoria, stepping back from the previous Framework’s target to:
“achieve a reversal, across the entire landscape of the long-term decline in the extent and quality of native vegetation, leading to a net gain” (DNRE 2002)
to a new objective of,
“No net loss in the contribution made by native vegetation to Victoria’s biodiversity” (DEPI 2013)
The new assessment methodology aims to simplify the existing system, providing more certainty to landholders, but relies heavily on modelled data which has been the focus of much criticism by ecologists across the state. The gazettal has been subject to months of delays, and feedback from industry information sessions suggested that DEPI was under pressure to produce ‘policy on the fly’ to make the complicated new system workable. With many supporting documents not due to be released by DEPI until mid-year, 2014 is set to be the proving ground for the implementation of the new regulations.
More information available on the DEPI website…