Image: Dartmoor Police Station c1930s, courtesy of Michael Greenham (via ABC News)
The National Trust was dismayed to learn via media reports that earlier in June, an 1892 police residence in the community of Dartmoor in south-western Victoria was moved to a location more than 100km away without a permit, despite having been protected by a Heritage Overlay. The loss of one of the community’s most significant buildings has angered residents, after many had fought to save the building 15 years ago.
The police residence was added to the Heritage Overlay in 2013, following a planning scheme amendment process supported by the National Trust and our Portland Branch. The Heritage Overlay citation recognises the police station as being “architecturally significant at a local level as an intact police complex of the early 1890s, comprising a police residence with an attached office, a two-stall stable and forage store, and a portable lock-up. It is historically significant at a local level as a demonstration of police practices in the remote parts of Victoria in the late nineteenth century, when the police office was responsible for policing a large area and was dependent on his horses for transport.”
Victoria Police have submitted a retrospective permit application for the removal of the building, which states that they were unaware that there was a Heritage Overlay over the property. This is despite the fact that a cursory property search would have revealed the heritage status of the site. The application also cites the building’s poor condition as the reason for the relocation, raising further concerns about the appropriate maintenance of heritage assets.
The National Trust has submitted a strong objection to the permit application, which also calls for the conservation and interpretation of the lock-up and stables which reain at the site. We have also written to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Hon. Lisa Neville, seeking an investigation of the incident.
The National Trust expects this to be a wake-up call to Victoria Police and all government agencies to ensure that their heritage places are recognised and managed appropriately on behalf of the community, and that staff are provided with adequate training in property management.
These events also add urgency to calls to address inadequate penalties for the destruction of heritage places, following the Corkman Irish Pub demolition.