As highly publicized in the media in the past few days, the London Hotel in Port Melbourne is currently under threat. Developers have lodged plans with the City of Port Philip to demolish the current building entirely, and in its place construct an eight storey mixed use development, comprising a restaurant on the ground floor, and 32 dwellings above. As of this morning, plans for the development were still up on the City of Port Philip’s website for public exhibition. Click here to access and download the advertised plans. Computer generated viewpoints of the proposed development can be viewed below.
This issue has arisen due to a lack of local level Heritage Overlay protection by the City of Port Philip. In a letter responding to the Port Melbourne Historical & Preservation Society’s objection to the plans, the City of Port Philip quoted their Urban Design & Heritage Adviser Mr David Helms:
‘The problem with justifying the inclusion of the London Hotel as an individual place in the HO is its level of intactness. There are many corner hotels throughout Port Melbourne that are more intact than the London Hotel’.
To read the letter and the City of Port Philip’s justification for its lack of heritage protection in its entirety, click here.
As reported by the Age yesterday, Mayor Bernadene Voss reinforced the council’s view, highlighting the buildings repeated alteration as the reason why the site does not ‘meet the threshold of local significance when compared to more intact examples’. Based on this conclusion, the City of Port Philip are currently refusing to contact Planning Minister Richard Wynne to request an interim protection order to delay the application and ensure the heritage qualities of the Hotel are thoroughly addressed.
In light of these events, the National Trust put in an objection to the City of Port Philip late last week, acknowledging the research provided by the Port Melbourne Historic & Preservation Society highlighting the Hotel’s continuous use as a hospitality venue since its establishment in 1861. To read more about the PMHSP’s history of the site, click here. The State Library of NSW photograph below depicts the Hotel as it appeared in the late 19th century, formerly known as Mitchell’s London Family Hotel.
In our objection, the Trust argued that the various alterations to the site does not undermine its local significance. Modifications to the building over time, including extensive remodeling in the fashionable Moderne style in the 1930s, demonstrates layers of historical significance reflecting the continued use of the building as a hotel for more than 150 years. The Trust highlighted its concern that a full assessment of the significance has not be undertaken by a qualified heritage professional, and that the historical and social significance in particular have not be comprehensively assessed. Assessment undertaken to date appears to relate to architectural and aesthetic significance only. Social and cultural significance can be embodied in the fabric of a place, and in the case of the London Hotel, the Trust believes the hotel fabric is an important tangible link to the place’s significance.
To read the Trust’s submission in full, click here.
Based on the 100+ objections that have been lodged with the Port Philip Council, it is clear that the Hotel is intrinsically important within the local community. To keep up-to-date with the planning process surrounding the Hotel, members from the Port Melbourne community have set up an informative Facebook page. Click here for the link. As reported in a post on this Facebook page, and on the Port Melbourne Historical & Preservation Society website, due to a lack of decision by the council within the prescribed 60 days, the developers have now lodged an appeal for a review of the plans at the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The hearing date has been tentatively set for 22nd August 2016.
More information to come.
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