National Trust Calls for Incentives for Local Heritage Custodians


Feature Image: Property recommended for the Maroondah Contemporary Homes Group Listing. Source: realestate.com.au

The National Trust is deeply concerned by the conduct of property owners, who have rendered their properties during a Planning Panel Hearing in attempts to avoid Heritage Overlay protections.  

In December 2023, Planning Scheme Amendment C148maro went to an Independent Panel Hearing. The amendment sought to implement recommendations of the Maroondah Heritage Study Review – Post World War II, the first comprehensive review of the municipality in nearly 20 years. Importantly it provides a new Thematic Environmental History covering the period from 1945 to 2000.  

Despite the historic importance of the post-war period, a time of transformation on a scale not seen since the gold rush, much of our post-war heritage remains vulnerable and without statutory protection. With densification transforming our suburbs, it is becoming increasingly important to document, celebrate, and protect significant post-war heritage, including houses, churches, commercial buildings, factories, service stations, and institutional buildings.    

Ensuring places that represent this important post-war period of our history are adequately protected for future generations is a crucial task for local councils. What we value as a society is changing and our protections must reflect this. The National Trust believes it would be remiss of us not to continue to accurately represent our history through balanced, diverse and inclusive heritage controls. 

Among the significant post-war heritage places proposed for local heritage protections by Maroondah City Council, was the Contemporary Homes Group Listing in Heathmont. The Group Listing represented the most intact surviving examples of an ambitious housing development estate developed over 60 years ago, between 1957 and 1960. 

Despite months of consultation with property owners, before, during and after the study, the objection to the Contemporary Homes Group Listing was extreme. So extreme, that property owners went to the extraordinary lengths of rendering their homes during the week-long hearing to reduce their intactness in the hopes their properties would be removed from the Heritage Overlay amendment.  

This highlights a need for urgent work to be undertaken by State government to investigate and implement ways to incentivise Heritage Overlay controls, so they are not considered such a burden. The implementation of heritage studies into the planning scheme is necessary work under the Planning and Environment Act 1987, undertaken by Councils to apply Heritage Overlay Controls, with substantial resource outlays, and should not go to waste. 

Additionally, the loss of a property’s significant heritage values over the course of the amendment highlights the gap between the preparation of heritage studies, and their implementation through Planning Scheme Amendments.  

An efficient solution to this issue would be for the Minister for Planning to routinely apply Interim Heritage Overlays in circumstances where heritage consultants have carried out extensive heritage studies and determined, by exercising their professional, objective and expert opinion, properties are deserving of protection. This would enable the Planning Scheme Amendment process to proceed while ensuring that significant places are protected.  

While the Minister currently has the power to apply interim heritage controls, applications for interim protection are not always granted, and can be subject to lengthy delays which leave places at risk. Under current planning laws the Contemporary Homes Group Listing did not qualify for interim protections, yet had temporary controls been in place, the significant values of the properties might not have been lost. This recommendation among others was part of the National Trust submission to the 2022 Parliamentary Inquiry into Protections Within the Victorian Planning Scheme. 

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  1. 1
    Russ Haines OAM

    Well before attempting to apply interim heritage controls by the Minister, the validity of the heritage assessment should have be verified. The Ringwood & District Historical Society (RDHS), that has a strong involvement in this area, performed assessments on the C148moro heritage assets, particularly the one in question. It was found that the assessment was faulty and unsubstantiated. Our response was publicly available but the owner(s) took their own actions without communication with RDHS. There was no suggestion given by RDHS to take these radical actions. Similarly, a proposed neon sign, cited in C140moro, was dismantled by its owner, thus avoiding the Heritage Overlay. Clearly, more scrutiny must go into heritage assessment and the consultation process, involving all concerned parties. In Ringwood, there are some cases of owners seeing Heritage Overlays having a negative impact on the worth of the asset and limited ability to modify it. Often the owners are ill-informed of what changes can, or cannot, be performed. Also, if changes were made, what level of liability can be made against the owner for HO violations. Conversely, there are others who have saved, preserved and enhanced heritage houses in Ringwood, and are very proud of their home.

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