Feature Image: Bryant & May chimney stack, boiler house and rear of factory. Source: Lovell Chen
Most people wouldn’t think a box of matches and a daily commute have a lot in common.
Have you ever used those iconic Redheads matches? Or do you take the train from Richmond station heading out of the city? If so, chances are you have seen a tall red brick chimney stack with a large B&M written on it as you roll away from the CBD, (if you’re looking up from your phone that is). It may surprise you to learn that the Redheads brand of matches were originally manufactured in Richmond, Victoria, and the factory they were made at still stands today. That landmark chimney stack is part of it. A state significant industrial complex that is now under threat.
The National Trust has written two objections this month in efforts to defend the former Bryant & May Match Factory in Cremorne, from a development proposal that would drastically impact the significant view lines and cultural heritage values of the place. Property developer, Alfasi, are seeking approvals to construct two towers for a hotel and workplace, at 13 and 12 levels high. The proposed development would see significant change to streetscapes and view lines of the landmark heritage fabric, with the proposed tower additions overwhelming and standing out in stark contrast to the heritage complex. The applicant also intends to undertake conservation and adaptive reuse works to the significant heritage buildings at the complex, as well as remove existing non-heritage buildings. However, the National Trust is not satisfied these positive works balance the detrimental impacts the proposed new towers would have.
Generally, we support the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings to ensure they have an ongoing purpose and remain viable assets to their communities, and naturally industrial heritage sites in particular must change and find new uses overtime. However, we have concerns regarding the extent of proposed change with the size and fabric of the proposed additional towers at the Bryant & May Complex. We see this proposal as the latest in a pattern of unbalanced development proposals at state listed heritage sites in and around the Melbourne CBD.
Above Image: View to Brymay Hall from Russell Street – Before. Source: Lovell Chen. Below Image: View to Brymay Hall from Russell Street – After. Source: Lovell Chen
As part of the permit application process, feedback on the proposal was provided by the Victorian Design Review Panel at the Office of the Victoria Government Architect;
Alongside other high profile heritage sites in Victoria, the proposal for 560 Church Street raises a broad question about how to appropriately balance the sensitivity of significant heritage places with new development in a city facing substantial growth pressures. We do not question whether this site should be developed; rather, the scale, density, nature and long-term legacy of the proposal needs interrogation. The panel agrees the site, and its locale, will benefit from new development, and this can be contemplated provided it achieves a sense of ‘design equivalence’ between heritage and contemporary amenity and structures. (Source; Bryant & May Industrial Complex: Revised Heritage Impact Statement, Lovell Chen, August 2023)
The National Trust agrees wholeheartedly with this statement, which is why the method by which the applicant is seeking approval for this proposal is all the more concerning.
Left Image: View from Walnut Street/Adelaide Street Before. Source: Lovell Chen. Right Image: View from Walnut Street/Adelaide Street After. Source: Lovell Chen
Alfasi have requested the Minister for Planning call-in the decision to approve a Draft Planning Scheme Amendment for the development, presenting it as a ‘priority project.’ If the Amendment is approved by the minister, this would mean planning permits are exempt from the development, fast tracking the application to bypass the local planning system and the opportunity for consideration of community submissions to the proposal. This request has also been made before a heritage permit has been acquired from Heritage Victoria.
We have seen appeals for refused large-scale redevelopment permits at state registered heritage sites increase rapidly since the economic impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The National Trust is concerned with the potential for setting government authorities against each other in the case of this development proposal. We believe if the minister approves the Draft Amendment, it could further exacerbate an emerging issue with the authority of Victoria’s state heritage controls to ensure the considered protection of places on the Victorian Heritage Register.
Read the full National Trust submission here.