The National Trust has written to the Hon. James Merlino MP, Minister for Education, requesting his urgent intervention in the proposed demolition of two heritage school buildings in Sunshine.
We understand that the Department of Education, through the Victorian School Building Authority, is intending to release a Request for Tender for the demolition of two vacant schools located at Sunshine and Ardeer. Proposed works include the demolition of existing buildings included in the Heritage Overlay of the City of Brimbank Planning Scheme: Sunshine Girls’ Technical School HO57 at 111 Derby Road, and Sunshine Technical School (Boys’ Wing) HO56 129 Derby Road.
The buildings are located within McKay housing subdivision, which is of national historical and social significance as a part of a suburb created by Australia’s leading industrialist, HV McKay, and as a milestone in the development of the industrial suburb under the influence of the Garden City movement. Designed in the Moderne architectural style by Percy Everett, Chief Architect of the Public Works Department, the Sunshine Girls’ Technical School (1938) and Sunshine Technical School (Boys’ Wing) (1941) are among the municipality’s most significant twentieth century buildings. The Sunshine Girls Technical School in particular compares well with Percy Everett-designed Moderne style brick and rendered school buildings. In 2000 Sunshine Technical School was recommended for inclusion in the Heritage Overlay of the City of Brimbank Planning Scheme.
The Minister for Education is exempt from the provisions of the Planning & Environment Act 1987, and therefore the Department of Education does not require a planning permit for works to places in the Heritage Overlay. However, the State Government guide to the Victoria Planning System states ‘Where they have been exempted from any legal need to comply with planning scheme requirements, as a matter of practice the ministers concerned should consult from an early stage with relevant planning authorities on proposed works’. In this case, the National Trust has been advised that there has been little consultation with Brimbank City Council or the community regarding the proposed demolition. Furthermore, we are advised that there are no immediate plans to redevelop the site, with the rationale for demolition being vandalism and anti-social behaviour at the site.
This approach to the management of heritage assets is unacceptable. It is completely at odds with the intent of the Planning & Environment Amendment Bill 2021, which was introduced by the State Government this year to strengthen local and state government powers to penalise property owners for unlawful demolition, and allowing properties to fall into disrepair.
The demolition of these buildings by the Department of Education would signal an unacceptable double standard to the Victorian community: that the State Government seeks to punish private property owners for allowing their properties to fall into disrepair, while allowing the demolition of its own heritage assets—which have apparently fallen into disrepair—without community consultation. The demolition of these buildings would also be a poor sustainability outcome, which is at odds with the State Government’s strong commitment to Climate Action.
We have therefore sought an urgent commitment from the Department of Education to secure and retain Sunshine Girls’ Technical School and Sunshine Technical School (Boys’ Wing) and engage with Brimbank Council.
Read our letter to the Minister here.