Planning Panel disagrees with Glen Eira Council’s decision to abandon heritage protection

Featured image: St John’s Bentleigh Anglican Church (Source: St John’s Bentleigh Anglican Church)

An independent Planning Panel has strongly recommended the implementation of the City of Glen Eira’s Post-War and Hidden Gems Heritage Review. The Review, undertaken byBuilt Heritage Pty Ltd, recommends the protection of four proposed heritage precincts and 34 proposed individual heritage places, and the implemention of a new municipal wide heritage methodology through the City of Glen Eira Thematic Environmental History (Refresh) 2020. The proposed heritage places include significant buildings from the post-WWII era, as well as pre-WWII places of signifiance which aren’t yet protected, nicknamed the “Hidden Gems”. The Heritage Review has been strongly supported by the Glen Eira Historical Society, as well as the National Trust. 

Controversially, on 26 April, Glen Eira Councillors narrowly voted to abandon their advocacy for the protection of 15 heritage places and 2 precincts recommended for protection by Council’s heritage consultant and planning officers, due to objections by property owners.

This approach was found to be “fundamentally flawed” by the Panel, chaired by Deputy Chief Panel Member Con Tsotsoros, following a hearing on 26 July. Their report states that:

Council’s intention to abandon applying the Heritage Overlay based on objecting submissions rather than strategic merit does not align with the PE Act [Planning & Environment Act, 1987] objectives, State and local planning policy and Clause 71.02-3 of the Planning Scheme.

The PE Act and Planning Scheme require strategic planning to consider the social, economic and environmental effects at a broader community level for present and future generations. Generally, they do not extend to private individual impacts which are separate to broader community concerns.

In line with previous Panel recommendations, the Panel found that issues of building condition, development opportunity, property value, and personal financial impact are not relevant when assessing the heritage significance of a place or precinct, but should be considered during the planning permit application process. In our submission, we also noted that the Heritage Overlay does not restrict owners from applying to extend or modify a place.

The National Trust strongly objected to Council’s approach in our submission to the Panel, drawing a parallel with the City of Bayside’s resolution in 2019 to pursue a voluntary nomination system for the protection of Heritage Places in response to the objections of individual owners to the application of the Heritage Overlay – an approach which has been questioned by the Minister for Planning, who stated in a 2020 letter to the City of Bayside that a “self-nomination approach is not appropriate to protect places of heritage significance”.

The Panel has recommended a number of changes to the Amendment, including the removal of 3 properties which they found did not reach the threshold for local significance. The Panel also considered that the protection of a residence designed by Wood Marsh and built in 1990-4 would be premature, in light of Heritage Council guidelines which recommend that as a general principle, a generation (or approximately 25-30 years) should pass after the
creation of a place or object before that place or object is considered for heritage listing at any level. In our submission to the Panel however, the National Trust strongly supported the inclusion of the remarkable Woods Marsh residence in the Heritage Overlay, citing the inclusion of Federation Square in the Victorian Heritage Register as an example of a relatively recent building being recognised for its heritage values.

Glen Eira Councillors will consider the Planning Panels Victoria recommendation at their meeting of 3 November. The National Trust will be urging Councillors to accept the recommendations of the Panel in full, and request approval from the Minister for Planning.

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