UPDATE: A win for the National Trust as the Heritage Council agrees to amend the registration for the Richmond Maltings Complex

As outlined on our blog back in November 2016, and in our post last week, the National Trust has been actively campaigning for the future preservation of the Richmond Maltings as developers seek to transform the former industrial site into a mixed-use residential development. In a separate yet directly corresponding matter, unfolding alongside the various heritage and planning permit applications lodged by the developer Caydon Property Group, the state heritage listing of the site has been brought into contention, specifically relating to an anomolous permit exemption that was put in place when the site was first classified in 2003-4 that allows the 1960s Nylex silos to be demolished without first attaining a heritage permit. After a lengthy process of submissions and a 3-day hearing (held on the 20th, 21st and 25th of October), the Heritage Council has supported the position of the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria, Yarra City Council, the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), and two community based interest groups: Save Dimmeys and ERA Apartments, and has amended the registration to remove the exemption. This is a fantastic outcome, clearly articulating to the owners that the full demolition of the silos will not be supported in their bid to redevelop the site.

To read the National Trust’s submission prepared for the hearing, click here. In summary, we argued that given the time elapsed since the first assessment in 2003/4, the evolving appreciation of mid-century industrial heritage in Victoria, the increased popularity of the site in popular culture, and the increasing rarity of the site when juxtaposed against comparative sites across the state, it is reasonable for any reassessment of the permit exemption in question to consider the site as a whole.

To read the decision of the Heritage Council, click here. In summary, the Heritage Council based their decision on the following:

  • ‘Matters relating to the effect of any decision to refuse a permit application on the reasonable and economic use of the Place, or any undue financial hardship caused to an owner by such a decision, are not relevant matters for this Committee’ (pg.12)
  • ‘The Committee is of the view that B9 [the 1960s concrete silos] contributes to the cultural heritage significance of the Place and is clearly an iconic feature within the Place. The prominence and landmark quality of B9 is recognised in the Statement of Significance as an element of the aesthetic and social significance of the Place, and B9 (together with the Nylex Sign) is noted as having become a significant and culturally iconic feature in the Melbourne landscape and psyche’ (pg. 14)
  • ‘The Committee does not agree with the submissions of the Owner that there has been ‘no material change in circumstances’ in relation to the Place since its 2004 registration. Having regard to the submissions made to it, the Committee notes the evidence of Mr Lovell and the submissions of the Trust as to the demolition of several large silos across Victoria and the potential increased rarity of the Place by reason of the loss of similar maltings sites in Melbourne since the registration of the Place in 2004. The Committee also notes submissions made by the Trust with respect to the changing appreciation in Victoria for industrial landscapes and in particular silos’ (pg. 16)
  • ‘In any case, the Committee is of the view that B9, which is documented in the Statement of Significance as clearly contributing to the cultural heritage significance of the Place, should be subject to the requirement for a heritage permit under Part 4, Division 1 of the Act. The use of demolition exemptions for whole buildings or elements within the registered extent of a place should not be the preferred approach where those buildings are noted in the Statement of Significance as making a contribution to the cultural heritage significance of the Place’ (pg. 17)

In conclusion, the Heritage Council determined the following:

After considering the Executive Director’s recommendation, all submissions received and after conducting a hearing, pursuant to Sections 42(4) and 54(1) of the Heritage Act 1995, the Heritage Council has determined to amend the item H2050, the Barrett Burston Richmond Maltings Site, in the Victorian Heritage Register by removing the heritage permit exemption (demolition) that had applied to building B9 (the 1960s silos).

Make Me Iconic giftware, coffe cup

At the hearing we argued that the social significance of the silos has been increasingly recognised since it was first classified: the silos now feature on a range of ‘Melbournalia’ gifts and art including coffee cups, tea towels and in art and children’s books about the city. This for example is a coffee cup by Make Me Iconic giftware

Illustration from ‘Melbourne Word by Word’, by Michael McMahon, 2016

Illustration from ‘Melbourne Word by Word’, by Michael McMahon, 2016, representing the increased social significance of the silos


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