Feature Image: No.2 Goods Shed, 2001. Source: National Trust of Australia (Victoria)
Heritage Victoria has refused a permit application for proposed works at the No.2 Goods Shed which included demolition, dismantling and partial reconstruction to allow for the construction of two towers. The National Trust applauds the decision, which maintains an important precedent regarding “the reasonable or economic use” of registered places. Heritage Victoria’s refusal found that reasons provided to justify the demolition of elements at the site were not based on a sound heritage approach, but on the commercial development of the place.
No.2 Goods Shed is one of the few remaining historic places providing a tangible connection to the rich industrial history of Docklands. It originally measured 385 metres in length until the Collins Street extension project in the early 2000s, which resulted in the demolition of nine bays in the centre of the building.
The National Trust Classified the former Goods Shed as a place of National Significance. The Statement of Significance for the place, written prior to the extension of Collins Street, notes:
The former “A” Goods Shed is architecturally significant at the National level. It is a highly prominent part of a significant group of buildings in the docklands area and is one of the most significant railway structures in the State. It is certainly the largest and most architecturally pretentious railway goods building in Victoria. It particularly reflects the importance of goods handling in the Melbourne yard. Located adjacent to the docks, it was the major Outwards Shed from the time of its construction – each of the fifty-four external arched openings were dedicated to a different part of the Victorian railway system. The form of the building clearly demonstrates these methods of goods handling before trucks and containerisation. The building, remarkably, still fulfills its original function, though at a greatly reduced scale.
The rustic-Italianate architectural style of the building is comparable to, but more ornate than, the Newport Workshops and other industrial buildings of the era, and it is more intact.
Image: Render of No.2 Goods Shed tower proposal. Credit: Bates Smart.
In August 2022, the National Trust objected to the permit application, which proposed works including demolition, dismantling and partial reconstruction at the No.2 Goods Shed to allow for the construction of two towers on either side of Collins Street, as well as conservation and reconstruction works.
On 5 January 2023 the Executive Director, Heritage Victoria refused the application on the grounds that:
- The demolition and partial reconstruction of additional bays of the No.2 Goods Shed on either side of Collins Street would cause substantial visual and physical harm to the cultural heritage significance of the place. It would permanently, irreversibly and further diminish the understanding of the place as Victoria’s longest and most substantial goods shed.
- The construction of two towers on either side of Collins Street would have significant physical and visual impacts on the place. They would further disrupt the already compromised understanding of the visual and physical connections between the north and south sections of the No.2 Goods Shed.
- The scale and bulk of the proposed new towers would overwhelm and dominate the No.2 Goods Shed and obscure views to the north and south sections from Collins Street.
- The reasons provided to justify demolition of these elements are not based on a sound heritage approach, but on the commercial development of the place.
- The negative impacts of the proposal outweigh the benefits. The benefits could be achieved without construction of the two towers.
- The current uses are reasonable. The evidence provided suggests that they are viable and generate sufficient income to cover the costs of conservation and maintenance.