In a last ditch chance to secure a better outcome regarding the Besen Gertrude redevelopment at 1-9 Gertrude Street Fitzroy, a group of residents has appealed to the federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tania Plibersek. Although planning approval has been granted for the proposed development as required under Victorian legislation, the residents are arguing that the development will have an adverse impact on the World Heritage Environment Area surrounding the Royal Exhibition Building (REB) and Carlton Gardens. As the REB and the Gardens are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the immediate area around them is seen as a buffer zone and an important element of the protected assets. Put more simply, putting an unsympathetic new building nearby that blocks views of the REB and significantly changes the streetscape isn’t really in the spirit of World Heritage listing.

Now, although most of the decision making affecting 1-9 Gertrude Street lies in Victoria, an action that can have a significant impact on the World Heritage values of a declared World Heritage property should be referred by the developer to the federal Minister for the Environment and Water. A referral was made to the previous Minister but was withdrawn, so the residents are approaching the new Minister to make a decision. The RHSV has supported the attempt, with Chair of the Heritage Committee Charles Sowerwine calling on Ms. Plibersek to ensure the developer refers the development proposal as required by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The chances of getting the proposed development reassessed may not be good, but the importance of the site, and the implications for development in other World Heritage Environment Areas if it goes ahead unchanged, mean that it is certainly worth a go.

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