Why does heritage matter?
Whether it be Flinders Street Station or a Beaumaris modernist house, what makes heritage important to people is that it plays a role in their lives, it is part of their own—local—world, it helps orient them geographically and chronologically.
While sites of ‘state significance’, often on the Victorian Heritage Register, may be known to more people, sites of ‘local significance’ covered by local Heritage Overlays, if at all, constitute the bulk of our heritage assets. Each loss of a local landmark makes a significant difference to the lives of those who orient themselves around it. The cumulative effect of the loss of many such local landmarks is a loss of shared identity.
Conserving heritage, however, does not mean preventing development. Protected sites constitute a tiny proportion of potential sites for development. And protection does not mean no change. Heritage Victoria grants 97 per cent of applications for permits to alter or demolish. Local heritage overlays are frequently, indeed too frequently, overturned by councils, VCAT, or the Minister for Planning.
Conserving heritage pays great benefits to the community. A community built around a core landmark will be enriched materially and spiritually.
RHSV Image: Federal Coffee Palace, corner Collins and King Streets, Melbourne [demolished 1973-1974]