CURRENT ADVOCACY PROJECTS
The following advocacy projects are regarding Heritage issues within the state of Victoria for which the RHSV is providing a voice. These notices may include support, objections, recommendations and general notices on heritage matters. The current advocacy list displays such statements and notices. Click on the item’s heading for the full document or to read more.
The current projects include:
- Mt Buningyong development
- Fishermens Bend
- Royal Exhibition Building Environs
- Queen Victoria Market
- Federation Square
- Southbank and Fishermans Bend Heritage Review and the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review
When an advocacy project closes or a statement is superseded it may be removed from this page. Once removed from this list, the advocacy projects are archived and may be viewed on the ‘Archived Advocacy Projects’ page.
MT BUNINYONG DEVELOPMENT
We were approached by the Buninyong and District Historical Society, which objected to a grotesque proposal to build tourist accommodation in the form of giant wine barrels on the slopes of this picturesque extinct volcano near Ballarat, a site significant to Indigenous and settler populations alike and listed on the now closed Register of the National Estate. Ballarat Council rejected the application unanimously. The developer has gone to VCAT and we have submitted a statement of grounds in the case. Unfortunately, the developer has commenced construction of the first unit, which cannot be challenged as one dwelling can be erected without a permit provided it conforms to the code.
July 2020 • RHSV Protests Minister’s Short-Circuiting Plans for Heritage Listing of GMH Site
The iconic GMH site at Fishermans Bend, where Ben Chifley launched the first Holden, was on track to be listed on the Victorian Heritage Register until, in February, Planning Minister Richard Wynne called in the nomination. The Minister is short-circuiting the heritage and planning processes to facilitate a development that will destroy much of the historic fabric before the site is registered. We have written to the Minister to urge him to follow proper process.
The University of Melbourne bought the site in 2018 for a new engineering campus. DELWP has been secretly working with the university to prepare Planning Scheme Amendment C371 governing the site. This is contrary to the spirit of the Heritage Act. The minister should make public the Heritage Council’s report and proceed to a determination of the registration and, as is usual, the extent of registration, i.e., exactly what is covered, before planning proceeds.
We learned on 4 July that plans for the site would be considered at the Future Melbourne Committee of CoM on 7 July. The CoM officers found that the plans would reduce the heritage to a few façades, greatly restrict public open space, and allow 141 m towers in an area with an 80 m recommended maximum. We made a strong submission to Future Melbourne Committee, and their resolution reflected our views.
On 13 July, we wrote to the minister and to the vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne urging them to proceed with registration and then to planning, in line with the opinion of CoM planners and the decision of Future Melbourne Committee on 7 July (see https://architectureau.com/articles/university-of-melbournes-2b-campus-plan-progresses/#).
The Vice-Chancellor’s reply promised ‘to create a distinct campus rooted in its ecological, indigenous and industrial legacy – that celebrates history, while allowing for change, adaptation and regeneration of the local ecosystem’. The minister’s reply, dated 29 September, ‘noted’ our request for registration and refused to release the Heritage Council report on the site.
We await the outcome of the ministry’s work with the University.
1) The RHSV’s letter to the Hon. Richard Wynne, MP, Minister for Planning, 13 July 2020
2) The RHSV’s letter to Professor Duncan Maskell, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Melbourne, 13 July 2020
3) The RHSV’s submission to the Heritage Council supporting registration of the GMH site
ROYAL EXHIBITION BUILDING AND CARLTON GARDENS WORLD
The RHSV has long been concerned at threats to area around the World Heritage site, called the World Heritage Environs Area (WHEA). In May 2020 we made a major contribution to a state review of the WHEA. That could lead to improvements, but will take years. In the meantime, we are facing new threats to the world heritage values of Melbourne’s only world heritage site.
In December 2020, the RHSV learned of a proposed five-storey building on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy (Yarra Council permit number PLN20/0566, 1-9 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy). The building would be in a neo-Brutalist style, bulking over the neighbouring low-rise Victorian buildings. More importantly, it would affect views to and from the REB. The Dome has been renovated and will soon be open to visitors, as during the 1880 and 1888 Exhibitions, but when visitors look east, the proposed development will loom above Royal Terrace. The RHSV Heritage Committee lodged a strong objection to this proposal in December 2020.
Now we face an even bigger threat with the proposal for construction of a new building for St Vincent’s Hospital on the corner of Nicholson Street and Victoria Parade (Yarra Council permit number PLN20/0567, 27-41 Victoria Parade, Fitzroy).
The new building is much bigger than the existing one and nearly 15 metres higher—the equivalent of five normal storeys. The proposed building is faced in glass and would dominate the heritage area. The applicant admits that it ‘is intended to be contemporary and visually striking’. This is attention-seeking architecture where what is required is respectful architecture. The RHSV lodged a major submission opposing this proposal in January 2021.
These proposals highlight a serious flaw in planning protection. The Royal Exhibition Building and surrounding gardens received World Heritage listing not only because of the quality of the building and gardens, but also because the surrounding environment retained a nineteenth century context. The Australian government promised UNESCO that it create a buffer zone in which ‘all planning policies [would] discourage the demolition of Victorian-era buildings and require any development to enhance heritage values’ and maintain Victorian-era low-rise scale.
In 2009, the Victorian government broke that promise. It did create a buffer zone, called the World Heritage Environs Area (WHEA), but split it into an ‘Area of Greater Sensitivity’ (less than half of the WHEA) and the rest. Only the ‘Area of Greater Sensitivity’ got stricter planning controls. While the Gertrude Street development falls within the ‘Area of Greater Sensitivity’ of the World Heritage Environs Area (WHEA), the St Vincent’s proposal, while in the WHEA, lies outside the ‘Area of Greater Sensitivity’, even though it is directly across Nicholson Street from the World Heritage Site.
Since it is the federal government which signed the agreement with UNESCO for World Heritage Nomination, it is the responsibility of the Minister for the Environment to ensure protection of the site. The EPBC Act 2003 provides that anyone ‘proposing to take an action that is likely to have a significant impact on … a declared World Heritage property should refer the action to the Environment Minister’, but self-referral hasn’t worked! The RHSV heritage committee wrote to the Minister for Environment Hon. Sussan Ley M.P on 31 January 2021, but have received no answer or acknowledgement to date.
In February 2021, the RHSV heritage committee took the decision to write to the Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre to request their intervention with the Australia Government.
NORTH PARK SUBDIVISION AND REDEVELOPMENT
In September 2020 the RHSV lodged a submission to support the Essendon Historical Society and the ‘Save North Park’ community group, opposing plans for subdivision and development of the grounds of the former North Park, Essendon. The application was refused by Heritage Victoria and then the Moonee Valley Council also unanimously refused the planning application.
Appeals against these decisions were lodged by the owner and RHSV submitted a Statement of Grounds with VCAT. Both appeals were withdrawn by the applicant and RHSV expects revised plans and new applications in the near future.
Historic Garden Saved
North Park, Essendon, is a a high Victorian mansion still surrounded by its intact gardens. Both the mansion and the gardens are on the Victorian Heritage Register. “The grounds of North Park are of aesthetic importance as an outstanding example of the gardenesque style and for the unusual three curved terraces, wide drive, garden path remains, and the evergreen trees and large conifers which contribute to the picturesque profile of the overall composition.”
North Park is now owned by the St Columban order. They proposed to construct 25 townhouses on the grounds. Local community opposition developed quickly, supported by the Essendon Historical Society. Heritage Victoria refused a permit and Moonee Valley Council also refused a town planning permit. The St Columban’s appealed to the Heritage Council and to VCAT. The RHSV made major submissions to both bodies, supporting the EHS and the local community. Both appeals have now been withdrawn.
North Park sketch, 1888, State Library Victoria
This is a battle won, but the war will no doubt continue. We will keep alert for the next battle.
Queen Victoria Market
Our efforts to preserve the QVM continued during 2020. On 29 April, RHSV Heritage Committee chair Charles Sowerwine spoke at a public forum organised by the Friends of QVM and the National Trust, ‘The Queen Victoria Market Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Heritage and Emotion’.
Continuing its quest to ‘modernise’ the market, Council applied to Heritage Victoria for permits for two new structures, ‘Northern Shed’ and ‘Trader Shed’. In April 2020, RHSV made substantial submissions opposing both these developments. On 3 December Heritage Victoria refused the permit for the modern canopy in Queen Street (‘Northern Shed’) on the basis that it was ‘of a scale, form and materiality that is at odds with the architectural significance of Queen Victoria Market’ but granted permits for the loading docks and waste facilities proposed. It also approved the brutalist ‘Trader Shed’, intended to provide facilities for an anticipated fast-food workforce.
We are bitterly disappointed at this decision, which will enable CoM to proceed with its plans to ‘modernise’ the market and replace its traditional fresh fruit and veg offerings with a fast-food focus.
In July 2020, Council also began discussing a Charter for Market Square, the proposed new ‘events space’ to be built on the current car park. We were not included in the consultation process for this charter. We made a submission to the MCC ‘Future Melbourne Committee’ (aka Planning Committee). Our aim here was to ensure that the charter acknowledge the space’s inclusion in the heritage site and ensure that its functions are complementary to the market. Consultation with Cr Jackie Watts and negotiations with other councillors has resulted in some improvements to the charter.
3 April 2020 • Submission to Heritage Victoria on the proposed Northern Shed
3 April 2020 • Submission to Heritage Victoria on the proposed Trader Shed
19 Nov 2019 • Heritage Committee Chair, Charles Sowerwine, speaks at a QVM public forum
Charles’ speech can be read here – it is a brilliant and succinct summing up of this protracted, complicated, many-fronted campaign.
13 Nov 2019 • RHSV lodges submission with Heritage Victoria re Permit P31886
1 Nov 2019 • RHSV lodges a submission re Market Square
The submission was lodged with the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal Program Office. Our Heritage Committee outlines its concern that the proposed event space would endanger the traditional use of the market.
16 Oct 2019 • RHSV Slams Proposals to Sanitise QVM
Our submission to the Melbourne City Council opposes discontinuance of roads intended to provide space for new buildings that will radically alter the market’s traditional mode of operation
17 Sep 2019 • Submission to Future Melbourne Committee
Regarding Agenda Item 6.6 Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal Program – Provision of Market Infrastructure
16 Sep 2019 • RHSV submission to Heritage Council of Victoria
Regarding Proposal to Amend the Extent of Registration of the Queen Victoria Market with regard to Queen Street
2 Apr 2019 • Submission to Future Melbourne Committee
The RHSV sets forth its concerns on heritage issues.
29 Mar 2019 • Letter to The Hon Lord Mayor Sally Capp
Prof. Charles Sowerwine, Chair of the RHSV Heritage Committee, congratulates the Lord Mayor for ‘having turned around and largely defused the problems’ linked to projects she inherited around the refashioning of the Queen Victoria Market.
1 Dec 2018 • Melbourne • Victory at the QVM People’s Panel: The Great Turnaround
The People’s Panel was, in the end, a great victory for those of us who support preservation and revitalization of the market on the basis of its heritage, but it’s not over yet.
1 Nov 2018 • Melbourne • Heritage Victoria Officer’s Report – Queen Victoria Market
The Friends of Queen Victoria Market have obtained release of this report, which the City of Melbourne had kept under wraps. It is the internal report which led to the decision to refuse a permit for the Doyle plan to dismantle the historic sheds, excavate three levels below them for parking and services, and rebuild the sheds with many new structures.
31 Oct 2018 • Melbourne • Update on Queen Victoria Market ‘People’s Panel’
In last week’s statement on the Queen Victoria Market ‘People’s Panel’, we noted that the first two sessions had, as a fellow participant remarked to me, ‘tried to railroad us’ into accepting the discredited Doyle plan for the market, the plan rejected by Heritage Victoria. We protested in letters to the organisers and then to the Lord Mayor. Others too had written to the Lord Mayor expressing concern.
The Friends of the Queen Victoria Market obtained the release of Heritage Victoria’s internal report on the Doyle plan, which is a searing indictment of the whole plan (it is also on our web site). And our statement was picked up by the Herald-Sun on Saturday (‘Historian slams market panel’, 27 October 2018, p. 16). All this may have contributed to a new attitude on the part of facilitators and City of Melbourne and QVM Pty Ltd staff when the third panel session opened on Saturday morning.
25 Oct 2018 • Melbourne • Statement on Queen Victoria Market ‘People’s Panel’
The RHSV has participated in good faith in the first two sessions of Melbourne City Council’s ‘People’s Panel’ regarding the development of the Queen Victoria Market. We were assured that ‘everything was on the table.’ But it has now become clear, as the panel’s web portal proclaims to participants, that our ‘remit’ is only to ‘help shape the delivery and location of trader and customer facilities at Queen Victoria Market’ and that the nature of these facilities is non-negotiable.
The Age, 8 August 2020, carried an article in which the recently appointed CEO of Fed Square, Dr Xavier Csar, spoke of opening the square to the Yarra (Jewel Topsfield, ‘Federation Square to improve links to the Yarra’; see https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/federation-square-to-improve-links-to-the-yarra-20200808-p55jtp.html). The Heritage Committee participated extensively in the reviews that followed rejection of the Apple Store and had been awaiting results of these reviews. I wrote to Dr Xavier Csar, CEO of Fed Square, seeking an interview.
On 7 September, Judy Smart, Ian Wight and I met by Zoom with Dr Csar, who reassured us that there were no plans for building works and that ‘embracing the Yarra’ meant improved signage, access, and food services at the riverside. He also reassured us that (as we had argued), Fed Square’s revenues would suffice for expected maintenance.
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