Inquiry into Heritage Protection in Victoria

Latest update October 2022

The RHSV has launched a campaign for the Victorian state election, aiming to get candidates to commit to restarting the upper house Inquiry into Planning and Heritage begun last year but terminated without hearings this year. Charles Sowerwine, Chair of the RHSV Heritage Committee, has written to every candidate for the Legislative Council asking them to commit to supporting the Inquiry. We are asking everyone, RHSV members, local historical societies, everyone committed to the preservation of our wonderful heritage, to write to candidates in your area. We’ll be reporting on the results in November. Here’s what we’ve done so far (including sample letters below). 

August 2022

The RHSV is concerned that there has been a serious decline in the protection afforded to heritage buildings by local planning legislation in Victoria, and as a result an alarming loss of heritage in recent years. There is an urgent need for fundamental reform of the Victorian Planning Framework. In October 2020 a positive step in this direction was taken when the upper house of the Victorian Parliament initiated an inquiry into Victoria’s planning regulations with respect to heritage protection. RHSV welcomed this as an opportunity for positive reform. The parliamentary committee conducting this inquiry received over 280 submissions from a variety of stakeholders, including an extensive one from the RHSV – but held no public hearings.

In its submission to the inquiry, the RHSV called for a revitalisation of the State Government’s role in providing leadership in the protection and management of local heritage. It argued that the department responsible for planning, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) had not only abrogated responsibility for local heritage protection but was seriously undermining it by imposing design objectives that invited developers to construct new buildings even on sites covered by a Heritage Overlay.

 

Image above: The historic Corkman Hotel in Carlton before it was demolished by developers.

 

A notable example of this was the Corkman Hotel in Carlton, which became a target for developers after the Minister approved a Design and Development Overlay (DDO) that prescribed a twelve or thirteen storey building for the site, thus inviting developers’ greed. The John Curtin Hotel in Lygon Street, Carlton, was another example. It is covered by the Heritage Overlay but also by a DDO calling for an eight-storey building on the site. Similar DDOs are being applied to the historic shopping strips of Melbourne with the result that developers are being encouraged to demolish heritage shops and replace them with six to ten storey buildings. These DDOs encourage developers and make a mockery of the Heritage Overlay.

The RHSV submission also expressed concern that local heritage protection was not covering all appropriate sites. All too often, RHSV members discover that a building under threat was not even covered by a Heritage Overlay. A major factor in this stems from the closure of the local government unit in Heritage Victoria, which provided advice and tangible support to local government councils to ensure that they actively pursued heritage studies to ascertain which sites should be protected.

On 2 August 2022 the parliamentary committee conducting the inquiry into the Victorian Planning Framework released an interim report. The central recommendation of this report was that, after the forthcoming State elections later this year, the Victorian Government should hold a full inquiry into the adequacies of the protections afforded by the Victorian Planning Framework.

Image above: The historic Corkman Hotel in the process of being demolished. (Photo: Facebook RIP Corkman Irish Pub).

 

The lack of public hearings by the parliamentary committee and this postponement of the inquiry until after the State election indicate that for our political leaders heritage protection was too hot an issue to have publicly debated in an election year. The future of the inquiry is anything but assured, and everything now depends on the next parliament. The RHSV is therefore urging all Victorians who care about our heritage to demand of candidates at this year’s State election that they pledge to restart this inquiry and pursue it to the end, with full hearings and deliberations.

 

To read the RHSV media release 10 October 2022 click here .

To read the RHSV letter to candidates 5 October 2022 click here.

To read the RHSV letter to community groups 5 October 2022 click here.

To read the RHSV letter to historical societies 5 October 2022 click here.

To read the RHSV’s statement on the postponement of the inquiry click here.

To read the RHSV’s submission of 31 January 2022 click here.

To read the Heritage Council of Victoria’s 2020 State of Heritage Review  click here.

To read Heritage Survey results conducted by RHSV on behalf of Heritage Council Victoria for the State of Heritage Review click here.

To read the June 2022 edition of History News click here