Heritage Matters

Advocating for Heritage

We cooperate with cognate organisations in response to heritage issues raised by affiliated historical societies.
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The RHSV Heritage Committee is a subcommittee of the RHSV Council. The Heritage Committee cooperates with cognate organisations in response to heritage issues raised by affiliated historical societies. It is chaired by RHSV Councillor Emeritus Professor Charles Sowerwine and consists of two RHSV Councillors – Margaret Anderson and Elisabeth Jackson plus Judith Smart, Ian Wight and Peter Hiscock; who are all experts in the field. Felicity Watson, Advocacy Manager for the National Trust attends as an adviser. We add the RHSV’s voice to that of other heritage bodies, partnering with the National Trust, the Melbourne Heritage Action, Friends of the Queen Victoria Market, and other groups confronting threats to our heritage. We work with local societies to provide support and expertise based on our experience in fighting preservation issues. We lack resources to do extensive independent research, but can back up those who have done solid research.
An important part of our brief is to lobby for improvements to the ways in which planning and heritage are managed. Indeed, this was a factor in Council’s decision to form the committee. We were invited to comment on the government’s proposed revision to the Heritage Act 1995. The group that prepared the RHSV response became the Heritage Committee.

Our submission in this case was strongly supported by the Opposition spokesperson for Planning, the Hon. David Davis (Hansard, Thursday 23 February 2017), who supported several of the RHSV’s arguments concerning shortcomings in the new Heritage Act 2016, namely:

There is no provision for support to local councils
There is no provision for support to local councils, which bear the brunt of preservation for many fine buildings not of state significance but nevertheless of great value to local communities or of great importance in maintaining the historic aura and charm of a country town. As a result, many buildings fall between the cracks and are lost.
There is no provision to ensure that VCAT take proper account of heritage issues or include members with heritage expertise.
At present, VCAT considers heritage as one of many factors and often rules that the need to build more housing or economic issues outweigh heritage protection, especially when local councils are not up to the task of defending the heritage.
There is no provision for interim protection where a building that has not received formal protection is threatened with demolition.
Time and time again a fine building is sold to a developer without formal protection and we only learn of the threat when the developer lodges an application to demolish. By that point, the developer has a case for compensation and, rather than face that, the government allows the building to be demolished. This is the case with the 1864 Great Western Hotel on King Street. The RHSV argued strongly that, as soon as a building is nominated for consideration for inclusion in the Register, it be granted an interim protection order while nomination is considered. Otherwise, we will continue destroying our heritage.
RHSV Image: Federal Coffee Palace, corner Collins and King Streets, Melbourne [demolished 1973-1974]
A key element of our brief is to act directly in cases where the RHSV is a stakeholder. As a result, we are involved in discussions about the future of the Queen Victoria Market and the Great Western Hotel (see page ? ). An important aspect of our work is to support local societies. A current issue is the threatened encroachment on two very important buildings in Fitzroy, both on the Victorian Heritage Register. One is the iconic former Eastern Hill Hotel (1854–56; 77 Victoria Parade), an early Victorian building, three storeys high, gracing the corner at Brunswick Street, presenting fine and intact facades on both streets. The other is Dodgshun House (1865–99; 9 Brunswick Street), a splendid high Victorian mansion just a short stroll to Parliament House (pictured). The threat to these buildings is a proposal by St Vincent’s Hospital to construct an eleven-storey building, which would be built over a portion of the Eastern Hill Hotel and obscure the splendid side facade of Dodgshun House. The RHSV has supported local members and the National Trust by registering its own objections with the City of Yarra. We ask historical societies to alert us as they witness threats to our heritage. We will build up a record of threats and support local societies and members to the extent possible for a volunteer team of three! Charles Sowerwine, Chair, Heritage Committee

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