The RHSV congratulates the Minister for Planning, the Honourable Lizzie Blandthorn, MP, on her decision to extend the protected area (the World Heritage Environs Area or WHEA) around the Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens World Heritage Site. This represents a major step forward in our campaign to implement better protection of Melbourne’s only World Heritage Site.
In 2004, when Australia sought World Heritage listing for the Exhibition Building site, it promised a buffer zone around the Carlton Gardens, ‘including the southern Central Business District area’. In this buffer zone, ‘all planning policies [would] discourage the demolition of Victorian-era buildings and require any development to enhance heritage values. But in 2007, when the buffer zone (now known as the WHEA) was proclaimed, it was cut back and half of what was left was weakened by being deemed and area of lesser sensitivity.
We became aware of the weakening of the WHEA in 2017, when we found that it did not cover a proposed 60-story twin tower at the corner of Exhibition and La Trobe Streets even though it will dwarf the Exhibition Building and overshadow the Gardens.
The RHSV has been active on this issue, alongside the National Trust and the Friends of the Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens, since April 2020, when we were designated a key stakeholder and invited to participate in the review of the WHEA, to which we have made several major submissions. The review recommendations reflect most of our positions. The Heritage Council was to hold hearings, at which Ian Wight was to speak on our behalf, and make recommendations to the Minister.
To read more and see the map of the World Heritage Environs Area Plan click here.