Submission to Heritage Victoria on Porter Prefabricated Iron Store, Fitzroy North

RE: Permit application for relocation

We are concerned regarding the proposal to dismantle, relocate and reassemble this building.

19 June 2018


VHR2243 Porter Prefabricated Iron Store
Location: 111 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North 

Mr. Steven Avery,
Executive Director,
Heritage Victoria,
8 Nicholson Street,
East Melbourne, Vic 3002.

Dear Steven,

VHR2243 Porter Prefabricated Iron Store, 111 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North
Submission re Permit application P24397 for relocation.

We write to express our concerns regarding the proposal to dismantle, relocate and reassemble this building.
Our concerns are based on the following issues:

1. The need to relocate this building has not been properly established;
2. The proposed relocation seems likely to put the building at serious risk;
3. There has been no indication that any alternatives to relocation off site have been properly considered.

Need for Relocation
It is claimed that the building needs to be relocated as the soil is contaminated. This claim has been seriously questioned by Professor Miles Lewis in his submission to the Executive Director and we believe that his questions deserve the most serious consideration:

‘That presumption [that the land is contaminated] was incorrect. The site of the store has never been a part of the gasworks. It was established as a depot under the Melbourne Town Council in the 1850s and has been a depot successively of the Melbourne, Fitzroy and Yarra councils to the present day. There is no reason to suppose that the site has been contaminated, and Development Victoria has no evidence to this effect.’

Even if further investigation indicates that the land has suffered some contamination from council activities the first option should be to examine the possibility of propping this relatively light structure while contaminated soil is removed and replaced.

Risk to the Structure
The Heritage Report and Impact Assessment prepared by Purcell provides no detail as to the practicality of dismantling the structure. For example Lewis points out that the nuts and bolts are now fused and cannot be undone and reassembled. The Purcell report merely suggests that:

‘Prior to dismantling, investigation should be undertaken by suitably qualified contractors in conjunction with the Heritage Architect to determine the approach for dismantling the Store, dealing with corroded elements, etc. Following this, the structure should be dismantled for storage and reerection in line with any permit conditions.’

It is our contention that no permit should be issued until the precise detail of what is possible and what is not is known. To issue a permit with a series of conditions that might prove incapable of being executed is only to invite argument and possible serious compromises.

We are also concerned at the proposed relocation site. Not only would the building be totally out of its context compared with its current urban industrial setting, it would also be at risk of vandalism. That the Purcell Report suggests that part of this risk could be managed by using anti-graffiti paint shows a misunderstanding of what is appropriate to the restoration of this structure.

This building needs to be located in an urban context within the lockable grounds of an institution that can make use of it and protect it.

Alternatives to Relocation
The too easy assumptions that the building must be relocated due to contamination and can easily be relocated because it is a prefabricated structure has led to the absence of any proper consideration of alternatives.

As the building has the status of a place listed on the Victorian Heritage Register the first consideration should be how it can best be conserved and maintained in situ. The next stage is to consider the possible impact of any future development on the setting of the place and how that should be managed. Finally an appropriate use for the building must be found in order to ensure its future conservation. Fortunately the surrounding land is destined for use as a school and there is any number of uses that a school could put such a building to.

The permit application is fundamentally flawed if this process has not been undertaken. This is a brownfields site where much of the land will be cleared. There are therefore no limits to the form new development can take and therefore no reason why future development should not accommodate, respect integrate and involve this very significant heritage structure.

However improbable this may be, should further detailed investigation indicate that relocation is the sole practical means of ensuring the building’s survival then we contend that the structure should be relocated within the same site.

(Professor) Charles Sowerwine,
Chair, Heritage Committee,
Royal Historical Society of Victoria.


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