A review of heritage during the past council term

By Tristan Davies – Melbourne Heritage Action

With City of Melbourne council elections taking place at the time of writing, it’s time to have a look at the past term of heritage, and what to look for in the next council term.

The past four years have seen significant action on heritage protection in the city, with studies of the Guildford and Hardware Lane areas forwarded and passed, protecting two of our key laneway precincts. 

Heritage gradings have also been streamlined and updated, and modern guidelines for sensitive restorations and appropriate tower developments around heritage places have been enforced. 

Most significant has been the adoption of the Hoddle Grid Heritage Review, the first comprehensive review of heritage in the CBD in more than three decades, protecting many important places including the best of our mid-century modern office buildings, and also importantly recognising Aboriginal heritage and social heritage values as worthy of protection in their own rights. 

These major amendments represent goals Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) have been lobbying for over the past decade, and hopefully also represent long-term values held by the City of Melbourne.

Although heritage losses were less than in the council terms prior to 2016, partly due to council action and partly changing development pressures, we sadly lost the battle for the Palace Theatre on Bourke St, which is currently under demolition for a hotel that might never make a profit. 

The past four years also saw the closure, development or demolition of a number of CBD pubs, including the Celtic Club, Elms Family Hotel, Metropolitan Hotel, Greater Western Hotel and, most notably the CBD-fringe Corkman Inn, demolished by “cowboy developers”. 

The re-development of the Queen Victoria Market area, originally championed by disgraced Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, who resigned in 2018, also remains controversial and up for much debate in the next council term. 

Recent council approval of the redevelopment of the Walk Arcade may also soon see more heritage and street art walls demolished.

Although great strides have been taken by the City of Melbourne in the past four years, there will be a lot of pressure to remove “red-tape” and fast track developments in the post COVID-19 recovery to come, which we hope will be handled with care whatever the new council makeup looks like. 

We hope to see the positive momentum continue though, and Melbourne Heritage Action will be there to make sure heritage is put front and centre in the future of our city.

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