An end to facadism

By Sean Car

A move to modernise Melbourne’s heritage system has been approved by the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne, which ends the city’s controversial love affair with facadism. 

Heritage policies in the City of Melbourne will be updated and a contemporary heritage category system introduced under Planning Scheme Amendment C258, which was adopted by the council in February and approved by the Minister for Planning in July.  

Chair of the City of Melbourne heritage portfolio Councillor Rohan Leppert said the new policies would better protect heritage buildings and discourage facadism, where only the façade of a heritage building was preserved, while the rest of the building was replaced. 

“We’ve modernised and updated the existing heritage protection system so it’s consistent with contemporary best practice and the system used by the majority of other councils in Victoria,” Cr Leppert said. 

“This will provide more guidance, clarity and certainty for community, landowners and developers.” 

Local heritage planning policies will be revised, and the A to D grading system will be replaced with the “significant/contributory/non-contributory” category system. 

Cr Leppert said the new policies required any additions to a building to be setback to maintain the prominence of the building’s heritage.  

“We’ve seen so many examples of facadism where heritage buildings are gutted and only the shell remains. We don’t want to see facadism become a style of this city,” Cr Leppert said.  

“Under the previous system the mantra had set in that D means demolish. Those days are gone.” 

“The buildings within the heritage overlay include everything from early Victorian houses and shops to grand commercial art deco buildings in the central city.”  

“The amendment also completely reviewed heritage places within the suburb of West Melbourne. 

“Seventeen new significant places have been included in individual overlays in West Melbourne, and hundreds of other places have had their statements of significance and grading updated.” 

“And at long last we are making it easier to install solar panels on the roofs of heritage buildings, so long as efforts are made to preserve the character of heritage places.” 

Amendment C258 was placed on public exhibition from March 30 to May 12 in 2017. An independent panel then considered more than 100 submissions. 

To assist landowners and the community understand the new policies, City of Melbourne also developed a Heritage Design Guide and Heritage Owners Guide which went to the Future Melbourne Committee as a draft in February 2020. The guide will now be finalised following the gazettal of C258 on July 10. 

For more on the new heritage controls, read Melbourne Heritage Action president Tristan Davies’s regular column on page 21 •

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