Melbourne’s heritage – Saved or not?

Last edition, we looked at eight unprotected heritage buildings in the CBD/Southbank threatened by apartment developments.

And the most common response we’ve had to that has been “in this day and age, how is it possible Melbourne is still knocking over its 19th century heritage?”

Heritage protection in Melbourne had a fitful start. The destruction of one of the planet’s finest Victorian-era cities through the sixties and seventies is well enough documented. As a result of growing community concern, in 1982 about 150 buildings within the Melbourne CBD were declared “Notable” and given strong protection.

In 1999, this system, which was based on an A-D grading of individual buildings was overhauled to create formal heritage overlays within the Melbourne Planning Scheme.

This notionally gave buildings within an overlay a more formal level of protection, but was accompanied by other changes including the replacement of Melbourne City Council’s detailed Heritage Guidelines (which largely prohibited any major demolition) with a two-page document more accommodating of partial demolition, facadism and inappropriate additions.

In the almost 30 years between 1982 and 2011, Melbourne City Council listed virtually no further buildings and conducted no major heritage surveys. This was remedied in 2011 when a review of unprotected CBD heritage recommended 98 places, including 12 interiors be granted protection.

The then Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, accepted the recommended listing of 87 pre-World War II buildings, but referred all the more recent buildings to the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure and Heritage Victoria for further consideration.

That was in 2013, and as at March 2016, nothing further has been heard from this process.

MHA has identified around 200 structures within the CBD and Southbank that were graded in the original 1982 heritage survey, but which have never had a heritage overlay applied to them.

While a review of Southbank is slated for later this year, the City of Melbourne needs to urgently conduct a similarly comprehensive heritage survey of the CBD with a view to listing these 200 structures that at present have no protection in law.

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