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Southbank heritage ‘botched’

13 Sep 2015

Southbank heritage ‘botched’ Image

The Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) activist group has called on the City of Melbourne to take immediate action to protect Southbank’s remaining heritage buildings.  

MHA has recently expanded its boundaries to cover Southbank, after discovering that, while many of the area’s remaining sacred sites are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, they remain wholly unprotected in law.

MHA president Tristan Davies said the issue was the result of an administrative oversight, which stemmed back to 1993 when the area first came under control of the City of Melbourne.

“A significant number of recognised heritage buildings in the Southbank area never had a formal heritage overlay applied to them through the handover,” Mr Davies said.

“This has happened largely because huge mistakes were made when control of the area was handed over from the City of South Melbourne to Melbourne City Council in 1993.”

Prominent among these are the former Castlemaine Brewery buildings on Queensbridge St and the Romanesque warehouses and inter-war offices at 63-69 City Rd, which are now home to the Photography Studies College.

The group has also raised concerns about the City of Melbourne’s “rush to redevelop the suburb,” with Mr Davies stating that, since 1993, it had allowed a total of eight Southbank buildings with applicable heritage overlays to be demolished.  

While the heritage overlay applies to a number of properties and roads in Southbank as shown on the Melbourne Planning Scheme maps, Mr Davies said it had too often been ignored and demanded a review of the system.

“We call on the City of Melbourne to conduct an urgent and comprehensive Southbank heritage survey before its remaining heritage is lost to us, and with it the chance to make Southbank a more livable environment,” he said.

“These spaces are the sorts of places that restaurants and galleries and boutiques actively seek to make their home – and that’s everything Southbank, outside of the casino, lacks.”

“This mess needs to be fixed without delay or what is supposed to be a showpiece suburb for urban renewal will become a lesson for future generations in how not to do things.”

According to a spokesperson for the City of Melbourne, under the Planning and Environment Act, heritage controls are included in the Melbourne Planning Scheme for the purpose of protecting places that are significant to the city, which are administered by council.

The spokesperson stated that Southbank would be the first subject of a citywide review commencing in 2016.

“Southbank is the next precinct prioritised for review and will be considered by council for the program of works for the 2016/17 financial year,” she said.

“The heritage overlay control is consistent throughout the state but some councils may also have heritage policies to guide them in making decisions about applications for planning permits.”

“Under a policy titled Heritage Places within the Capital City Zone, an application for a permit for alterations, additions or other development of a property subject to the heritage overlay can be lodged and council will consider the provisions in the heritage overlay as well as the policy in making a decision.”

Mr Davies said that waiting until next financial year wasn’t sufficient and that his group would continue to pursue immediate action.

“That will categorically be too late to save many of these unprotected buildings, which are facing specific redevelopment proposals today,” he said.

“We call on either the City of Melbourne or the Planning Minister to urgently impose interim controls on all recognised and graded heritage structures within the Southbank precinct that do not currently have an overlay.”

In its research of Southbank’s heritage controls, Mr Davies said MHA had been surprised to also discover a heritage overlay, which had been applied across the middle of a section of Clarendon St outside the McDonalds restaurant.

Under HO378 of the Melbourne Planning Scheme, the section is marked as “Clarendon St Bridge, South Melbourne.”

Southbank Local News contacted both the City of Melbourne and City of Port Phillip in an attempt to find answers about the mysterious bridge, however neither was able to confirm.

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