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Southbank heritage under threat

10 Mar 2016

Southbank heritage under threat Image

The Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) group is demanding that an interim heritage overlay be applied to the former Castlemaine Brewery bottle shop at 115-117 Queensbridge St before it is demolished.

The 107-117 Queensbridge St and adjoining 216 City Rd site, which were put on the market in February, includes one of our suburb’s last remaining heritage-graded buildings.

State planning laws outline that a heritage grading means a site is solely acknowledged as possessing historical value, while a heritage overlay requires a developer to consider such value as part of any new proposal.

MHA media officer Adam Ford said, as it currently stood, a developer was well within its rights to demolish the entire building.

“None of the buildings are protected by law and the short answer is that, if a developer fancied it, they could demolish the buildings tomorrow,” he said.

“The only way of protecting this building is for council to apply an urgent interim heritage overlay to the property.”

However, Mr Ford stated that while heritage overlays forced developers to consider the heritage value in a new development, they didn’t necessarily guarantee a building’s full protection either.

As is the case with many other Southbank developments, he said a heritage overlay could at the very least ensure that the building’s facade was kept intact.

“This is where it starts to get a bit grey,” he said. “An overlay would normally prohibit complete demolition unless they could argue the building was dangerous or unsaveable or similar.”

“In a lot of circumstances that would allow for facadism but facadism itself has its own recommendations that suggest you need to keep an appreciable amount of the new building and it needs to retain its context as a stand-alone structure.”

However, Mr Ford said that considering the historic value of a building could also be interpreted as preserving something as small as a window or a doorframe.

The City of Melbourne told Southbank Local News last year that it would conduct a heritage review of Southbank in 2016, however it only recently passed a resolution to begin the study in 2017.

With the very real prospect of a purchase being made this year, Mr Ford argued that a 2017 study was far too late to preserve the building’s history.  

A City of Melbourne spokesperson said council wouldn’t commit to applying for an urgent interim overlay until a new proposal was put before it.

“If significant heritage buildings are under threat of demolition, council can consider applying to the Minister for Planning to introduce interim heritage controls to protect them,” the spokesperson said.

“The City of Melbourne has not considered or received any planning application seeking significant redevelopment of 107-117 Queensbridge St.”

The Castlemaine Brewery was established in the late 1850s, and the South Melbourne site was built up during the 1870-80s as a backup in case the main brewery caught fire.

In 1890, Castlemaine Brewery was regarded as one of the most prosperous breweries in Melbourne, and the remaining buildings are thought to be the most well preserved brewery buildings left in the inner city.

The three remaining buildings are all National Trust classified. Still, the introduction of the overlays in the 1980s left these, and many other historical buildings, unprotected and vulnerable to redevelopments.

A press release issued by CBRE titled “Owners team up to capitalise on Southbank land boom,” gave no mention to the historical value of the property.

In September last year, Southbank Local News reported that several other heritage-graded buildings had been demolished in Southbank to make way for new high-rise towers.

Other Southbank sites under the same threat include the recently sold Art Deco Opera Australia building and the Edwardian warehouse at 63 City Rd, which currently houses the Photography Studies College.

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