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Hotel’s heritage protection a headache for Crown

06 Oct 2020

Hotel’s heritage protection a headache for Crown Image

By David Schout

A host of historic Southbank buildings, including the Queens Bridge Hotel, have been given the seal of approval for heritage protection.

In September, a planning panel report was handed down that supported the call to protect the former hotel, plus other local sites including the Castlemaine Brewery complex and the Robur Tea House.

The move to provide a heritage overlay to 1-7 Queensbridge St (subject to council approval) however is likely to further frustrate Crown Resorts, which until last year had planned to build Australia’s tallest tower at the site.

After Crown’s planning permit expired and Minister for Planning Richard Wynne denied an extension, plans have remained up in the air.

Now, the granting of heritage protection will ensure future One Queensbridge plans are under even further scrutiny.

The City of Melbourne’s heritage portfolio chair Cr Rohan Leppert said the latest development was a win for locals.

“Although we have lost too much heritage fabric in Southbank over the years, this amendment gives us the opportunity to protect the remarkable heritage buildings and structures that remain,” he said.

“I am particularly pleased that the Queens Bridge Hotel came through the panel process unscathed. This will help the owner and government to ensure that Queensbridge Square remains an interesting, attractive, human-scaled place for public gathering.”

The hotel was first known as the Falls Bridge Hotel, built in the 1880s.

It was reconstructed in 1926 as the Queen’s Bridge Hotel and, more recently, converted to QBH nightclub in the 1990s.

Proponents had argued the hotel was “historically and aesthetically” significant for its role in serving the travellers and workers in the Southbank area.

But Crown, according to the report, argued via expert evidence that heritage protection would “potentially undermine legitimate development opportunities” and limit community benefit.

It also argued that a heritage overlay “could potentially frustrate the achievement of positive design and architectural outcomes” as works to the building interface were required.

Further, it questioned the assessment of the site’s historical significance.

But the council’s expert evidence, from heritage consultants Biosis, countered these claims.

Crown were contacted bv Southbank News for comment but did not respond.

Just last month, council’s planning chair Nicholas Reece told Southbank News that Crown’s ongoing delay to Queensbridge Square plans was “extremely frustrating”.

The report’s summary concluded it was a win for locals.

“The net community benefit of achieving objectives in the Act and heritage policies in the Planning Scheme (by protecting Southbank properties with local heritage significance for present and future generations) outweighs any individual,” the report stated.

The planning scheme amendment will return to council for adoption after the October 24 election.

“Personally, I am delighted that the Castlemaine Brewery complex is one step closer to protection in the planning scheme,” Cr Leppert added.

“These remarkable buildings in the heart of Southbank are what drove me to commission the Southbank heritage review in the first place.” •

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