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Your history is being erased by your government. What will they do next?

Melbourne City heritage under threat by undemocratic, unwanted, and destructive development

This article is a response to concerns raised by the Victorian National Trust, and using their material, so you can rely on the statements and cite them. At the base of the article and some specimen letters, there are addresses to write to or email.

Melbourne is under attack

IN MELBOURNE a very large number of heritage buildings are being demolished or overwhelmed by new development. This new development will deprive Melbourne of much that is unique to its character. Too much has already been lost in recent years.

The 1894 Eastern Arcade on Bourke Street and the rear facades of both Myer Bourke Street and David Jones have already been lost. Now a permit has been granted to demolish a collection of three interwar buildings behind Scots church, including Victoria’s oldest multi storey carpark, built in 1938.

Towers already approved break the height limit in the central city, and will be overly dominant, and may provide precedent for further breaches. St Paul’s Cathedral may soon be dominated by an 88m glass office tower in Flinders Lane that is more than twice the recommended height limit of 40m. Scots Church may soon be dominated by a 51m high office tower where the height limit is 30m.

Heritage buildings should be preserved where at all possible, and re-used instead of demolished for the sake of simple commercial gain.

Heritage buildings and precincts should not be completely overwhelmed by large new towers directly behind or over them.

Height limits should be respected, because they are intended to maintain a ‘pedestrian scaled’ street level environment, the proper context for heritage buildings.

It is alarming that so many of these big projects have been permitted by the Sate Government through a planning process that does not include an ability to make submissions or lodge appeals.

The Melbourne City Council has shown little interest in preserving existing heritage listed buildings, let alone updating the listings, which have not changed since 1984.

There is plenty of room for new development outside the central shopping area and Collins Street. The city fringe area such as La Trobe Street and beyond, King Street and beyond, and of course the Docklands and Southbank provide plenty of scope for new innovative developments without threatening unique heritage precincts.

The protection of areas by heritage and height controls, such as the central retail area, the Bourke Street hill and Chinatown, has preserved the small scale buildings of earlier eras, the laneways that serve them and the buildings hidden there. These controls are responsible for the development Melbourne’s vibrant laneway culture and apartment conversions of old buildings.

Re: Demolition of Lonsdale House, Lonsdale Street

• Lonsdale House is a good example of Art deco architecture in the city, and is ‘protected’ by a Heritage Overlay and should not be demolished. It is an integral part of the heritage streetscape of Lonsdale Street.

• The justifications used are not convincing. The need to widen the laneway for trucks sounds like a convenience rather than a necessity. Furthermore such a wide truck accessway will create a barrier and a danger for pedestrians.

• That it should be replaced with an entry for a large shopping centre and an electronic billboard clearly shows that generic ‘development’ has been given a higher priority than our unique city heritage.

• It will provide a diagonal entry to a shopping centre that will contain over 100 shops over three levels, and will have multiple entry points from Myer and Melbourne central. To allow this small corner piece as well the demolition of all but the facades of the Myer building shows that the demolition of Lonsdale House is simply a bonus profit for developers who knew full well that it was heritage listed.

• The development will destroy one of the now characteristic laneways of Melbourne, and specifically the St Jerome’s bar, home of the laneway festival. There will be no room for unusual or fringe activities that so animate Melbourne in the new shopping centre. Such unique spaces and activities are in danger of being destroyed by their popularity.

Letter specific to the Windsor

This letter should be addressed to Heritage Victoria

Email : heritage.permits@dpcd.vic.gov.au

Copies to the Minister and the Trust

Executive Director
Heritage Victoria
Department of Planning and Community Development
Level 4, 55 Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000.
PO Box 2392,
Melbourne, VIC 3001.

Dear Executive Director,

RE: Windsor Hotel redevelopment

• The Windsor certainly needs some ‘refreshing’ but the scale of the development threatens to overwhelm what would be left of the original building.

• The architecture of the new parts is certainly innovative, but is this sufficient justification for its scale and impact on the Windsor and the Bourke Hill heritage precinct ?

• The owners bought the business and the building knowing full well it was on the Heritage Register, and had a height limit of 23m, as does much of the surrounding area.

• The 1961 corner building has little heritage value, but the new corner building is a floor higher, dominating the original building more than the existing.

• If the tower is allowed, it will provide a precedent for other tall buildings in the area, threatening the low intimate scale of the precinct and its laneways and small businesses.

• Is the demolition of the rear wing of the original 1888 building really necessary ?

• Surely there is a viable alternative future for the Windsor that did not include a tower with 200 new rooms, a swimming pool, gym and all the features you would expect for a modern hotel. As a boutique heritage hotel, such facilities would not be expected.

• The re-creation of the ground level arcade, a new suite incorporating the towers, and further restoration of the interior of the original building are welcome, but seem like small concessions for a building that is already largely restored.

Letter specific to 80 Collins Street

This letter should be addressed to the Minister for Planning, with copies to the City Of Melbourne and the Trust.

Email : justin.madden@parliament.vic.gov.au

The Hon Justin Madden
Minister for Planning
Level 17/8 Nicholson Street,
East Melbourne VIC 3002

Dear Mr Madden,

Re: Proposed 40 storey office tower, 80 Collins Street

• This giant tower will totally dominate the ‘Paris End’ of Collins Street, one of the most important precincts of Melbourne.

• A 40 storey tower built right up to the street line completely ignores planning rules and precedents for Collins Street that tall towers should be setback at least 10m from the street line.

• Placing the building on giant legs does not lessen its impact on the intimate scale of the small heritage buildings below; indeed they become insignificant footnotes at the bottom of a giant commercial development.

• Building right over the airspace of the Le Louvre shop would set a very bad precedent, threatening all small buildings in the city area with the same treatment.

• The tower is 30m wide and 40 storeys tall on the north side of the street; this will cast such a shadow over the street that dappled sunlight through the trees will become a distant memory.

• How is it possible that a development that so completely ignores the rules has been allowed to get to this stage ?

• Filling in the ‘gaps’ created in the early 1970s for Nauru House would be welcome if the new development complemented the heritage buildings on either side. Instead they are transparent glass boxes set right on the street front.

What you can do

The National Trust info[AT]nattrust.com.au suggests that people write to the Minister for Planning justin.madden[AT]parliament.vic.gov.au about this matter using these facts and cc the National Trust a copy. They have also sent out two specimen letters about specific projects in Melbourne, which I append below. Below these are more addresses.

Here is the Minister for Planning's street address:
The Hon Justin Madden
Minister for Planning
Level 17/8 Nicholson Street,
East Melbourne VIC 3002

Email : justin.madden[AT]parliament.vic.gov.au

And a copy to the National Trust please : info[AT]nattrust.com.au

Mail:
Conservation Division
National Trust of Australia (Victoria),
Tasma Terrace, 4 Parliament Place,
East Melbourne Vic 3002

And you might like to write to or copy to the Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne :

The Right Hon the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle
City of Melbourne
PO Box 1603
Melbourne VIC 3001

Email :
lordmayor@melbourne.vic.gov.au