This heritage home on Belford Road in Kew East is under threat of being demolished. (ABC News: James Oaten)
A loophole in Victorian planning laws means six heritage buildings in Melbourne’s inner east are at risk of demolition unless the Victorian Planning Minister intervenes, a local council has warned.
- Planning Minister Richard Wynne has defended the Boroondara planning scheme changes
- Local residents and the local council of Boroondara were left furious after property demolition last month
- Under the Victorian Building Act, councils do not have the power to rescind building permits for demolition
The alarm comes after a Victorian-era property on Auburn Road, Hawthorn, was demolished last month despite an interim heritage order being placed on the building.
The incident left local residents furious and the local council of Boroondara, which covers Melbourne’s leafy eastern suburbs like Balwyn, Camberwell and Hawthorn, at loggerheads with the Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne.
“It’s our history, it’s our culture, and it’s being demolished,” Boroondara Councillor Coral Ross said.
Boroondara is the only council in Victoria where an interim heritage order does not override an existing demolition permit.
That’s due to a planning scheme the State Government introduced last year.
This home on Victoria Avenue in Canterbury has been demolished and replaced with a three-story mansion. (Supplied: Google Maps)
After the Auburn Road property was demolished, the council told the ABC of a further six properties where a demolition permit had been granted before interim heritage protection.
Council said that meant the homes were under “imminent threat” of being destroyed.
“We are very concerned that there are six properties that we know of are caught up in this loophole,” Councillor Ross said.
“I think the Minister needs to explain why he’s singled out Boroondara.”
The loophole in the planning scheme was introduced last year after the council tried to place interim heritage protection on a large home in Victoria Avenue, Canterbury.
The request sat with the Minister’s office for six months before the home was eventually demolished in January last year.
Four months later, council received a letter from the State Government stating that not only had the building been demolished and therefore couldn’t be granted heritage protection, but a loophole would be created for Boroondara, so heritage protection would not override demolition permits.
A three-story mansion is now being built on the site.
A new three-story mansion is getting build on Victoria Avenue in Canterbury. (ABC News: James Oaten)
Planning Minister defends changes
The Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, said Boroondara had been granted more interim heritage protection than any other council, and the planning scheme was changed to provide certainty for landowners.
“Boroondara Council has failed time and time again to protect its local heritage,” he said.
“It doesn’t make sense for the council to seek heritage protection for a house many months after consenting to a demolition permit to knock it down.
“I introduced the planning amendment to stop this council from continually moving the goalposts and not being fair to landowners.”
But the Opposition’s planning spokesman, Tim Smith, said the planning scheme means heritage homes can be demolished “with impunity”, destroying the suburb’s charm.
“It makes me feel very angry,” Mr Smith said.
“But it also makes the residents feel particularly aggrieved, upset, angry.
“I think the city of Boroondara has been quite fair and reasonable in applying heritage rules where it’s appropriate to do so.
“This level of discrimination against the good people of Boroondara is not acceptable.”
This house on Burwood Road in Hawthorn is under threat to be demolished. (ABC News: James Oaten)
Councils can apply for interim heritage protection when an application for demolition has been made.
But in every jurisdiction except Boroondara, an interim heritage protection order would force a developer to reapply for a planning permit even if a demolition permit had been granted.
Community concerns raised before property demolition
Correspondence seen by the ABC show the Labor member for Hawthorn, John Kennedy, raised community concerns about the Auburn Road property six months before it was demolished.
Two neighbouring heritage homes had already been demolished, and a fourth is now at risk due to the loophole.
Houses at risk of demolition:
- Belford Road, Kew East (Contributory)
- Toorad Road, Camberwell (Contributory)
- Moir Street, Hawthorn (Contributory)
- Auburn Road, Hawthorn East (Contributory)
- Two houses on Burwood Road, Hawthorn East (Contributory)
The Planning Minister stopped the demolition of another heritage home, Currajong House, after a community campaign.
Under the Victorian Building Act, councils do not have the power to rescind building permits for demolition.
Residents the ABC spoke with have expressed some frustration Boroondara didn’t seek heritage protection sooner, but now wanted the Victorian Government to intervene to protect other homes at risk.