Demolition of our heritage continues
Boroondara Heritage Advocacy and Protection group
People in Hawthorn are angry about the limitations of heritage protection and lack of support from authorities to protect their heritage streets.
An example is Wattle Road Hawthorn which was rezoned for residential growth and is experiencing demolition of significant period homes to be replaced by inappropriate multi-unit apartments. This historic ‘lane’ is only 9m wide yet is designated for significant demolition and densification. Residents in Wattle Road feel it has been made a “sacrificial” street as adjacent streets are heritage-protected. They are puzzled why this has happened given the narrow nature of the street which doesn’t meet any of council’s performance criteria for local streets. Boroondara Council has just invested more than a million dollars in upgrading and beautifying the street, yet nothing is being done to protect this public investment by protecting the historic houses which contribute to its quality.
Decades of “heritage gap” reports to council provide overwhelming evidence that the street is of great heritage value with at least 40 houses warranting heritage protection. Yet council has only protected four, citing the framework of State heritage regulations, meaning they can’t or won’t protect the rest.
Wattle Road is a precinct of quality architecture spanning 160 years from 1854 when the precinct was known as ‘German Paddock’, a lane serving mainly German settlers’ market gardens. The lane was originally named Weinberg Lane, but renamed Wattle Road after WW1. Two houses of significance built by the Bavarian settlers remain, however the street today has many fine examples of 19th century architecture and remnants of original farmhouses. It attracted architects of note to design these houses of which a great number are still standing, but now under threat.
There are many misunderstandings about heritage listing. Despite being listed, owners are still able to alter the homes and do extensive extensions. What is protected is the view from the street as Councils are keen to protect the “streetscape” and the contribution historic homes make to the street. A key benefit of listing historic homes is that the community gains an understanding of the cultural history of a place, and can be confident that this will remain for future generations.
A new heritage gap report has been commissioned for Wattle Road to re-examine the heritage value of a large number of houses and mini-precincts within the street. The results will be presented to the State Government authority for potential approval. While this slow process continues, one noted Victorian house of significance is being demolished and another sold and under threat of demolition. The council and the Minister for Planning should be aware that the community and voters care passionately about this loss of history, social environment, and valued architectural precincts.
A group of residents living along an historic 19th century worker cottage street, Roseberry Street in Hawthorn East, is fighting a similar battle. Over 600 people have signed a petition and written to council to protect the remaining 100-year-old houses.
This surge in community concern has led to the formation of the Boroondara Heritage Advocacy and Protection group which has been convened by local people passionate about heritage protection. They are familiar with heritage regulations and provide mentoring services to local groups seeking to protect period buildings. They intend acting as a voice for better state heritage regulation and greater promotion of heritage appreciation in Boroondara.
Christina Branagan from the group said, “Our goal is to preserve more heritage places and promote appreciation of our treasured, historically important local architecture and heritage neighbourhood character. Many unprotected streets in Camberwell, Hawthorn, Kew, Canterbury, Balwyn, Surrey Hills and Glen Iris are regularly losing heritage grade architecture, both 100+ year olds and mid-Century at the moment”.
She went on to say, “Heritage experts and academics inform that the early suburbs of our great city are the guardians of much of Melbourne’s heritage and at the moment locals like those in Wattle Road and Roseberry Street are fighting to try and stop the regular demolition of heritage houses and protect these places for future generations. The current State heritage framework isn’t working to properly preserve heritage architecture and streets that Melbourne is famous for.” If you feel strongly about these streets or the risk to our heritage, consider contacting:
Boroondara Mayor Cr Garry Thompson at email@example.com and
Victorian State Planning Minister Hon Richard Wynne at Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org