The City of Melbourne is starting the process of reviewing its heritage guidelines. This is very important for the CBD, as the current guidelines are extremely short and unspecific. they simply state that a Conservation Management Plan should be done (which they rarely are in practice, and are done by the developer anyway, which of course always says everything about the development is OK!). The only thing they do state clearly is that ‘façadism’ is not acceptable, though exactly what constitutes façadism is not defined.
Another problem both in the CBD and residential areas is the gradings system (A, B C, D). Under this system a low score is always used to argue that demolition is OK, so D-graded buildings (like the Palace Theatre) are not safe. There is now a suggestion to do away with gradings altogether – buildings are either protected, or they are not, and all heritage places would (probably) all be treated equally. MHA strongly supports this position as we feel it is one that will ensure that all buildings are equally protected – it means that the ‘quality’ of the façade (usually the basis for the grading) would not influence its fate as strongly. This is especially important for industrial buildings within precincts, which are usually graded C or D, or even ungraded!
We will be making an extensive submission, covering things such as: how much to keep if the rear is demolished (and in what circumstances should this be allowed); how to prevent the complete gutting of buildings when interiors should be preserved; how big and how setback rooftop additions should be; how much a new building can cantilever over an old one (and whether they ever should); whether restoration should be mandatory as part of extensive redevelopments; and, asking for controls over other elements that currently have no protection such as laneway façade, bluestone guttering, old signs, lamps and horse troughs, and shop fronts.
We welcome your feedback, and will be posting these questions over the next few months on our Facebook page.