Glen Eira Council maintains one of its main functions is to gather relevant information and, based on that information, make the best decision possible. Unfortunately, the recent heritage issue was not an example of this.
In 2003, Council passed Planning Scheme Amendment C19 (HO114) which identified the building located at the corner of Seaview Street and Hawthorn Road, Caulfield South, as being a property worthy of heritage protection.
The standalone building comprises 3 double story maisonettes on three separate strata tiles. The address of the front maisonette is 466 Hawthorn Road and middle and rear units addresses are 2B and 2A Seaview Street respectively.
Regrettably, when preparing documentation for this amendment, Council officers did not confirm that their mapping of the property and the wording of the schedule aligned and hence officers created an “anomaly”. This anomaly meant that the two owners of 2A and 2B Seaview Street were not advised of the heritage overlay.
Note: From Council Meeting Minutes of 31 August, 2011 (refer to below link to minutes) – section 9.5, page 903 – states “Planning permission is not required for internal alterations to a dwelling in this heritage overlay. Certain external alterations and additions may also be allowed provided they do not have a detrimental effect on the cultural heritage significance of the building.”
To remove the heritage overlay Council prepared Planning Scheme Amendment Amendment C83 Explanatory Note
Council Meetings Discussions
Cr. Margaret Esakoff declared a conflict of interest (as both she and her husband had an interest in one of the Seaview Street properties) and did not participate in the Council Meeting discussions. Jack Esakoff “lobbied Councillors” (The Age, 18 August, 2011) – warrants a click, if not for the worthy article, at least the picture.
Council meeting discussions occurred on
- 31st August, 2010 (section 9.5, page 901 – Council Minutes – 31 August, 2010 )
- 6th June, 2011 (section 9.4, page 647 – Council Minutes, 6 June, 2011)
At both these meetings, Councillors voted unanimously, against officers’ and heritage advisors’ recommendations, and expressed the view that the property was not worthy of heritage protection in the planning scheme and should be removed.
- Cr. Tang – said it was a matter of supporting the property owners who, due to an administrative error, were not given the opportunity to object to the implementation of the overlay
- Cr. Lipshutz – said he had inspected the building and the building had deteriorated and the owner was not prepared undertake further repairs. The building condition means it does not warrant heritage protection.
- Cr. Hyams – said that in his opinion the building did not warrant heritage protection since many of the original features listed in the original citation had since be removed (e.g brick work painted over, removal of gates and rockery).
Council also chose not to follow up on the Department of Planning and Community Development comment on the application to proceed with the removal of the heritage overlay.
- Council’s submission to the DPCD (C83 Explanatory Note – see link above) stated that “The removal of this overlay will allow for potential of a more intense re-development of the subject sites which are located in Glen Eira’s Housing Diversity Area”
- DPCD 14th February, 2011 “The Department is concerned with the lack of strategic justification provided in support of the amendment. I encourage Council to provide further justification”
Heritage Advisors’ Reports
- Original Report, Andrew Ward, October, 2000
The apartments at 466 Hawthorn Road “are aesthetically significant (Criterion E) as uncommon examples of residential buildings undertaken in a manor directly influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, comparing in Glen Eira only with the house at Number 45 Balaclava Road but demonstrating that the influence of his work was still being felt in Melbourne during the late inter war years”
2. Current Heritage Advisors Report, Gabrielle Moylan, 27 July 2010
“In my opinion, all three apartments should be included in the heritage overlay. In fact, the rear 2 apartments are perhaps slightly more intact than the front apartment, as tapestry brick embellishments remain unpainted (these have been over painted on the front apartment). … I would agree that this apartment block, clearly influenced by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, in unusual in the context of this municipality, and even beyond, and I think individual protection of the site is warranted”
Council Minutes of 31st August, 2010 also include the following statement “While a number of features that are listed in the citation have been removed from the property, it is the actual building that is the most significant structure on the property and is the most important element to retain”
3. Independent Heritage Advisors Report, John Briggs, 15th November, 2010
‘I would agree (with the Statement of Significance) that this apartment block, clearly influenced by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, is unusual in the context of this municipality, and even beyond, and I think individual protection of the site is warranted. Property is significant and will not write any strategic justification for removal of this overlay‘
4. Independent Heritage Advisors Report, D.V. Bick, 26th November, 2010
“This building justifies the current Heritage Overlay Planning controls …. The two rear dwellings are integral parts of the whole, the building being basically symmetrical on the Seaview Street façade (which is somewhat unusual as side street frontages of such buildings are often simpler). This building is of unusually good quality”
5. Independent Heritage Advisors Report, Dale Kelly, 14th December, 2010
“In my view, both publicly visible façades, while different from each other in composition, are integral to the strong overall design, and hence to the heritage value and integrity of this prominent building. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to remove the current heritage protection”
6. Independent Heritage Advisors Report, Roger Beeston (heritage advisor to the City of Melbourne), 14th December, 2010
“the site is clearly worthy of heritage controls …further research might be undertaken which would have the likely effect of amplifying the heritage attributes of the place”
Excerpts from the Amendment C83 Independent Planning Panel Report (31st August, 2011)
- The Panel is satisfied that the Amendment C83 process, including the Panel process, has provided the affected landowners with an opportunity to makesubmissions with respect to the heritage overlay… The Panel is satisfied that the significance of the entire apartment building supports its inclusion in the Heritage Overlay.
- The Panel’s inspection indicate that, while some maintenance works could be undertaken (such as to address damp or renew some downpipes and fascia boards), the condition of the building does not appear to be such that major structural works or demolition are warranted. If more major works were warranted, it is highly likely that they would have been brought to the Panel’s attention.
- Planning authorities have a responsibility to ensure that planning schemes have a sound basis. There should be good reasons when officer and expert advice is disregarded but none were provided in this instance. … Council responded to the query from the Panel about why the Council did not accept the expert advice provided by stating that Council may form its own view.
- The DPCD authorisation of the Amendment identified the need to strengthen the strategic justification for the Amendment. Council advised that no further justification could be provided. … The Council noted it was unable to obtain expert evidence in support of the Amendment to remove the heritage overlay.
- It would set ‘a dangerous precedent’ if a strategic designation for more intense redevelopment was deemed sufficient justification for removing heritage overlays. The protection of heritage values remains a valid planning consideration in planning decisions.
- The Panel notes that, although new development in the immediate area may be more intensive, the three substantial, distinctive maisonette dwellings on the Site (which has an area of approximately 740m2) already contribute to the diversity of housing options in the locality.
- The Panel does not accept the argument put by Council that removal of HO114 is justified by the fact that one quite different example of development influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright will be retained and all examples would not be lost. … It is apparent that the Site is a rare example in the locality and its heritage values should be taken into account in future planning decisions.
Based on the reasons set out in this Report, the Panel recommends that:
1. Amendment C83 to the Glen Eira Planning Scheme be abandoned.
2. The Minister for Planning amend the Glen Eira Planning Scheme, without further notice, pursuant to 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to revise the Schedule to the Heritage Overlay to include 2A and 2B Sea View Street, Caulfield South in the description of the land to which HO114 applies.
From the above it is clear that this was definitely not a case of Glen Eira Council gathering relevant information and, based on that information, making the best decision possible. Instead substantive evidence, gathered by administrative officers, was disregarded and an unsubstantiated opinion was formed by Councillors. No documentation as to the buildings condition was presented and Council was unable to obtain a professional, independent heritage advisor’s opinion that supported removal of the heritage status.
Given that the Local Government Act clearly states that Council is responsible for protecting heritage and guidelines, outlining heritage criteria, are readily available, GERA is unable to justify this decision to pursue removal of heritage protection.
Council Minutes – 20 September, 2011 – Council voted unanimously to accept the officers’ recommendation that Council:
• notes the recommendations of the Panel
• abandons Amendment C83 (which seeks to remove the heritage overlay);
• requests the Minister for Planning to undertake an amendment, without further notice, pursuant to 20(4) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 to revise the Schedule to the Heritage Overlay to include 2A and 2B Sea View Street, Caulfield South in the description of the land to which HO114 applies.