Heritage group to protest against demolition of Scots Church Hall in Melbourne CBD

Heritage group to protest against demolition of Scots Church Hall in Melbourne CBD
Heritage group to protest against demolition of Scots Church Hall in Melbourne CBD

Melburnians will be protesting tomorrow against the slated demolition of the 1928-built Scots Church Hall and associated buildings on the corner of Collins Street and Russell Street.

Melbourne Heritage Action will march against the approved development by Scots Church Properties Trust, arguing that planning authorities have ignored regulations in approving the project.

Spokesperson for Melbourne Heritage Action Rupert Mann says approval should never have been given to demolish the building.

“It’s supposed to have the highest level of heritage protection in Australia. Despite that, it’s being left as a wafer thin façade of one wall,” he says.

In 2007 then planning minister Justin Madden ignored Heritage Victoria recommendations and issued permits for the destruction of Scots Church Hall, the former Victorian car park and a former showroom.

Heritage Victoria opposed the demolition of the car park because of its historical and cultural significance – it was the first multi-level car park in Melbourne.

“That it was pushed through by Justin Madden is appalling. How can the peak heritage body of this state be overridden by one man?” Mann says

In 2006 trustees of the church signed a 99-year lease agreement with Grocon and APN Property Group to develop the site.

Grocon, in partnership with APN, plans to build a $220 million, 12-storey office block on the site, with Westpac as the anchor tenants in the Peddle Thorp-designed building.

The current plans incorporate just nine metres of the car park building.

Mann says it’s a poorly designed project that will detract from the character of the area.

“It’s a highly disrespectful incursion – they’ve made no attempt to preserve the heritage of the buildings. The whole streetscape will be destroyed,” he says.

“You begin to lose what makes Melbourne a great city. Life here is centred about these small-scale heritage precincts.”

Mann hopes to pressure APN into redesigning the project to further incorporate the older buildings.

In Victoria, any applications for a project in excess 25,000 square metres is automatically referred to the state planning minister and skips the council decision.

Mann says this is another point of contention that he hopes to raise with the protest.

“We want that threshold raised way up to 60,000, 70,000, even 80,000. We believe the City of Melbourne should have much more of a say on what goes on in Melbourne’s CBD.”

APN was unavailable for comment.

 

 

Alistair Walsh

Alistair Walsh

Deutsche Welle online reporter

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