Chinese tycoon's heritage Edwardian Toorak villa demolition plans thwarted

Chinese tycoon's heritage Edwardian Toorak villa demolition plans thwarted
Chinese tycoon's heritage Edwardian Toorak villa demolition plans thwarted

Stonnington Council has sought approval from the Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy to ensure permanent heritage overlay protection for 19 neighbouring Toorak properties.

They included Idylwilde, the historic 1913 Edwardian villa with art nouveau influences, aka Ulva, which the Chinese tycoon Wang Hua, from the Jeshing Group and his wife, Xiao "Kylie" Yan Bao bought for $18.58 million last September from Fender Katsalidis boss Peter Devitt with intentions to demolish.

The council received an application for demolition at 16 St Georges Road, prompting a December 2013 request to the Minister for Planning to intervene with a ministerial amendment by including the property in the Heritage Overlay with interim protection (Amendment C188).

It was not previously affected by a heritage overlay, however the building was flagged for investigation as part of previous council heritage studies. 

A notice refusing consent to the proposed demolition of the building was issued in late December last year. Although the City of Stonnington believed that the owner had an intent to demolish, the council deemed there was no at ‘immediate or imminent’ threat. 

The planning department then advised Council that it must expedite a planning scheme amendment to introduce a permanent heritage overlay for the site.

Council obtained heritage advice which stated that the site is significant in the context of the wider Toorak House precinct.

The precinct contains 19 properties which comprise predominantly A2 and B graded dwellings, built between 1850 and 1961.

In addition to the six homes with existing orders, the eleventh hour amendment applies to 19 properties within the Toorak House precinct:

The council says there is a compelling case as the proposed precinct were the former grounds of Toorak House, the colonial Government House between 1854 and 1873, first occupied by the first governor, Sir Charles Hotham. Now owned by the Swedish Church, it was built in 1850 for merchant James Jackson who never lived in it.

"This is a well defined precinct that has significant heritage values," the council report suggested.

"It represents a wide range of styles and periods, and the legacy of interwar architecture is of particular note.

"The citation states that the precinct is of regional and state historic and architectural significance."

Heritage consultant, Nigel Lewis, investigated the Toorak House Precinct and determined it is of regional and state historic and architectural significance. The heritage citation states that Toorak House gave its name to the suburb, and to Australian history, for the social cache of this suburb on a national level.

"The collection of such a range of styles of architect designed buildings has no comparison," Nigel Lewis said. 

Caught in the heritage action include former Mirvac director Marina Darling at the 1920 home, Mowbray; the Smorgon and Stamoulis families; Melbourne ­restaurateur Chris Lucas who has the 1929 Gullett house; the Choy and Ng families; and Paul Holyoake, founder of consulting firm Oakton.

Bates Smart and McCutcheon designed the current Smorgon house in the 1939 for the Shackell family in the Georgian revival genre. The 29-31 property heritage listing at Cantala and Somerset, which is the one neglected mansion, applies just to the fencing described as rustic stone walls, forming "part of the extensive legacy of contributory original high masonry walls."

Council wishes to avoid repeating the mistakes made in other parts of Toorak like Hopetoun Road, where new development replaced period homes.

Toorak residents have until 24 June to make submission on the proposals.

In accordance with clause 4(2) of Ministerial Direction No.15 panel hearing dates have been set for directions hearing in the week commencing 6 October and panel hearing in the week commencing 3 November.

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