Planning Minister Richard Wynne is being urged to intervene to protect unique mid-century heritage in the City of Bayside – home to some of the best post-war architecture in the state – following the “devastating” demolition of two homes last week.
The National Trust has called for urgent action after the “tragic and unnecessary” demolition of the award-winning Breedon House in Brighton, which was designed by architect Geoffrey Woodfall and built in 1966.
Chief executive Simon Ambrose said the modernist house had been left unprotected due to the “deplorable actions” of Bayside Council, which had “for many years abrogated its responsibilities … to ensure the conservation of places of heritage significance”.
A mid-century home in Nautilus Street, Beaumaris, that was designed by architect Charles Bricknell was also demolished last week, despite objections from the National Trust and community association Beaumaris Modern.
And a third modernist home – The Abrahams House on Beach Road, Beaumaris – is also in jeopardy, with an application to build townhouses on the site before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Beaumaris Modern president Fiona Austin said the houses would have been protected if Bayside Council had not abandoned heritage studies in 2008 and 2018.
“This week in Bayside has been devastating for our architectural heritage,” Ms Austin said.
Heritage studies would have identified the best examples of the mid-century period, with a planning scheme amendment prepared to permanently protect them. This approach is taken by almost all other councils.
“As soon as the letters were put in letterboxes, all hell broke loose,” Bayside mayor Clarke Martin told The Age. “It descended into a horrible situation, where people were literally yelling at each other in the streets.”
Cr Martin said some home owners feared the interim heritage overlay would make renovating difficult, drive down property values and mean they couldn’t sell their homes.
“What underlined the whole thing was the view that it is your castle, you should be able to do with it what you like.”
Cr Martin said the process was so divisive the council paused the heritage study and instead invited property owners to nominate their homes for heritage protection on a voluntary register.
He said the voluntary process had identified 11 private homes and 14 council properties in Beaumaris, which the council had submitted to Mr Wynne for approval.
He said once these were given protection, the council would restart the heritage study.
However, the National Trust said it was aware of more than 100 places of heritage significance in the City of Bayside that remained unprotected and were at risk.
“Mid century homes are an important part of our history and utilised groundbreaking construction methods, innovative approaches to open-plan living and connections to the landscape,” said Mr Ambrose.
“The Bayside area in particular was a hotbed of architectural expression and experimentation and has one of the best collections of post-war architecture in Victoria, if not Australia.”
The National Trust and Beaumaris Modern have written to the Planning Minister urging him to intervene to protect heritage in Bayside.
Mr Ambrose said he requested that Mr Wynne use his ministerial powers to apply interim heritage overlays to places identified in previous heritage studies.
He said this would be done with a view to pursuing permanent protection through a planning scheme amendment. “[This] allows everyone – including home owners – to have a say.”
“If the council considered these houses to be of local significance, they had the means to protect them and the demolition permits should never have been issued,” he said.