Domain: Angry Beaumaris and Black Rock residents vow to push for more rigorous heritage process for modernist houses

Domain published the following article on 2 April 2019. Author: Melissa Heagney

Inside Jamie Paterson’s mid-century home in Beaumaris, which he has nominated for heritage protection. Photo: Leigh Henningham

A passionate group of Beaumaris and Black Rock residents is vowing to continue the fight to ensure significant local homes, built between 1945 and 1975, are given heritage protection.

The two suburbs are particularly known for mid-century homes built for the young families who flocked there during Melbourne’s post-war expansion.

Modern Beaumaris, a group that boasts more than 300 members who live in these homes, will continue the fight following the closure last week of the voluntary heritage register established by Bayside council last year. The council had asked the community to nominate mid-century homes for heritage protection.

It was regarded as controversial given the council had previously decided to commission an independent heritage study of the area.

But the council argued it was necessary to close the voluntary register due to wide divisions in the community – with some residents raising concerns a heritage listing would lower the value of their property.

“[The] council’s voluntary nomination process for mid-century heritage sought to strike a balance between protecting valuable heritage buildings and respecting the concerns of property owners,” Bayside council city planning director Hamish Reid told Domain.

Dr Reid said 10 properties had been nominated for heritage protection, and a further 13 property owners had expressed interest but did not nominate their homes.

The council has contacted more than 6500 property owners in Beaumaris and Black Rock since November last year to let them know about the scheme.

“[The] council is committed to protecting Bayside’s heritage for future generations and recognising the significance of mid-century modern architecture to our prized neighbourhood character,” Dr Reid said.

But Modern Beaumaris secretary Jamie Paterson said a heritage consultant should review at least 300 significant mid-century homes in the area, rather than relying on locals to nominate them.

The group is worried about a growing number of mid-century homes being torn down for redevelopment, including one in Burgess Street and another in Mariemont Avenue, Beaumaris.

“It’s a little bit disappointing because it seems like it’s been done with no thought or rigour,” Mr Paterson said.

Mr Paterson and his partner nominated their own three-bedroom Beaumaris home, designed and built by the McLean brothers, who worked on dozens of houses over the mid-century era; but, he said, the process was difficult and had discouraged others from proceeding.

“We were given a memorandum of understanding to sign … since then we’ve heard nothing back – there’s actually been no follow up for four months,” Mr Paterson said.

The group has actively promoted the heritage of Beaumaris and Black Rock’s mid-century homes, holding “open homes” and walking tours in the area and plan to hold more this year.

Members have also protested at sites where mid-century homes, without any heritage protection, have been knocked down by owners wanting to redevelop sites.

University of Melbourne urban planning associate professor David Nichols said the significance of mid-century architecture was increasingly recognised but was still not a mainstream attitude.

“Look at the way people regarded Victorian buildings in the 1960s. There was this desire to sweep that away, but the reverse was the case in the 1970s,” Professor Nichols said.

He said many unique mid-century homes could, unfortunately, be lost before the significance is realised by people in the local community.

“The kind of desire for constant renewal, subdivision and expansion is not helping the built heritage of Melbourne, especially in places like Beaumaris,” Professor Nichols said.

Properties nominated for protection under the council’s scheme will be assessed for their heritage significance. Those assessed as significant will be listed in a heritage overlay via a planning scheme amendment process later this year.