Domain: The Block 2021: Heritage protection push for house in Bronte Court, Hampton

The following article was published on Domain and The Age on 18 Nov 2020 Author: Elizabeth Redman.

Ref: Bayside City Council unpublished heritage citation from the cancelled 2008 heritage study, requested by FOI. Statement of Significance  History / Analysis.

Local residents are pushing for heritage protection of a house in Melbourne’s Hampton set to be featured on next year’s season of reality renovation TV show The Block.

The house at 8 Bronte Court was designed by renowned Melbourne architect Neil Clerehan as part of the Small Homes Service – a program that allowed members of the public to buy affordable off-the-shelf plans for architecturally designed homes and have them built.

It was a copy of one celebrated house known as the Dream Home in Surrey Hills, since demolished, that was offered as a prize for entrants in a weekly radio quiz connected to The Age.

And, the design is rare, as it was only offered to the public for a limited time and few similar examples were sold.

It was identified as being of architectural and aesthetic significance to the City of Bayside in a draft study in 2008, but a heritage overlay covering the home was never introduced.

8 Bronte Court prior to it's recent renovation

Buyer’s agent Nicole Jacobs bought the house in 2017 and embarked on a renovation by The Block’s architect Julian Brenchley. She has recently sold the property to producers behind Channel Nine’s reality renovation show. Channel Nine is the majority owner of Domain.

The sale prompted fresh focus on the heritage value of the residence, drawing the attention of local community association Beaumaris Modern, which advocates for the protection of mid-century architecture.

An interim protection order request was made to Heritage Victoria by Beaumaris Modern committee member Jamie Paterson, warning local residents had witnessed the house being “gutted”.

But the heritage body declined the request, saying no evidence had been provided of its state heritage significance – as opposed to its local significance.

Mr Paterson will now contact the Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne and the National Trust to press his case, and is looking towards an upcoming parliamentary inquiry into Victorian heritage.

He is hopeful the upcoming televised renovation can be a positive example of how to do a sympathetic renovation of a mid-century home, and his group is willing to provide background information for the show if needed.

“We’re not against them continuing to show how homes of that era can be renovated and adapted,” Mr Paterson said.

“We think that is a positive story.”

But he said having a local heritage overlay on the house would at least create a planning trigger so anyone renovating would have to run their plan past council, to check it would not be significantly altered.

Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery said in a statement to Domain that it was the responsibility of local government to protect places of local heritage significance, mentioning the draft Bayside City Council study.

The Block executive producer Julian Cress said last week that some of the houses have “lovely heritage features” and that the program has “always celebrated” heritage details, and would not demolish the properties.

The house next door was also part of the Small Homes Service. The program was launched by famed architect Robin Boyd and house designs appeared each week in The Age next to a column by the architects.