News Limited: The Block’s demolition of heritage Hampton home sparks outrage

The following article was published (behind paywall) in the Herald Sun online on 5 Dec 2020. Author: Peter Rolfe

When former owners of a Hampton home handed over the keys to The Block they thought it would be safe from demolition, but they were in for a rude shock.

10 Bronte Court Hampton, demolished by The Block on Monday 1 December 2020
8 Bronte Court, a Neil Clerehan 'Dream Home' demolished except for front facade by The Block on 1 December 2020

Television show The Block has left heritage experts and residents outraged after one of five suburban Melbourne houses purchased for its upcoming season was demolished.

The Block buyer advocate Nicole Jacobs had sent a letter to residents saying: “The buyer does not wish to demolish any of the properties, rather to renovate them to a very high standard.”

But show creator Julian Cress was unapologetic, saying: “With any renovation or extension, demolition is required.

“The Block is a renovation show that is in the business of restoring homes.”

The house pulled down was designed for The Small Homes Service, a project linked to esteemed Victorian architect Robin Boyd that brought good design to residential Melbourne development after WWII.

Robin Boyd Foundation operations manager Jamie Paterson said assurances had been sought about protecting the “perfect’’ house, only for bulldozers to move in on Monday.

“We had spoken to The Block producers and they said ‘we renovate houses, we don’t demolish and this series was super popular because people appreciate what you can do with houses of different periods’,’’ he said.

“But now they have gone ahead and demolished one, and all but demolished a second one.’’

Heritage advocates and neighbours are furious the Bayside home was this week gutted and another stripped of period features.

A historic photo of the Neil Clerehan design. Picture: State Library Victoria
8 Bronte Court prior to it's recent renovation

The house was referenced in a 2008 Bayside Heritage study but not protected because the council has not formalised a register in more than 20 years.

Bayside Council development and city planning manager Matthew Cripps said no planning permit was required for demolition of the house.

“Under the Bayside Planning Scheme, a planning permit is not required for the demolition or construction of single dwellings on blocks larger than 500 sqm,” he said.

“As none of the properties in Bronte Court are covered by heritage controls, there is no planning permit required.”

A Bronte resident told the Herald Sun: “Certainly their plans seem to have changed, even though about two weeks ago they came and told us it was all going to be about retaining the existing and doing a renovation to them.”