Market war moves to the heritage front

The battle for the Queen Victoria Market (QVM) moved onto the heritage front in mid-September with Lord Mayor Robert Doyle landing a blow and his opponents launching bitter recriminations against the National Trust.

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) board on August 28 approved an “advocacy position statement” which expressed several concerns about the City of Melbourne’s plans to redevelopment the market.

But an accompanying media statement (since taken offline) appeared to give full National Trust support for the proposal.

“The National Trust is announcing its support for the City of Melbourne’s renewal plans,” the media release said.

In response Friends of Queen Victoria Market co-convenor Miriam Faine resigned from the National Trust, saying on Facebook: “I can’t see any point in being a member of a heritage group that is so quick to give in to the destruction of one of the most significant sites in Melbourne and so, regretfully, I wish to resign immediately.”

Melbourne Heritage Action (MHA) member and former “Heritage Agenda” council election candidate Adam Ford said of the National Trust: “What a viciously fanged lobby group this is!!!!”

The “Friends” wrote on September 12: “Can we trust the National Trust?
The National Trust Board has serious questions to ask about reputational damage.”

“With its recent media release on the QVM, it seems to be dabbling unwisely in the political realm – and it appears to have been out manoeuvred – if not duped.”

Trust advocacy manager Felicity Watson responded the same day: “To all of the Friends of QVM, we issued an update on our blog earlier today to highlight our ongoing areas of concern with the proposed renewal.”

“The majority of these concerns were included in our recently issued position statement on the market renewal, but we recognise the importance of clarifying our position which is clearly not intended to provide blanket support.”

This didn’t stop Cr Doyle the next day telling ABC Radio’s John Faine of the National Trust’s support.

The “Friends” responded with: “Fake News is being touted by the Lord Mayor on the John Faine program this morning telling the public that the National Trust has given their full support to the CoM’s plans for the renewal of QVM.”

Ms Watson wrote on the Trust’s blog site of a number of concerns including:

That “back of house” trader activities should not be concealed (the council proposed underground facilities for this);

Negative impacts of stair and lift insertions providing access to basement levels;

Proposed “weather protection” to and “fixed stalls” within Sheds A – D;

Possible “gentrification” of Meat and Fish Hall traders if they are “encouraged to evolve over time to incorporate a greater focus on value add, take home meals and food cooked on site”;

The Trust wants the proposed development on the southern side of the Franklin Stores restricted to a height of 20 metres; and

It wants the proposed Queens Corner building constrained to a single storey.

The council will need permission from the Heritage Council to undertake its proposed redevelopment.  It is yet to apply.

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