Heritage lobby group Melbourne Heritage Action wants protection for Guilford Lane.
The group’s president Tristan Davies wrote to the City of Melbourne last month asking for heritage listing for the lane.
Mr Davies said Guildford Lane had been recommended in the past for heritage protection but that nothing had been done.
He said, with a current proposal to replace a pair of 1920s red brick warehouses with a seven-storey residential development, the time to act was now.
“The time to act is now if we are to protect these wonderful, low scale, intimate places and spaces that are so characteristic of something that is unique to Melbourne’s CBD,” Mr Davies wrote.
Mr Davies said Guilford Lane had never gained heritage protection because heritage precincts in the CBD had not been reviewed since their first establishment in the early 1980s, when they focussed on protecting concentrations of notable facades on the main streets.
“Laneways were respected, but only for their provision of pedestrian permeability rather than for their character,” he said. “The plainer industrial buildings, which often existed along laneways, and the backs and sides of older buildings that form what could be called lanescapes, were not assessed as significant.”
“In the last decade, the regard for lanescapes has changed completely. They have become amongst the most highly valued assets of the city,” he said.
He said the Guilford Lane precinct was a unique lanescape of industrial buildings facing a laneway within a city block with a remarkable uniformity.
“All except one date from the 1880s to the 1920s, almost all are red brick, and all are remarkably intact,” he said.
“It is a precinct of obvious significance, but one that has only even been protected by a height limit, not a heritage overlay.”
Mr Davies said a proposal for a seven-storey residential building would “dominate and greatly undermine the character and significance of the precinct”.
He said, if not rejected, then it should be made fit the character of the lane.
“We believe action on this front is urgent before the significance of Guildford Lane is further eroded,” Mr Davies told the council.