With only a matter of days left before final voting in the council election, it’s worth looking briefly at how heritage has fared under the current council, and what may be in store in the next term.
The city’s lack of a proper heritage review in decades and council inertia when sites fall under threat has seen numerous unprotected buildings including the iconic Palace Theatre, 40 LaTrobe Street, the Duke of Kent Hotel and most recently parts of the Little Lon precinct all fallen victim to needless destruction.
The inertia is notably due to the Lord Mayor and other councillors saying they don’t want to “change the rules midway” by considering heritage listing when an unprotected place urgently needs it.
A proactive council could have ensured better compromises between heritage and development rather than simply letting the process run though based on out-dated rules and information.
Dozens of planning applications, a number involving heritage, also lost quorum this term due to a majority of councillors and the entire Doyle ticket having accepted donations from applicant developers, effectively silencing all councillors and public objectors as the public vote and debate was made impossible.
However, during this past term we’ve also seen some major steps forward, with updated heritage guidelines, heritage studies of the Guildford and Hardware Lane precincts, City North and, most importantly, a commitment to the first comprehensive study of the CBD and Southbank in over 30 years were all achieved after the lobbying of MHA and successful motions by Greens councillor Rohan Leppert.
We’ve also seen commitments by the Lord Mayor and his team not to take developer donations, ensuring more planning applications can be debated next term if the Lord Mayor is returned.
With all these studies (above) to go before council as amendments next term and an election that has seen heritage at the forefront of the Queen Victoria Market debate, a strong Greens campaign,and excitingly, a new Heritage Agenda team vying for a spot, the next four years should prove to be equally as busy as the last for heritage advocacy, with more positive outcomes.