Item 9.2 – 1 Wahgoo Road, Carnegie – Heritage Protection

This item raises heaps of issues as to the value that council places on heritage. The property is Frogmore in Carnegie. The site has no heritage listing dating back to the 1996 Council assessment. The latest ‘review’ recommends Heritage listing via an overlay. The large site has been bought by Jewish Care and residents fear that demolition of the building would consequently ensue.

Officer reports are there to provide ‘guidance’ and ‘advice’ and ultimately we suggest, to proffer specific and clear recommendations. In this instance the recommendation is for ‘council to decide’. Perhaps, well and good, if the report is fair, unbiased, and comprehensive. We don’t believe that this is the case in this instance.

Basically, two ‘options’ are provided. But, it is in the wording of these options, that all semblance of objective, fair appraisal, is missing.

Recommendation ‘A’ reads –

One option would be to act on the recent reassessment and initiate a planning scheme amendment process to include the property in the heritage overlay.

Council would need to ask the Minister for Planning to place interim protection over the site. Given the previous assessment that heritage was not appropriate, no objections being raised for many years and that a new owner has acted in good faith on the basis of existing controls, there is no assurance that the Minister would grant such an interim control.

If interim controls were approved, the Council would need to exhibit an amendment to apply a heritage overlay. Submissions could be made for or against. The matter would go to an independent panel which could consider all submissions. Again, given the original process and that the owner has acted in good faith on Council’s decision not to place a heritage overlay, there is no assurance that the panel would support the amendment. Any amendment would need to be approved by the Minister. The process would take approximately 18 months.

COMMENT

  • ‘heritage was not appropriate’. Quite misleading we suggest since the ‘criteria’ applied by council was that Heritage listings be part of ‘an identified historic area’. Yet all the legislation and even Council’s own Planning Scheme ostensibly contradicts this application of policy. Section 21.10 of the Glen Eira Planning Scheme makes it absolutely clear that single sites may also be worthy of heritage protection A number of areas and individual properties comprehensively demonstrate important eras in the growth of Glen Eira and survive in a reasonably intact state.
  • The officer report even admits that Frogmore received a 1996 rating of “C” – just not the C+ that placed it in a ‘historic area’. Readers should remember that this is Carnegie after all, and given land development history, ‘expendable’!
  • Repetition of the ‘owner acting in good faith’ is arguably entirely irrelevant to the question of whether a building is worthy of heritage protection or not.
  • The presence or absence of ‘objections’ is also entirely irrelevant. With little publicity, and certainly little opportunity for residents to have direct input into council matters it is not surprising that Frogmore and its potential heritage status has been enveloped by silence. Further, several other comments made in the officer report could also act as a major deterrent to public involvement– ie the expense of obtaining private heritage advice by any interested resident.
  • The Minister’s approval would be required regardless of the two options provided in the report. According to The Heritage Act, – After considering the report of the Heritage Council, the Minister may make any determination in relation to a recommendation that the Heritage Council could have made under Division 3. Hence, ‘there is no assurance’ that even with Heritage Council approval the Minister would give it the nod!

Recommendation ‘B’ states –

Option B: Not re-open the heritage issue at a municipal level but abide by whatever decision is made by the Heritage Council.

The heritage process of 1996 – 2003 considered all properties in Glen Eira. It placed 3,893 properties under heritage controls. It was a very public process with many stages of consultation. It provided opportunities for views to be put for or against heritage classification of any property in the municipality. The views being expressed now might more appropriately have been expressed during the seven year process and been taken into account and determined then or in the eleven years since then.

It is reasonable for prospective purchasers to act on the basis of the Council’s planning scheme, especially given that the heritage status of every property in the municipality had been considered and had been decided. It would be unreasonable to change the rules after the purchaser had acted in good faith and committed significant funds.

COMMENT

  • Is this Seaview revisited? Council stuff ups again?

The suggested wording of the ultimate motions also require comment. Here is what an Option ‘B’ resolution would contain –
That Council:

(a) note the heritage process over the period 1996 to 2003 which provided the appropriate opportunity to put views for or against the heritage status of 1Wahgoo Road, Carnegie;

(b) note that the current owner of the property has acted in good faith and committedsignificant funds on the basis of Council’s planning scheme; and

(c) forwards the attached consultant report to the Heritage Council and agrees toabide by the Heritage Council’s decision in this matter.

In our view parts (a) and (b) of this motion are inappropriate and entirely irrelevant. If anything, they undermine to a great extent the ‘neutrality’ of any potential Heritage Council decision and thus potentially sway the argument in favour of rejection. We also wonder whether the 1996 policy was simply an early version of Amendment C87, where sites for Significant Character Overlays were all selected by officers with no allowable input by councillors or residents!

There are many other comments scattered throughout this report that need to be questioned. The most glaring concerns the fact that Frogmore is not ‘visible’ from Wahgoo Road. This is an argument for not having a Heritage listing. Funnily enough many of the the most prized Heritage properties in Glen Eira are also not ‘visible’ from the main road – Ripponlea being the perfect example.

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