Homeowners unhappy with overlays

Peter Hardy-Smith outside his heritage overlay home in Graceland Park Estate. Photo by Jasmine McCulloch.
HOMEOWNERS: Jasmine McCulloch, Travis Medhurst and Dylan Piscioneri report on concerns about unwanted development in heritage precincts.

Homeowners in the Boroondara area are concerned about unwanted development in their heritage precincts.

Peter Hardy-Smith, a resident of Hawthorn’s Graceland Park Estate for more than 40 years, is upset by the prospect of losing heritage homes.

“We’ve had all sorts of problems with builders and developers,” he said.

Graceland Park Estate is a heritage precinct, which is an area considered to have important historic value, and therefore given a heritage overlay protection.

Hardy-Smith said residents in the area “fought tooth and nail” so that certain buildings, such as the Hawthorn Football Social Club, would not be over-developed into flats or businesses.

“We don’t want these things to happen,” he said. “We want to keep the streetscape similar to what it should be.

“You can’t tear all these heritage sites down.”

In May last year The Financial Review reported that a record high of 800 heritage houses are being demolished each week in Australia.

The number of demolitions is almost one-third higher than previous estimates, according to Phillip Almeida, director of Acquisitions Performance Advisory, who monitors national property markets.

Robert Perkins, president of the Graceland Park Residents Association, a community group that seeks to preserve local heritage in the area, said the expanding population of Melbourne is to blame.

“Melbourne is a basket case. We have no plan to accommodate the rising population and we have a mediocre government doing nothing about it, ” said Perkins.

“We have a lot of problems. We are adding 2000 additional people per week. Demolishing heritage homes won’t help accommodate that population rise.”

Graceland Park’s local community ensured that the area remained untouched through what Perkins called “the flat building era of the 1960s”, when large dwellings were sought for redevelopment into apartment blocks.

Melinda Tee, a homeowner in Chrystobel Crescent in Graceland Park, is also concerned about the number of houses being renovated into apartment buildings.

“I think it needs to be controlled and thought about, because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of thought going into the overall look and planning of some areas,” she said.

Tee said everyone should be concerned about preservation and demolition of heritage properties.

“I think it’s very important to preserve some of these houses which are a hundred years old or so. It really gives character to the area,” she said.

“More should be done to preserve these areas. I think that we should limit overdevelopment, though we have to balance that with medium density housing.”

Boroondara’s heritage assets include Victorian, Federation, Inter-War and Post-War residences, as well as mansions, 19th century cottages and Post-War subdivisions from the 20th century.

Natica Schmeder, an associate at Context PL Heritage Consultancy, has worked on a variety of advisory and heritage projects for 12 years in Melbourne.

She said that Melbournians have become too comfortable regarding heritage, “thinking all the work has been done. People don’t act urgently to protect things anymore because they assume a lot is protected already.”

“Local communities and homeowners don’t have heritage on their radar until something drastic happens like the recently demolished Corkman Pub (a heritage hotel in Carlton), and it gets brought up again.”

Schmeder said the “concrete jungle” era is one that will be unavoidable for most areas in Melbourne in the future, but stressed the problems it may create for the environment as well.

“Protecting heritage communities protects the environment as well. You can feel the temperature difference between suburbs. We can’t have endless roads and skyscrapers.”

Perkins agreed: “The environmental effect is disastrous because they don’t have a plan to combat it. The development industry is full steam ahead.”