Landscapers warn of heritage costs, delays

Landscaping Victoria member Ian Barker has grown frustrated with the time and cost effects of heritage rulings. Photo by George Marrable.
LANDSCAPE: Gardeners say heritage assessments are causing lengthy delays and excessive costs. George Marrable, Mikaela Turner and Justine Vemer report.

Heritage rulings can add up to $100,000 to costs, according to a local landscape gardener.

Long-time Landscaping Victoria member Ian Barker said the resulting delays in development could cost $12,000 per month.

“That could hold me up six, seven or eight months,” the Canterbury landscape designer said.

“So if it’s eight months that’s $96,000.”

It is not just the landscapers that are affected by heritage rulings. Simon White, landscape gardener at COS Designs, says it has a great impact on the client.

Mr White said he was working with a client who has a heritage overlay on their property.

The owner used out-of-pocket expenses to pay an engineer to make sure the buildings were structurally sound. They were not.

“The overall outcome is that the owner has had huge time delays and out-of-pocket costs because of these two buildings,” said Mr White.

Heritage rulings on properties only affect the structures and the front garden, but Mr Barker is frustrated about how the assessments can slow down developments.

Mr Barker said, “It’s a huge frustration, especially from a landscaping perspective, as it comes down to one heritage advisor that might be there on the day.

“So, if you get one person who just doesn’t like you or just doesn’t like what you’re trying to do, you’ve then got all these time delays.

“In my world, it should be a group of three, or at least a group of two, and if they come to a unanimous decision then fair enough.”

Landscape Gardener John Patrick echoed the frustrations of Mr Barker and Mr White regarding heritage rulings.

Mr Patrick, host of ABC’s Gardening Australia and owner of John Patrick Landscape Architects said, “That can be really hard work. It is agonisingly slow. It’s just dreadful.”

Developing a heritage property that is listed at a state level requires a permit from Heritage Victoria.

“That can be really hard work. We are trying to get a permit to develop in East Melbourne, but they wouldn’t have a bar of it,” said Mr Patrick.

Local landscape gardeners have also raised concerns about the lack of heritage protection for trees in the Boroondara area.

Heritage rulings only affect buildings and objects, and Mr Barker says there needs to be more protection for the trees.

“Heritage won’t get involved in the trees, they’ll only get involved in the structures.

“The trees are protected but they’re not protected well enough, and it doesn’t come under the heritage listing. My aim is to protect as many trees as possible.

“Home owners are coming in and saying ‘it’s just one tree’, but the problem is [that] it’s hundreds and hundreds of trees.”

Tree protection in Boroondara was also criticised by Mr Patrick when his company were unable to remove a dead tree from a client’s front yard in Kew.

Mr Patrick said, “We argued that the tree could fall, but the Council wouldn’t have it. It’s quite a hard thing to live with a dead tree in your front garden.”

Mr Barker, who has plenty of experience working on heritage listed properties, also showed his support for the redevelopment of the Domain Parklands.

Online activist group Participate Melbourne has been discussing plans to rejuvenate the heritage listed site over the next 20 years.

Mr Barker said, “I think absolutely they should preserve it, because gardens change. If we design a garden, if we get 20 years then we think we have done well, so I think they should do it.”