Removal of unjust Amendment C299 loophole boosts heritage protection in Boroondara

Council takes back control of protecting the City’s history.

The City of Boroondara is aware of media reports about the Victorian Minister for Planning’s intention to remove the unjust, discriminatory and exclusively prejudicial ‘Boroondara Planning Scheme Amendment C299’, which uniquely allowed the demolition of buildings subject to Interim Heritage Overlays in Boroondara.

Mayor of Boroondara, Cr Cynthia Watson, said Council had been advocating since June 2018 when C299 was imposed by the Minister on Boroondara, for the removal of Amendment C299.

“We are relieved to see common sense finally prevail with the proposed removal of the Amendment C299 loophole,” said Cr Watson. “No other municipal planning scheme in Victoria is subject to an exemption like this one, which allows heritage properties to be demolished”.

During 2019, Council wrote to the Minister requesting the removal of the Amendment on seven occasions (8 and 13 May, 24 June, 30 August, 9 and 13 September and 21 October) and also wrote to all local members of state parliament and Premier Daniel Andrews, seeking assistance to have Amendment C299 removed.

During this time, Council also repeatedly sought authorisations and decisions from the Minister which would have protected properties at risk of demolition. On average, the Minister took over five months to respond to these requests for heritage controls, with several sitting on his desk for well over a year.

In one such instance, the Minister was given three months’ notice by Council that a property at 360 Auburn Road Hawthorn was at risk, and he chose to do nothing. That property was subsequently demolished on Christmas Eve.

Usually, a building’s inclusion in an interim Heritage Overlay would overrule any building permit issued prior to the introduction of heritage controls.

Under what has become known as the C299 loophole, which exclusively targeted the City of Boroondara, property owners with a building permit were able to override interim Heritage Overlays and demolish historic buildings.

“While we are pleased to finally see the end of Amendment C299, we are saddened that this loophole was responsible for the loss of nine irreplaceable heritage properties. Council can now take back control of protecting our City’s history on behalf of our community,” said Cr Watson.

“The Minister chose to exclusively and unjustly target the community of Boroondara and has clearly realised the error of his ways.”

During community consultation for the Boroondara Community Plan, our residents clearly told us that they place great value on Boroondara’s heritage buildings and precincts. We currently have well over 10,000 properties in Boroondara currently protected by heritage controls and have allocated over $1 million dollars to our five-year Municipal Wide Heritage Gap Study to identify further historical properties and precincts. Boroondara is a Council that has a long history of investing in the protection of our heritage and will continue to have a strong partnership with our community in its ongoing preservation.

Information about the Municipal Wide Heritage Gap Study is available on the City of Boroondara website at www.boroondara.vic.gov.au/heritage.

Comments Attributable to Mayor of Boroondara, Councillor Cynthia Watson

After months of petitioning for the removal of the Minister’s ill-conceived loophole, it is disappointing but not surprising that Council has had to learn via the media of the Minister’s plans to revoke Amendment C299.

As at 3 January, Council has not received any notification from the Minister’s office indicating a decision on removing the Amendment has been made.

We are pleased to see common sense finally prevail but frustrated it has taken this long and at such great cost to the heritage of our City. No other municipal planning scheme in Victoria was subject to an exemption allowing heritage properties to be demolished in this way.

Amendment C299 was responsible for the loss of nine heritage properties across the City. With its removal, Council can take back control of protecting our historic properties.

We now encourage the Minister to expedite the removal of Amendment C299 from the Boroondara Planning Scheme by ensuring its gazettal at the first opportunity. Until this is done, as the Minister knows, at least five more historic properties are at risk of demolition.

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