Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Could this man be the saviour of Melbourne's heritage?

Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu has vowed to protect Melbourne’s heritage from Labor’s “wrecking ball approach to planning,” if the Coalition wins next month’s state election. “The Coalition’s plans for heritage and open space will preserve Melbourne’s liveability and put in place safeguards that provide certainty and reassurance to communities, councils and developers,” he said this week. 

The Coalition’s plan to protect heritage includes limiting high-density residential developments to designated “activity” areas and preventing such developments from being built along major tram, train and bus routes. It also requires councils to prepare Municipal Heritage Strategies and encourages greater transparency in public land sales. 
In principle, this represents a step in the right direction for Melbourne's planning processes. But we require more detail from Mr Baillieu if we are to gain a clear sense of how these principles would pan out when faced with practical considerations (including accommodation of population growth and containing urban sprawl). Further elaboration on the Municipal Heritage Strategies is also desirable, as the only description afforded so far is that they will comprise lists of heritage buildings. A list per se is not a 'strategy' so I am very eager to hear what is actually envisaged by the Coalition. 

Earlier this month Mr Baillieu condemned the 91-metre tower Windsor development (approved by Planning Minister Justin Madden) and expressed concern over the decaying state of Melbourne’s once glorious Flinders Street Station. "Disgracefully, this once beautiful station has been allowed to become derelict, dirty and unsafe. Our heritage is in danger of being neglected and lost,” he stated. In the video clip below, Mr Baillieu proposes a $1 million architectural competition for the redevelopment and preservation of the station, if he wins the election. What do you think of this idea?

So far Mr Baillieu has offered promising principles. But to be convinced, I would like to hear more concrete plans, limiting the scope of wiggle room. For example, it would be helpful to hear Mr Baillieu's stance on the dozen heritage buildings currently at urgent risk in Melbourne's CBD, as recently identified by Melbourne Heritage Action group in The Age. If Mr Baillieu really is dedicated to preserving Melbourne's heritage, can he guarantee that these significant buildings will be saved?

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