Yet another City of Ballarat council initiative about heritage preservation has sparked a cynical response from some quarters, following the revelation a recently-restored Victorian home on Skipton Street is likely to be demolished for a service station and cafe, and recent demolition of heritage buildings.
The 'Heritage Gaps Review' aims to engage the public in what it describes as a 'treasure hunt' for buildings suitable for 'potential listing on the Heritage Overlay'.
Heritage professionals who spoke to The Courier were quick to query why the public were being asked to do a job which council should employ a heritage architect for - and why there were heritage gaps in the first place, given the number of professional reports handed to council over three decades.
They were also cynical about a caveat in the release:
"Not every place on the list will necessarily be added to the Heritage Overlay, as there are standardised significance criteria and thresholds that must be met. Assessment will be prioritised for sites considered to be particularly vulnerable and/or of strong potential heritage significance."
The review comes as dissent over the proposed demolition of a home at 609 Skipton Street adds to argument there is a 'North-South' divide when it comes to heritage assessments.
Following the loss of historic Cobb and Co stables in Redan, one angry resident told The Courier suburbs south of Sturt Street were "a playground for developers", with the destruction of Skipton and Albert streets in particular.
- Redan APCO service station plans expansion, drive-through cafe
- Historic Cobb and Co stables demolished in Redan
- Jenkins Row homes to be removed from heritage overlay
- Significant homes to be restored but another is lost as Ballarat Health builds new facilities
- External planning decisions have allowed developers to push through demolitions with ease, councillors say
Councillor Samantha McIntosh shares residents' concerns, saying a recent Sebastopol overlay study had left gaps in protection which needed to be addressed before the area around the Midland Highway was devoid of any historic character.
"I think it's an embarrassment that council doesn't employ a full-time heritage architect, and you can quote me on that," Cr McIntosh told The Courier.
"I think we've done an amazing amount of work with the HUL (Heritage Urban Landscape), and it's led to people from around the world looking at what we're doing in terms of preservation, but it remains the HUL is not an enforceable protection; and we need to bring the community with us."
A heritage professional who spoke to The Courier on condition of anonymity backed Cr McIntosh's view, saying Ballarat had notoriously large gaps in its heritage studies, which previous council administrations were happy - or tried - to leave unaddressed.
"HUL might be good for getting the World Heritage Listing up, but it is not a statutory tool for listing or managing heritage," they said.
"There was a Sinclair Knight Mertz report some years ago which highlighted the social and economic benefits of heritage to Ballarat. That SKM report never made it, never got in front of councilors; it got sat on. Other reports were the same.
"The study council did a few years back wasn't in accordance with the standard study brief and Burra Charter process - and neither does what they seem to be doing with a 'site by site' gap analysis."
In a release, City of Ballarat mayor Ben Taylor said Ballarat residents are "proud to live in a city rich with stories."
"Ballarat is a unique heritage city and we all should celebrate that," he said.
"The new list we are creating will add to the previous records of our most significant and vulnerable places.
"We hope to bring to light startling new historical sites that can add to Ballarat's amazing story."
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