Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Wombat Comes out Boxing from the Heritage Corner on Doyle's Queen Vic Market Stink


Submission to Heritage Victoria regarding
Queen Victoria Market Redevelopment
VHR Registered Property - VHR0734
Permit application P27642

Submission by
Adam Ford,
Former Media Officer, Melbourne Heritage Action
Former Council Candidate, The Heritage Agenda

I am writing in submission of my recommendation that Heritage Victoria reject this redevelopment proposal on the grounds that it does severe violence to the architectural integrity of one of the State’s most significant heritage structures on a wholly spurious and unnecessary basis.

Furthermore this entire proposal and the way it has been formulated represents a fundamental disregard for heritage values in tandem with leaving too many questions of the proposal apparently deliberately unanswered because they likely entail severely negative heritage outcomes.

I am personally unable to properly assess the heritage impact of the proposal based on the submitted documents. I only hope the panel has greater success in this.


1. BUSINESS CASE AND BROADER CONTEXT

Council’s own tendered documents show that the Queen Victoria Market has experienced significant and consistent revenue growth over the past two decades. There is therefore no evidence that the general Victorian public see any imperative for major renewal, and certainly not of the scope proposed here.

What exists in ample evidence is poor management, in that the market’s profitability has demonstrably declined to the point where this is now the real issue management faces. Costs having blown out are therefore actually the issue here.

It would be considered fairly unconventional management practice to address the issue of a rising expenses bill with a massive capital works program that doesn’t come coupled with any concrete future traffic projections nor any short medium or long run plan to control the real issue of cost-overruns.

Only in public service land would this be considered smart decision making. This is exactly the sort of decision-making that dug the existing management, which by dint includes Council, into the massive hole in the first place. The reward for this should not be “OK, you therefore have a valid imperative to trash a structure that is flagged as preserved in its entirety, flagged at the highest level of State significance.


2. DISREGARD FOR HERITAGE

Melbourne City Council, and all supportive Councillors have shown the shabbiest and most outrageous disregard for heritage through this entire process. They have deliberately sought to shield as much detail of their destruction from public scrutiny as possible.

This project has effectively been split in two for purely political reasons, the panel would therefore have been given no opportunity to consider whether Council’s originally proposed 200m tower looming over the outdoor environs would void the VHR’s listed market’s state heritage significance. I’m not suggesting it would, but I am underlining that Council wouldn’t have cared if anyone did.

Heritage destruction is now to be wrought all along Theirry St, with that entire row of non-VHR, but significant buildings being demolished without any public input having been allowed whatsoever.

The two storey heritage structures are all being replaced with two storey BRICK structures “in order to reflect the heritage of the area”. We are in TV series Utopia territory here. However, I as screenwriter, would be unable to submit this script as ‘too corny’.

We first learned of this when photos of the destruction were released by Council to the Herald-Sun. I directly asked Cr. Rohan Leppert on that day to comment on how much destruction appeared depicted. He advised me he was unable to comment as “commercial in confidence”. This remained the case until the Planning Minister approved the development. And these are our ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES talking to us like this about what they’re doing with our money and our heritage. This is completely outrageous.

The destruction of the heritage buildings on Thierry Street was never notified to anyone except the photo editor at the Herald-Sun, and presumably the Minister. No public input into the process on the Munro site was enabled because Council deliberately voted to hand its powers on the site to the Minister and therefore void any public input. This outrageous disregard for the heritage community should not be considered outside the context of the current proposal.

3. ATTEMPTING TO ‘GAME’ THE PROCESS

Council has systemically sought to buy off stakeholders through various stages of this process, and have even recently induced the National Trust to issue a mealy-mouthed statement that once again allowed Council to excise the destruction on Thierry Street, which was once again not even mentioned.

If tamecat heritage bodies that have become useful merely to serve tea and sconces at Ripponlea to the blue rinse set, aren’t capable of applying adequate scrutiny here, then it becomes ever more imperative that Heritage Victoria step into this breach and ask for the detail of the applicants that they have refused the general public.

The plans that have been submitted are manifestly inadequate to judge the visual impact of the proposed changes on the shed interiors in general, and Shed D in particular. Yet the plans exist in triplicate, as attested by other parts of this submission. The systemic effort to game the process thus far should therefore lead the observer to conclude that this lack of detail is deliberate, and that it conceals the fact that the addition of the lift housing to the shed interiors WILL fundamentally alter their heritage character and their key sight lines.

The panel is therefore advised to apply a severe degree of scrutiny to the internal visual amenity impact of the proposal, because we the general public don’t have this detail on which to actually submit today, and nor have we been able to scrutinize our elected representatives for this detail.

The panel is therefore also entitled and recommended to assume the worst about the visual and heritage impact of anything it has not been given the necessary detail to judge, and that includes most of the proposed interior changes.


4. DETAIL OF THE PROPOSAL

The four main detailed concerns as I see them are as follows:

  • 1. The visual impact on the shed interiors created by the addition of floor to ceiling lift wells, and the inappropriateness of permanently situating such machinery at such scale within the market’s heritage context.
  • 2. The significant and obvious impact (not depicted) of the removal and replacement with presumably replica (not stated) elements of the supports in Shed D to allow for basement access.
  • 3. The significant and obvious impact (not depicted) of the addition of an automobile-sized entrance ramp in Shed D to allow for basement access which will require concrete side protection walls on either side.
  • 4. The appalling attempt at heritage integration that is the proposed new structure on Peel Street, which appears to consider the job done via the inclusion of some bits of wood painted to reflect the heritage roof paneling. Only those elements are triangular, and the new ones are rectangles, and precisely how difficult would even that much have been to reference? The remainder of the structure makes no attempt whatsoever to integrate even in a token sense.


In conclusion, the requirements around basement access necessitate the majority of the heritage vandalism. But the need for these improvements is not proven by the business case. These may improve amenity for traders, but how will they improve profitability? If this cannot be demonstrated, then no imperative for ANY destruction to, nor degradation of the heritage context of a very significant structure on the Victorian Heritage Register should be entertained.

Thank you for your consideration of my submission.

Yours sincerely,
Adam Ford.

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