Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Moonee Valley Councillors Stand Up for Process on Charles Street, Ascot Vale

Photo Courtesy Moonee Valley Leader
Tuesday 24 July, 2019 - Ascot Vale residents were crying literal tears of joy last night as Councillors voted unanimously to support a motion to have the potential heritage significance of the property at 81 Charles Street, Ascot Vale re-assessed.

We cannot praise the decision of Councillors enough here, in the face of continuous and really quite baseless assertions by Council staff that the property and the street HAVE been assessed for heritage significance through the 2017 "Gap Study".

Firstly, it is quite clear that these Council gap studies are in no way thorough in the way that they are scoping properties for inclusion. Instead the heritage assessor (who literally has to survey the entire borough) drives up and down the street in their car, and properties such as 81 Charles Street, which sits behind quite a high fence and a lot of quite dense vegetation are prone to be missed.

The gap study in question, which covered Victorian, Federation and Inter-war styles, in fact concluded by suggesting over 20 properties FROM THOSE EXACT PERIODS that were submitted by the public during the process be left "for future consideration". So it's a "gap study" that just says "oh there's a gap", even while admitting the methdology being used to scope the study was definitionally inadequate.

But more importantly, when Charle Street was removed from heritage overlay HO20 (which covers most of neighbouring Monash Street, see below) in 2010, the heritage assessor David Helms, specifically recommended that Charles Street and its environs be assessed for a PRECINCT OVERLAY in its own right.

The streets that were assessed for a precinct overlay in the 2017 Gap Study are all listed in the study. Charles Street, Ascot Vale is categorically not amongst them. The street has NEVER been assessed for the precinct (or precincts) based overlay that we allege it deserves (again, see full argument below).

Moonee Valley Heritage Action has been contacted today by several members of the Moonee Valley community either present at the meeting who have asked us to express their gratitude to Councillors for agreeing to revisit the process here.

Phrases such as "faith in democracy restored", "so proud of our Councillors", "inspiring that they remain so in touch with the community" are being bandied around the community this morning, and we endorse those sentiments in their entirety.

This is why we have elected officials overseeing the planning process - real human beings with hearts and souls who are capable of dialling our community interest into the process does and should give us all hope of a better future - and one where the inherent values of our community streetscapes are preserved for generations to come.

This is also why the very existence of VCAT sitting again as another level of beaurocracy over these Councillors is so deeply wrong at the most fundamental level - but that's a story for another day.

Council staff provided their own detailed response to Cr Marshall's motion, recommending in very clear terms that it not be supported, and alleging again that the property somehow has been assessed, in spite of being able to produce no actual assessment of the site, nor any assessmnent of the street for a precinct overlay, and even while being able to nominate two properties in Charles Street that WERE directly assessed and found wanting - if Council staff can produce paperwork for those two properties not included, why ca't they do so for number 81 - provided the site has been properly assessed?

The short answer is simple - this property has never been properly assessed. Council did move to protect the property at 65 Charles Street, which is younger, less unique, without the bay window, and somewhat less in tact.

The reality is that every in-tact freestanding triple fronted proprty from the mid-1880s with a wraparound balcony, Victorian lace and bay window is significant in heritage methdology, and we now have total faith in the process that we will see protections applied to this property in no short measure.

The urgency of the assessment was pressed by Councillors last night, with staff undertaking that it should be possible to have a proper heritage assessment of the property back with Council within an approximate two week timeframe. We look forward to updating readers further.

But we encourage all our readers and supporters, if you see your local Councillor in the street this week, give them a giant hug (or not ... that would probably scare even the sternest Councillor), but at very least do stop and thank them for what they have done here for future generations.

We now look forward to this property being correctly assessed for significance, its demolition stayed its standing for the benefit of the Moonee Valley community and our urban realm for the NEXT 140 years and beyond.

Link to Moonee Valley Leader article on the case

BELOW: Details of the proposed redevelopment and previously published argument concerning the significance of Charles Street.

Under Threat - 81 Charles Street, Ascot Vale

Proposed redevelopment - Charles Street aspect

Charles Street, Ascot Vale - A Streetscape of High Heritage Value

Conducting our own assessment of the street's value, it was actually striking how good a representative streetscape over the major turn of the century styles in Australian suburban architecture Charles Street actually is.

Sure, they are not the greatest Victorians ever, sure some of them have been compromised, sure there's quite a bit of modern infill, but it was actually difficult to agree with the original assessment that the entire street wasn't worthy of a precinct overlay.

I wonder aloud if the actual heritage methodology is failing to keep up with community expectations now. I personally think the profession is too obsessed with the concept of contiguity in assessing precincts, and I certainly think we default far too often to precinct listings because they are a fraction of the work versus the application of individual overlays (which require every single property to be formally assessed), but then elevate the bar significantly for the application of an INDIVIDUAL overlay. The cause is laziness (or more generously lack of resources), but the effect is the loss of heritage that the community otherwise expects preserved.

Take a look at the following 40 properties, consider there are approximately 80 properties actually in the street, and ask yourselves, readers - "do we in fact actually have a heritage precinct here?" I find it difficult, even being as objective as I can, not to answer "yes."

And again, we'd encourage readers to cast their eyes back up to the really quite unexceptional properties in neighbouring Monash Street that ARE completely protected by Council, and ask the question "are not ALL the 40 properties cited below of greater heritage value than those ones that Council has protected?" Again, I think it's a pretty clear "yes."

Victorian-Era Properties

These all almost certainly date to the original subdivision of the street in 1885

Victorian Era Weatherboard Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale

Victorian Era Weatherboard Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale
Add to that list the following more unusual or atypical buildings in a largely Victorian style, again not all of which are necessarily significant, but which are definitely contributory to the overall precinct.

Victorian Era Weatherboard Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale
(top left is a slightly later style)

Federation-Era Properties

Subdivided in 1885, right at the END of the land boom, Charles Street would have developed over the coming twenty odd years, and thus a large number of the remnant original properties show the transition from Victorian into more Federation-influenced styles. Again, I have always felt that as arguably the only truly iconic and unique indigenous architectural style Australia will ever know, we need to make sure that we preserve these buildings within our streetscapes, yet these buildings are probably more usually under threat than their Victorian counterparts, which tend to present as a more "obvious" heritage form.

Federation Era Weatherboard Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale

Federation Era Weatherboard Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale
The top two photos are the same property

Californian Bungalows

Charles street is home to some excellent, large and highly typical examples of the Californian bungalow style, many of which although unprotected are currently under renovation or recently so. I find it telling that the owners of these buildings can recognise their obvious heritage worth in seeking to preserve their heritage character through their renovation. The pity is that neither the owners of  81 Charles Street, nor the staff providing advice to Councillors appear possessed of the same faculties. The two neighbouring ones shown top left below form a nice little precinct in their own right.

Californian Bungalow Style Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale
(OK bottom left is sort of Federation-y but I needed to group these in fours)

Inter/post-war Styles

There is even the following small pocket of interesting variants on cream brick triple front, all side by side at the Maribyrnong end of the street, which I would argue would well be worthy of a precinct overlay in their own right.

Neighbouring Triple Front Cream Brick Style Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale

The following properties are either compromised originals, or perhaps even original interwar, but either way I'd argue without being individually significant, they would be considered contributory to the precincts they adjoin or are part of.

Possibly Significant Interwar Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale

The argument is not necessarily that all the above properties would be found individually significant, but I don't see how it could possibly be blanket argued that none of them would be, and I would strongly argue that there are enough such properties to warrant devoting the resources to a proper assessment.

Consider also, that if you have even 2 neighbouring properties, you have met the threshold for a precinct overlay. So to the above selection add the following clearly stylistically contiguous groups, and once again the basis on which the precinct overlay was removed wholus bolus from the entire streetscape just seems like the path of least resistance rather than a valid heritage assessment.

 Potential Precinct Candidate Homes in Charles Street, Ascot Vale
(see also Californian Bungalow pair above)

Consider also exactly how many of the above properties are in archetypal Australian suburban weatherboard form and across the crucial styles and periods in Australian domestic architecture - there's barely an entirely brick structure anywhere in the street. Again, I find it very difficult to argue that this ISN'T a significant heritage precinct, and that it ISN'T worth preserving AS A STREETSCAPE.

So, in summary again, we have 40 properties out of approximately 80 sites in Charles Street that would appear to be realistic candidates for potential precinct or individual listings, and I think it becomes clear that the methodology which Council has applied here has not been rigorous enough, and to an extent that leads us to question the validity of removing the entire overlay in the first place.

Regardless, there is a clear argument, given the volume of properties and the likelihood of many being found significant and possibly warranting smaller precincts in their own right that we feel it is now vital that Council moves to have this really quite valuable and exemplary streetscape properly assessed, and we feel the community would expect no less from the Councillors whom they have elected to stand up for the character of their neighbourhood.

It's disappointing that we've supposedly now been through a process of conducting "gap surveys" across most of these major periods and some of the more glaring omissions (of which 81 Charles Street seems the most significant), and this speaks again to the inadequate resources that Councils are actually able to allocate to heritage. The studies seem inadequate in both scope and methodology for ensuring they are comprehensive, and they take too long to complete, resulting in the loss of significant properties while we wait for the gap studies to report, but again that topic is really for another day.

What Can You Do To Help?

1. Sign the Petition
We've started an online Change.org petition to make sure that Councillors hear the community's voice loud and clear -it just takes two clicks to lend your weight, please SIGN THE PETITION

2. Connect/Get Involved with Moonee Valley Heritage Action
The other obvious thing we'd encourage all concerned locals to do is to connect with Moonee Valley Heritage Action and GET INVOLVED. You can FIND US ON FACEBOOK HERE, use the subscription box in the right sidebar to follow this blog, and we URGENTLY need assistance in staying up to date with the huge volume of new planning applications being received by Moonee Valley Council and coordinating objections.

We are a volunteer organisation, and we obviously allow people to contribute as little or as much as your time allows - we're not looking for a major ongoing time commitment from anyone - but many hands make light work, and right now the work is all on the shoulders of the author of this here blog, and he is just one very fallible mere human mortal.

If you're at all interested in doing even a little - even as much as meeting of an evening somewhere infrequently to coordinate our resources - please get in touch with Adam Ford at mvha@rattlingtram.melbourne or phone 0425 320 533.

-Adam Ford
President, Moonee Valley Heritage Action


Statement of Non-Heritage Objections to the Proposed Development at 81 Charles Street, Ascot Vale

Out of Character for Neighborhood – Design and layout issues
The scale and siting of the proposed development is not considered to respond appropriately to the character of the area. As such, the proposal fails to achieve relevant policy objectives at Clause 32.08 (General Residential - Neighbourhood Character objectives) and fails to comply with 55.02 Standard B1 (Neighbourhood Character) of Clause 55.02. In order to respond more appropriately to the traditional, single storey streetscape the scale of the proposal needs to be reduced and the first floor element needs to be recessive. The height of the development along with roof pitch is too dominant in this traditional, single storey streetscape of the General residential Zone.

The length of the proposed wall on the northern boundary does not comply with the requirements of Standard B18 (Walls on boundaries) of Clause 55.04. Standard B11 provides for a maximum length of 17.55 metres, where 25.300m has been proposed.

As demonstrated on TPA06 the proposal does not comply with Standard B17 (Side and rear setbacks) of Clause 55.04. The extent of variation sought should not be considered to be appropriate in this neighbourhood character context. Whilst we understand the adjoining property located in MUZ presents a double storey wall on boundary. The non-compliance in this proposal adds excessive visual bulk to surrounding properties.

The design detail of the proposed development, including the first-floor balcony, the extent of glazing (i.e. the solid:void ratio) to the front fa├žade, is not in keeping with the GRZ character of the area and does not comply with Standard B31 (Design detail) of Clause 55.06. Further, while the incorporation of a pitched roof element picks up on the traditional hips seen in the street, it is considered that the proposed skillion roofs exacerbate the height of the development and should not be seen as appropriate. We strongly recommend council to revisit the design detail of the dwelling, in order to provide a more respectful response to the GRZ existing streetscape and adjoining heritage overlay.

The design siting & design of the development does not respond appropriately to Standard B10 (Energy Efficiency Objective) of Clause 55.03 and file to comply with Standard B29 (solar access to open space objective) Clause 55.05. The development has not be designed / orientated to make appropriate use of solar energy, living areas are locate to the south. Private opened space are considered to be south facing and does not comply with the solar access setback.(2+0.9h) where ‘H is the height of the wall. Taking the lowest point of the pitch 6.94m shows the first floor should have a rear setback form the garages of 8.46m. Taking the high-test point of the pitch 8.5m shows the first floor should have a first floor setback of 9.65. Both of these heights fail to comply and clearly show why 3 townhouses in this area is an overdevelopment of the site.

Characteristics of General residential zone area

  • Single storey dwelling.
  • Symmetrical pitched roof.
  • Separation between dwellings.
  • Proposed development
  • Sitting and layout issues.
  • Cheap lightweight materials that are not consistent with the area.
  • Skillion roofs not consistent with area.
  • Height not constant with area.
  • 3 townhouses with no separation not constant with GRZ.
  • Boundary to Boundary Garage construction not constant with area.
  • Visually dominating especially when it adjoins a Heritage interface
  • Top heavy design that does not present large recess to first floor.
  • Rear elevation present large double storey sheer walls. First floor again should be recessed in particular when this elevation adjoins heritage properties.

Increased Traffic and Parking Congestion
81 Charles Street is situated on a full clearway zone for public traffic and substantial PTV bus route 472 (every 15 minutes) and chartered school bus movement (both at front of 81 Charles Street and side at Progress Street).

This development will cause increased traffic congestion in Chauvel, Monash, Charles and Progress Streets impeding my access to my private enjoyment of my property;

There is no parking in the Progress Street clearway for this substantial development, and surrounding streets are already fully parked.  Plans suggest garages at rear of the proposed development will house 2 cars each, however as the minimum size of the proposed garages have extremely tight clearance, together with associated guest parking requirements for this development, will increase further burden on already congested local on-street parking;

Traffic has been steadily increasing in Progress and Charles Streets over the past 3 years due to a substantial increase in Royal Melbourne Showgrounds and Flemington Victorian Racing Club events (inc concerts etc) without traffic management plans, Traffic and parking often congests for hours without movement in Charles and Progress streets during event periods preventing entry/exit to my home;

81 Charles Street development has not supplied a proposed traffic management plan for the proposed build on a full clearway adjacent to a public bus stop.

Loss of Vegetation and Impact to Native Fauna
81 Charles Street is currently fully vegetated with a significant number of mature native trees, supported by European vegetation such as the mature Jacaranda nature-strip tree – the single nature strip tree in Progress Street.

The 81 Charles Street development proposal is to completely remove all existing mature trees causing a significant impact on neighborhood character, including the landscape and environmental quality of Ascot Vale, which is already significantly suffering the heat effect of tree removal and a lack of mature trees.  This development is detrimental to Moonee Valley City Council tree canopy coverage plans for Ascot Vale;

The proposal for removing these mature trees will dislocate at least 6 species of native birds using the trees to nest, roost and as a food source.  It will also dislocate families of protected ringtail possums residing in these mature trees.

There is no detailed landscaping plan supplied with the proposed 81 Charles Street development.

Issues During Proposed Building of this Development
How do 81 Charles Street P/L propose to build on a high traffic clearway with bus traffic every 15 minutes and a lane way that is in use 24/7?   Are PTC going to reroute buses?  What is the traffic management plan proposed for this development build?

Where will building materials be sited for this development given it’s a full clearway and the development is proposed to be built to all boundaries?

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