THE heritage values of sixteen of South Gippsland Shire’s more historically significant private properties look set to be preserved, thanks to an innovative move on the part of a generous Jeetho landowner and the shire council.
The properties include the former Bank of Victoria at Toora, ‘Ingleside’ (also known as ‘Gully Humphrey’ at Toora North, and ‘Bosley Farm’ and ‘Greenfields’ at Fish Creek.
Passionate about the individual and community value of retaining heritage assets on their properties, the owners responded to an invitation issued at the end of last year to join an amendment to the South Gippsland Planning Scheme.
Council issued the invitation following a request from the owners of a Jeetho property owner who wished to excise a house lot from their farm and required a planning scheme amendment to apply a Heritage Overlay to the excised lot. The proposed small lot contains the homestead ‘Glenorchy,’ associated stables and the remnants of an avenue of trees. The applicant generously agreed to other ‘volunteer’ HO properties joining the amendment at no cost, provided delay was not caused.
Some of the volunteers had previously asked Council for an HO amendment for their property but were deterred by the costs involved in the amendment process. They thanked Council and the amendment proponent for their initiative in offering the opportunity for others to join the amendment without cost. The proponent met the bulk of the costs, with Council contributing a small percentage.
Shire planners explained in their report to Council that due to their age, heritage features often require more upkeep than their modern equivalents and renovation can be expensive. However, there are some practical advantages in having a Heritage Overlay. They can, for example, render a property owner eligible for grant funding to assist with maintenance and renewal. The Heritage Schedule can also be used to allow a permit for a use otherwise prohibited by the zone, possibly for commercial return.
The report also noted that the voluntary and inclusive nature of the amendment was innovative in local government planning practice. The shire’s director of development services, Phil Stone, said that the arrangement was a first for South Gippsland Shire Council but he was hopeful it would not be the last. He said the shire’s strategic planning had gone ahead in leaps and bounds in recent years.
At their meeting last Wednesday, councillors were enthusiastic in their support for planning scheme amendment ‘C92 – Volunteer Heritage Overlay – Jeetho and Others.’
Cr Mohya Davies described it as an “absolutely fabulous” opportunity for landowners to protect heritage features of their properties into the future.
Commending the motion to Council, she said: “In South Gippsland we have some wonderful heritage buildings. Yet we haven’t perhaps valued them as buildings have been valued in places like Ballarat and Bendigo. It’s good to see this happening now and hopefully it will recur on a regular basis.”
“This is a start,” agreed Cr Lorraine Brunt, “and maybe there will be others later. It’s a really good initiative and I thank the original applicants for allowing others to ride on their back.”
The mayor, Cr Jim Fawcett, also thanked the original applicant for opening the amendment up to others. “We’re good at preserving our public buildings, not so much our private buildings,” he said.
There are currently 85 ‘heritage features’ in the HO schedule to the South Gippsland Planning Scheme, of which 11 are ‘private features.’ The addition of these 16 properties will take the number of private features listed from 11 to 27, an increase of 147 per cent.
Cr Fawcett said he hoped what he was seeing was a template Council could use in the future, “where rather than coercing we cooperate with our community to preserve heritage”.
Cr Bob Newton remarked that heritage had been an emotional issue over the years and he was glad to see that this time the application of a Heritage Overlay was entirely voluntary. “I only wish we had something like this 30 or 40 years ago, before we lost so much of our history. This is a good outcome,” he declared, before Council voted unanimously to expedite Planning Scheme Amendment C92.