Submission to 2021 Heritage and Planning Protection Review
The Queen Victoria Market (QVM) is listed as a significant place on the State and National heritage listings. The Queen Victoria Market is of cultural significance for its ongoing role and continued popularity as a general and fresh meat and vegetable market, shopping and meeting place for Victorians and visitors alike.
Friends of Queen Victoria Market (FOQVM) make this submission to the Planning and Heritage Protection Review. Friends of FOQVM is a not-for-profit incorporated association comprising market customers, traders, local residents and the general public, trying to protect the market’s, cultural and architectural heritage as an authentic 19th century traditional working market together with its social and economic significance.
FOQVM have over 5000+ followers on www.facebook.com/FriendsofQueenVictoriaMarket
In this submission. comments will directly refer to the following terms of reference –
• 3a mandatory height limits
• 3c VCAT
• 3e Role of Ministerial call-in
• 4 C-F
1. City of Melbourne role
The City of Melbourne (CoM) is the responsible authority for QVM which is its wholly owned subsidiary.
CoM has failed in its obligation to protect and preserve the public heritage asset that is QVM. Over the past decade, CoM has demonstrated that it pays lip service to recognising the heritage significance of the market while continuing to aggressively pursue a renewal/reconstruction agenda which puts in jeopardy the architectural, social, cultural and economic integrity of QVM as a heritage site.
FOQVM argues that heritage assets rightly belong to us all. They are shared public assets. Therefore, community consultation is a right. Community consultation about significant matters impacting on heritage assets is essential. Community engagement and inclusion are vital in the case of QVM because historically the market belongs to the community and is still used daily by the community.
Despite the heritage listing of QVM, the CoM apparently feels under no obligation to preserve the market heritage. In recent years there has only been lip service to community views. FOQVM notes with dismay, that CoM have engaged in disingenuous community consultations that were in fact box-ticking exercises and this has resulted in damage to QVM.
In 2018 the People’s Panel, a deliberative democracy initiative, initiated by the present Lord Mayor, determined in its 13 Recommendation that there should be as few changes as possible made to the market in accordance with the Burra Charter. However, this has been and continues to be disregarded while the CoM relentlessly drives incrementally towards the changes the People’s Panel rejected.
2. State Government role
Various State governments have been complicit in placing this heritage listed site in jeopardy. The former Liberal Napthine state government acted to enable the grandiose plans of the then Liberal Lord Mayor Robert Doyle by collaborating in a land swap to create what was intended to be Doyle’s legacy project, the redevelopment of the market.
In 2013 the State government agreed to re-position Franklin St through the southern edge of the QVM car park to align it with Dudley St to accommodate through traffic – clearly not advantageous to QVM (cutting off heritage fruit and vegetable storage sheds on the market’s southern edge)
To compensate the Council for devaluing a CoM owned heritage asset (ie QVM), the State Government then transferred a parcel of public land known as the ‘Southern Site’ on Franklin St adjacent to the market to the CoM for development in a potentially a lucrative property deal.
The CoM intention is to engage in property development to fund a grandiose re-development of QVM without regard for QVM’s heritage significance, including repurposing the vital at grade market car park into open space that will be leasable for private events, exhibitions etc. The State government swap and consequent CoM property development activities have put in jeopardy the heritage value of the entire QVM precinct.
The ‘Big Build’ policy agenda of the current State Government has encouraged the construction of towers around the periphery of QVM without considering the benefits of a ‘buffer zone around the market’s perimeter that respects and protects a heritage asset rather than overwhelms it.
3. Heritage Victoria role
Despite existing heritage legislation and its impressive expertise, Heritage Victoria (HV) is placed in an invidious and often conflicted position.
As an under resourced statuary agency, it is inappropriately embedded in the State government planning department (DWELP). The risk of HV conflict of interest is real.
HV decisions are potentially subject to pressure from political considerations, planners, and directly, or indirectly, developers.
Specific to the Terms of Reference of this review:
3a. Mandatory height limits.
It is important to note that the State and National Heritage list QVM is a ‘low rise’ structure. Potential World Heritage Listing of the QVM site is dependent on maintaining intact heritage values of QVM and its vicinity which is at risk of being largely surrounded and overwhelmed by towers. World heritage status is of both cultural and economic benefit to Melbourne and Victoria, and this should be acknowledged by both CoM and DWELP.
However, the CoM along with DWELP have encouraged and enabled high rise tower development in close proximity to, and around its immediate perimeter and looming over the QVM site. An example of this trend to encircle and intrude on the visual airspace of QVM is the latest development on Queen St which has approval for a 21-storey tower directly opposite the market.
There are no mandatory development height limits to ensure adequate protection of QVM. QVM warrants the establishment of a a protective ‘buffer’ zone similar to that protecting the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. Attention should be given to imposing a mandatory height limit on towers surrounding QVM and its environs.
Heritage protection needs be extended to include appropriate restrictions in the immediate environment of heritage sites.
3c/ 4d. Adversarial appeal processes
FOQVM support a separate dedicated heritage appeals tribunal. Unfortunately, too often community pressure results in favourable VCAT outcomes for well-resourced developers. Expert representation is constantly bought by developers, inevitably persuasive and leading to predictable outcomes generally opposed by the public. VCAT consistently fails those less well resourced.
Adversarial appeal processes such as VCAT (often called the developer’s court) are longwinded, expensive and time consuming for objectors who are little resourced community groups and result in a David and Goliath scenario where those with the largest bank balance win the day.
A separate heritage appeals tribunal with public funding of appeals to curtail inequity and justice to the appeals process.
3e. Ministerial Call-ins:
Heritage does matter, which is why we have protective legislation and heritage listing process. It is conducive to the general social, cultural and economic good of society. Heritage values and associated benefits need to be more widely acknowledged, including by all levels of government and regardless of political affiliation.
Planning is particularly complex when heritage assets are involved. Management, preservation and protection are not being adequately managed under the current ministerial framework, which has left heritage assets vulnerable.
Planning ‘overlays ‘, ‘precincts’ and ‘zones’ are narrowly prescriptive. They should be simplified and clearly enunciated so they are easily understood by councils, developers and the public to ameliorate the need for Ministerial call-ins.
Placing heritage protection under the planning department has resulted in heritage issues being devalued, sidelined and often overridden by expediency, policy prioritisation and even influence of developers at local government level.
The significance and importance of heritage assets is such that it warrants a dedicated Ministerial portfolio for heritage. The responsible Minister should be tasked with and empowered to pay due attention to cases of ‘heritage at risk’ raised by the community. The responsible Minister should also monitor and oversee municipal decisions which are likely to impact on heritage across the state.
Explicit processes protecting our heritage should be in place at local and State government levels to minimise the need for Ministerial call-ins.
Heritage protection should be given to individual places regardless of fitting in with a predominant precinct theme.
4c. Protecting heritage in Victoria
Heritage should be managed independently from planning and development. It should be prioritised and funded accordingly.
Heritage Victoria needs to be separated from the department of planning and placed as a separate entity to DELWP. It should operate within its own government department under the proposed Minister for Heritage.
The Heritage Agency should have enforcement responsibilities and powers with power to intervene if heritage assets are at risk.
4d – refer to 3c
4f. The separation of heritage protection from planning administration is vital in avoiding conflicts of interest.
The City of Melbourne is custodian of QVM which operates as a wholly owned subsidiary QVM P/L of the CoM. QVM operates with an ostensibly independent Board but in reality, several members of the board report to the CoM. This close relationship translates into QVM prioritising wider planning agendas including QVM ‘renewal’ over QVM heritage.
The City of Melbourne has a council portfolio responsible for both heritage & city planning. While the officers advise the council on heritage matters, they can and often are over-ruled in a majority vote at council.
An example of competing priorities or conflict of interest occurred in relation to Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, a key CoM event. QVM traders were forced to re-locate for several weeks to create space for the Festival which entailed vacating their stalls to make way for the installation of specifically designed MFW Festival display stalls. The adverse impact on trade at the QVM is a risk to the preservation of the market which is heritage listed as a market precinct
The CoM and QVM Management continue to convene trader and community meetings said to be consultation but in effect presentations. Despite persistent community and trader opposition there has been no reset to the CoM Renewal Project outcomes.
Effective, independent community reference groups should be embedded into Council and state government at the pre-plan stage, with community contributing to formulation of plans and continuing plan development.
Councils must engage with, and genuinely consult with the wider community when matters arise which will impact on heritage assets.
Local councils must prioritise the purpose, significance and viability of the heritage asset over commercial or other considerations
Councils should not be able to hide behind a ‘commercial in confidence’ strategy regarding planning issues. It implies that a ‘deal’ has been done that would not gain approval from the community it serves.
(6) any other matter the Committee considers relevant.
The Burra Charter is a national charter that establishes principles for the management and conservation of cultural sites in Australia. The Charter is particularly important for its definition of cultural significance and the standards it outlines for using cultural significance to manage and conserve cultural sites.
In the case of QVM, the market is not only a place, but also a form of trading. Its heritage value and significance lie in its continued function as a traditional market. Cultural heritage is as important as preserving the old sheds.
Heritage Victoria’s criteria for decision-making does not give adequate consideration for the social and cultural fabric of a heritage site. It emphasises tangible, physical heritage aspects. However, heritage includes intangibles that reflect the community’s deep attachment to these places and demand appropriate consideration.
Link to RMIT’s Intangible Heritage Report on QVM:
Statutory heritage protection should regard intangible cultural heritage values as well as built heritage
Synopsis of Key Recommendations:
1. Formulate explicit processes that protect our heritage at local and State government levels
2. Heritage protection should be managed independently from planning and development. It should be prioritised and funded accordingly.
3. Form a separate Heritage Appeals Tribunal to bring more equity and justice to the appeals process.
4. Create a Minister for Heritage with power to intervene at municipal level if heritage assets are at risk
5. Ensure local councils are compelled to prioritise the protection of heritage assets
6. Planning overlays should be simplified and clearly enunciated so that they are easily understood by councils, developers and the public.
7. Ensure transparency of processes and planning decisions by embedding effective and independent community reference groups into Council and state government at the pre-plan stage.
8. Abolish ‘commercial in confidence’ in councils regarding planning issues.
9. Instigate legislation reforms which compel municipalities to genuinely engage with, and demonstrably respond to informed members of the wider community when matters arise which will impact on heritage assets
10. Statutory heritage protection should regard intangible cultural heritage values as well as built heritage
11. Mandatory height limit on high rise development in the immediate surrounds of sites of heritage significance
[Signed off by]
Friends of Queen Victoria Market (Inc)