Media Statement | National Trust response to proposed redevelopment of 44 Public Housing towers

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) has issued a response to the proposed redevelopment of 44 Public Housing towers

The National Trust is concerned that the Victorian Government proposal to retire and redevelop all of Melbourne’s 44 ageing high-rise public housing estates by 2051 is being conducted without the necessary assessment of the inherent cultural heritage values of these places. As should be the case with any re-development proposal, these sites should be assessed prior to any decision making or commencement of works.

The National Trust advocates for a holistic, group heritage assessment that evaluates the significance of all 44 tower sites at the same time and as a single co-ordinated project. This would be far more transparent and effective than a piecemeal approach to this assessment and responding to concerns as each tower site comes up for redevelopment.

If any of the sites within the project are found to be of local or state significance, relevant protections should be sought that respond to any identified heritage values, rather than demolition.

Heritage protections do not mean that necessary change cannot be undertaken to the tower blocks and retrofitting can occur that improves and upgrades the housing for residents and retains them in their existing locations and communities.

We maintain our position as outlined in the National Trust Response to the Housing Statement that regardless of the significance, the government should meaningfully explore options to retrofit and refurbish the towers, rather than progress a pre-determined knock down and rebuild approach from the outset. This option will avoid displacing vulnerable communities, will keep them more involved with the process and is more sustainable.

The majority of these towers are built from concrete, and the release of CO2 with their demolition would be in direct conflict with the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. Furthermore, the loss of established green space around the towers through increased development would remove important environmental amenities and trees. No urban tree should be removed unnecessarily as we face the climate crisis.

Heritage conservation and adaptive re-use of existing buildings is a powerful sustainable development tool, contributing to the mitigation of climate impacts, and the incorporation of shared values into housing design to enrich the existing places in which we live.

The National Trust calls on the State Government to lead by example in best heritage practice and to immediately embark on an independent and holistic cultural heritage assessment of all 44 towers and their environs, to determine their local and State values and put necessary protections in place prior to any decision making on redevelopment works.

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Feature Image: North Melbourne Housing Towers, 2019. Credit: Chris McLay 

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