What was proposed
In 2017 the owners/developers lodged a permit application seeking the complete demolition of the historic Brick Pressing Shed (Building 5) and the adjoining former Engine House (Building 6) so that they can build two new buildings:
- A combined café, studio/offices and a small interpretation space – called the ‘Heritage Interpretation Centre’
- A 7-8 storey residential building – this building is marked as ‘subject to a separate application’ so there are only limited details on the plans
This proposal involved the destruction or removal of most of the brick-making equipment and systems, with only two of the seven brick-presses to be retained for interpretation (but not in their original locations).
What’s wrong with this?
Here are some of our concerns:
- Demolition of the Brick Pressing Shed and adjoining former Engine House will impact the outstanding historical, scientific and technological significance of the Brickworks as a whole
- The demolition of Building 5 – with the associated relocation of the brick-making machinery, and destruction of other elements (e.g. conveyors, communication hatches, workers cribs etc) – means the loss of the earliest and a very rare surviving example of its type in Victoria and Australia.
- The former Hoffman Brickworks have the highest level of heritage protection available in Victoria (under the Heritage Act 2017) and such places should be protected.
- The demolition is not warranted on the basis of the structural condition of the building. The owner/developer has received engineering advice (from Beauchamp Hogg Spano Consultants) that the buildings can be repaired and reused.
- The owner/developer has failed to adequately maintain these buildings in a secure and water tight condition; this neglect has caused some of the deterioration
- Approvals – from Heritage Victoria and Moreland City Council – that have allowed the redevelopment of this site have been based on the conservation of the historic core, including adaptive reuse of Buildings 5 and 6, with Building 5 having interpretation as its primary use. For example:
- The first Heritage Victoria permit issued in 1998 and which forms the basis of all subsequent approvals states that: “Building 5 and all its associated equipment, including the nine brick presses, (1 Austral Otis machine, 2 Anderson machines, and six other unmarked machines designed on the same Bradley Craven brick press model) is to be retained in its entirety. Building 5 is to be used primarily for the interpretation of the Hoffman Brickworks site and may include other compatible uses. Building 5 is to be accessible to the public …”
- The amended Development Plan approved in 2010 allowed some strata title offices and a retail space in Building 5, but required retention of all the brick-presses.
- The proposed interpretation centre is small and appears to offer limited opportunities to engage with the rich history of brick-making. Moreover, visitors will no longer be able to have an authentic experience of the actual place and appreciate the relationship between the brick-making and firing processes. In the proposed form it is also unlikely to be built or to be maintained.
- Substantial concessions have been provided to the owner/developer over the last 20 years to enable the documented and agreed heritage values to be conserved and interpreted. These concessions include the original rezoning of the site, public funding of a number of the original studies and documentation of works (through Moreland City Council and the Commonwealth government), changes to the agreed staging of development and conservation works, the increased number of dwellings allowed on the site over and above what was originally allowed in the Development Plan, and in numerous other ways.
Heritage Victoria called for submissions by 13 January 2018, and we have had a big response from heritage experts, Brickworks residents and the broader community. Here are some submissions that people have lodged with Heritage Victoria and have agreed to share, so you can see what people make of the proposal.
We assisted with some key points on why we oppose demolition of Buildings 5 and 6, but you will see that people identified a much broader range of issues.
The developer’s proposal (Permit application P27923 for VHR0703 Former Hoffmans Brickworks) and the reports they have submitted to Heritage Victoria in support of their application are here:
Heritage Victoria invited everyone to consider what is proposed and to make a submission (a letter or email) about why they support or object to what is proposed by Saturday 13 January. Late submissions may not be considered, but it never hurts to speak up.
Heritage Victoria can be contacted at email@example.com (quoting:Permit application P27923 for VHR0703 Former Hoffmans Brickworks), including your name, address and contact details.
What was the outcome?
Many submissions opposing the permit application were sent to Heritage Victoria. The permit application was apparently withdrawn by the owner/developer. Since there has been a fire in the Pressing Shed (Building 5) and the roof has collapsed on the Steam Engine House (Building 6).