The 93-year old Masonic Centre in Camberwell may have been handed a lifeline, with the Boroondara City Council resolving to support a Victorian Heritage Register nomination for the building on Monday night.
The motion to endorse and provide a copy of the heritage assessment conducted to Heritage Victoria was carried unanimously by the Boroondara councillors. While a final decision will not be made until later in the year, an Interim Protection Order will be sought in an attempt to postpone development on the site.
Meeting chairperson, Councillor Jim Peake, said the Masonic Centre deserved to be “given an opportunity to receive greater protection than it has been” and he didn’t believe the arguments addressed the key points.
“Potential uses for the building come under no consideration in a heritage assessment,” he said.
A planning permit had previously been issued by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to the site’s owners, one of whom is Peter Hinge, who expressed his frustration at the meeting.
Hinge, who purchased the building from the Freemasons in 2014, said the various reports into the building over the 25 years “made it clear” it only held local significance and thus was “not worthy” of a heritage listing.
“I represent the silent majority who are in full support of the redevelopment,” said Hinge. “There is only one objector.”
Deputy Chairman of the Prospect Hill resident Committee Ronald Weir backed up Hinge’s argument, saying the nomination was “unfair” for the developer.
“There was ample opportunity for an assessment to be undertaken, why did it come up so late?”
Weir also expressed concern that the site in its present state may encourage antisocial behaviour such as “drugs and squatting”.
“What exactly will maintaining the current status bring to the community?”
Local resident and the only speaker supporting the application, Mary Dross, asked the councillors to save the centre, describing the VCAT decision as a disgrace and deriding the continued loss of heritage in the area.
“Bit by bit, Camberwell is losing its heritage,” she said. “This is one of the most visible spots, [in Camberwell] it’s beautiful.”
Ratepayer Yyvonne Cout said she had a deep appreciation for the building but that development was needed.
“We need to keep history, but it’s in the best interests of the community to allow for development at this site.”