Residents lose fight to save historic building 

Residents lose fight to save historic building 
Brendan Rees

Parkville residents have been left disheartened after losing a state planning tribunal fight to save a historic building from being demolished and turned into a medical centre.

The community had been campaigning fervently to save the intra-war “Harcourt” building at 35-39 Royal Parade after a proposal to build a new dermatology centre at the site threatened to partially demolish the century-old building, in what residents believed was inappropriate and out of character for the heritage area.  

While the building does not have heritage protection, it sits within the council’s heritage overlay, and in an area considered an example of “particularly intact Victorian residential development”.

The City of Melbourne knocked back the plans by Sinclair Dermatology last September arguing it did not fit the planning scheme while citing an “unreasonable and unacceptable impact on the residential environment caused by the intensity of the proposal”. 

But residents’ hopes of retaining the building were dashed after the applicant appealed the council’s decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and won – with a permit being granted to build a medical centre as part of a VCAT order issued on July 12.  


“We find that the use of this site for a medical centre is generally consistent with the planning policies applying to this site, provided the impact on the amenity of the area is not unreasonably affected,” VCAT members Katherine Paterson and Ann Keddie stated.


“By reducing the number of practitioners to 10, we find that this use will not have an adverse impact on the amenity of the surrounding area.” 

The members also stated the design of the proposed additions had “responded well to the site’s context” and “will not have an adverse impact on the heritage values of the site or Parkville”.

But the Parkville Association’s president Rob Moore, whose group led the campaign to keep the red brick two-storey building – with the proposal having attracted 150 objections – said he was disappointed by the outcome.

“Parkville Association residents thought they had presented a professional case supporting the original council decision,” he said.

“Focussing on the intensity of the development and the flow on affecting traffic and parking on residential streets and maintaining the fabric of Parkville’s inner-city village, we tried to demonstrate the effect a large commercial clinic would have on our quiet residential neighbourhood.”

Mr Moore said adjoining neighbours were also “very disappointed” as the new development would be a “massive change to their current environment”.

However, he said there were fortunately some rulings made in their favour, including the retention of the facade on Royal Parade (a heritage-listed avenue) along with seven metres of the façade on Morrah St, as well as the reduction of practitioners from the original application of 18. 

He said a smaller footprint of the building’s size was another win, with the removal of the third floor being substituted by a larger basement.  

Under the proposal, a basement level car park would contain nine spaces, as well as house an auditorium, two treatment rooms and a medical image room.

A ground floor would feature two theatres, a recovery room, a trichology room and dispensary, as well as a foyer, administration, reception and toilet facilities, while the first floor would consist of consulting rooms, six procedure rooms, a foyer, staff and toilet facilities and a storeroom.

VCAT members noted the site had excellent access to public transport and would be complemented by the new Parkville train station when it was expected to open in 2025.

Harcourt was built in the 1920s as a boarding house, but more recently was occupied by Trinity College, which had up to 100 students, with the college also owning the land at 33 Royal Parade.

In 2020, Trinity College sold the land to two separate entities, with 35-39 Royal Parade being purchased by Sinclair Dermatology. 

The land at 33 Royal Parade is now used as a residence, and the current owners are in the process of renovating the building. 

Last year, locals gathered at the front of Harcourt holding signs stating, “more than a façade”, “save our heritage”, and “no development or need for a medical centre in our heritage suburb”. 

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