Media Releases 2011

Council objects to second proposal for classroom building at the Abbotsford Convent site

17 August 2011

Abbotsford Convent

Yarra Council will advise Heritage Victoria that it does not support the construction of a new classroom building at the heritage-listed Abbotsford Convent site.

The Sophia Mundi Steiner School has applied to Heritage Victoria for a permit to construct the four-classroom building on an existing playground at the convent site. A new playground would be created on the site of an unused swimming pool, south of the convent’s main buildings.

It is the second proposal from the Sophia Mundi Steiner School for a new classroom building at the convent site. In May, Heritage Victoria refused to issue a permit for the first proposal, which involved constructing a classroom building on an area of open space known as “the goat paddock”.

Yarra Mayor Alison Clarke said Heritage Victoria had sought Council’s position on the revised proposal, and Council had decided on its response last night.

Cr Clarke said Council believed the new building would diminish the heritage significance of the Abbotsford Convent site, which was gifted to the people of Victoria in 2004 after a hard-fought community campaign.

She acknowledged the compelling argument put forward by the parents, teachers and students of the Steiner school, many of whom attended a Council meeting last night and spoke passionately about their school.

“This was a very difficult decision for Council but ultimately one that we believe helps protect local heritage areas for the whole community,” Cr Clarke said.

“As noted in its heritage listing, the Abbotsford Convent site is the only existing former monastic or convent farm surviving in a substantial manner within a city in Australia,” she said.

“We need to protect what makes the site special even if that means that we are unable to support the school community on this occasion.

“We believe the proposed building would diminish the area’s heritage significance by closing off views to the convent from major public access points along the nearby walking and cycling paths.

“Removing public access to the open space in and around the swimming pool would also reduce the heritage value of the remnant pool and its surrounds.

“In that respect, we feel the proposal is contrary to the spirit in which the site was gifted to the people of Victoria.”

For the proposal to go ahead, permission must be given by both Heritage Victoria and the Minister for Planning. Heritage Victoria's permission is needed because the convent site is on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The Minister for Planning will also need to determine whether the plans are to his satisfaction. In making his decision, the Minister will be required to seek and consider any comments from Council. A permit is not required from Council because the school has received funding for the building under the Federal Government's Building Education Revolution program. Projects funded under that program are exempted from requiring a Council planning permit.

Here is more information about this proposal.


For media enquiries about this issue, please contact:
Ainslie Gowan
Coordinator - Communications
9205 5177 / 0400 933 700   



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