St Joseph's church building - proposed demolition

In September 2012, Council welcomed a ruling by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that Collingwood's St Joseph's Church be retained.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne had sought permission to demolish the church, which was constructed in the 1880s and is in a heritage overlay area. The Otter Street building was damaged by a fire in 2007 but remains externally intact.

Council refused to issue a permit for the building's demolition after seeking advice from a heritage expert. The expert, Peter Lovell, advised Council that while the fire had diminished the significance of the building, it had not "obliterated all significance". "Accordingly, demolition would have an unacceptably adverse impact on the relevant heritage place," Mr Lovell said. Here is the pdf format  heritage advice (155.15kB) provided by Mr Lovell.

The Archdiocese was seeking the demolition so the space could be used as a playground for children who attend St Joseph's primary school. The Archdiocese appealed to VCAT against Council's refusal to issue a permit. On 4 September 2012, VCAT released its decision, ruling that Council's decision be upheld.

VCAT member Vicki Davies said she agreed that the church had not been changed beyond recognition by the fire and that demolishing the church would be contrary to the local planning policy aim to 'generally encourage the retention of a building in a heritage place'.

"Ultimately I consider that the net community benefit lies in not allowing the proposal. The provision of additional school playground area, as part of a Master Plan for the parish complex, would be at the expense of the loss of a significant heritage assest for future generations," Ms Davies said.

The VCAT decision regarding St Joseph's Church is available on the Australasian Legal Information Institute website.


The Archdiocese’s proposal was to demolish the majority of the Otter Street building but to retain the bell tower and a short length of wall to the south. The Archdiocese’s intention was to use this space for a playground for children who attend St Joseph's primary school.

In 2009, the Catholic Education Office applied to the Minister for Planning for permission to construct a new library on an existing playground on the site. The Catholic Education Office also asked the Minister to approve the demolition of the church building.

Council and the community were keen to see the church building retained. Council applied to Heritage Victoria for an interim protection order to be placed on the building, and for the building to be included on the State Heritage Register. Heritage Victoria declined both requests, noting that the Church building had been determined by several studies to be of local significance but a case had not been made that it was of state significance.

The Minister for Planning provided permission for the library to be constructed. However, the Minister did not approve the demolition of the church building, advising the Catholic Education Office that if it wished to pursue the demolition of the building, it must go through the normal planning process by making an application to Council.

Planning application documents

Here are the documents submitted by the Archdiocese as part of its application for a permit to demolish the church building:

pdf format Plans (1.60MB)
pdf format Town planning report (498.24kB)
pdf format Assessment of heritage impacts (691.31kB)
pdf format Structural report (538.97kB)

Further information
John Theodosakis
Senior Statutory Planner
9205 5373




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