Restoration Advice

Heritage-HousesCouncil provides a free advisory service to owners of all historic buildings in the municipality at its planning counter at Richmond Town Hall.  It is recommended that you discuss your proposed project with a Council Planner prior to lodging an application for a planning permit or commencing works.

For buildings subject to the Heritage Overlay, Clause 43.01 of the Yarra Planning Scheme states that a planning permit is required for works such as painting, removal or construction of fences, installation of signage and restoration of other building elements such as doors, windows and verandas.

Clause 43.01 can be viewed here:

 pdf format Heritage Overlay Clause 43.01 (53.57kB)


In some cases a planning permit is required to paint the surface of a heritage building which has previously been unpainted, this includes rendering and sandblasting of external surfaces. In some areas a planning permit will be required to paint a building, even if it has been previously painted.  You must check the Schedule to Clause 43.01, Yarra Planning Scheme to determine if your property has external paint controls.

The historic streetscapes throughout Yarra are highly valued by the City’s residents and visitors. The use of a traditional or heritage colour scheme can greatly improve the appearance of a building. Historically, placement and colour combinations were designed to enhance and highlight the features of architectural style. The use of appropriate colours helps to restore and maintain the character of original period buildings.

Unless it is the main goal, exact replication of the original colours is not usually necessary. To achieve this it is best to seek expert advice.

Most paint manufacturers produce "heritage" colour charts, which include the deep and rich colours found in Victorian and Edwardian colour schemes.

Choosing a colour scheme to give an overall correct design effect is generally more important than precise colour matching.

Acrylic paint is appropriate for heritage buildings, since it is more porous than oil-paint and allows organic (timber) material to breathe.

If you wish to repaint your building in its original colour scheme a little research will help you select appropriate colours.  First you will need to determine the date and architectural style of your building.
You can also determine the earliest paint colours and their configuration or if the building was painted in the first place. This can be done by conducting paint scrapes or through early photographs or illustrations (even black and white photographs and water colours may hint at early colour schemes or at least their configuration).


For some heritage buildings a planning permit is required to remove or construct a new fence.

Fences and gates form an integral, yet fragile contextual component of the City's historic streetscapes. Given that the majority of original fences have disappeared over the years the conservation of original historic fences and gates is strongly encouraged. Where the original fence has disappeared, the reinstatement of fencing of an appropriate historic style is strongly encouraged.

In cases where an original fence exists, Council strongly supports the retention of as much of the fence as possible and the replacement of only those parts which are unsound. 

Front fences should maintain the approach used in traditional fencing. Fencing that allows some visual transparency should be used in preference to solid fencing. Generally, fence heights should not exceed 1.2 metres and fencing should be of a design that compliments that of the building.

Exact historical replication of fences is not usually necessary unless it is the main objective. To achieve this it is best to seek expert advice.


For some heritage buildings a planning permit is required to display a sign.

Council believes that well designed and placed signage can play a positive role in the built environment.  Signs can enhance the visual amenity of the area and add vitality to retail strips.  Excessive numbers of signs or poorly designed and placed signs detract from the heritage character of a building and its street. 

Signage should be limited in size and well placed to ensure that the signage does not dominate the building or the street and does not obscure heritage features of a building.  These new signs should be small and restrained in design and should not be internally illuminated. 

In some instances buildings have existing original heritage signs or advertising features which remind the community of the former use of the site, where original signs exist they should be conserved and enhanced.

Signs should take advantage of the proportions of the host building and be designed to complement it. 

Restoring lost building elements (including doors, windows and verandahs)

In some cases a planning permit is required to externally alter a building (including fitting new doors and windows, or constructing a verandah).

Council strongly recommends that you discuss the planning permit requirements of making external alterations to a building with the Statutory Planning Department prior to undertaking any works.

Doors and windows

Retaining original door and window panels and fittings to an historic building is critical to that building's architectural identity or style. Original door panels, architraves, windows and fittings are always better than a contemporary manufactured version, as today's manufacturers do not always accurately reproduce designs and details from the period between 1850 and 1940.

If replacement is necessary, try to match the original as accurately as possible. Salvage yards and second hand building suppliers often stock second-hand reconditioned windows and door fittings and some can even supply you with feature elements such as fan lights and Edwardian bay windows.

Council supports the sensitive replacement of doors and windows where proof of their existence can be proven see the Sensitive Reconstruction section below for detail on how to replace lost building elements.

Verandahs and other elements

Houses and shops constructed between 1850 and 1940 typically had verandahs of post and lintel construction. Depending on the nature of the house or shop they could be elaborately detailed or very simple.  In the early twentieth century, retail strips removed post and lintel verandahs and replaced these with cantilevered structures.

Other elements such as friezes, balustrades, parapets, urns and finials may also have been removed from a building. 

Council supports the sensitive replacement of verandahs and other elements where their previous existence can be proven - see the following Sensitive Reconstruction section below for detail on how to replace lost building elements.

Sensitive reconstruction

Reinstatement of lost elements should be guided by documentary evidence such as photographs or original drawings.

The first step is to examine the building itself.  With close observation, there may be many historical "clues" in the building fabric itself.  Compare your building with others that are similar in your local area. Such investigation may reveal its former external appearance.  Close examination of external walls may show trace outlines (or "shadows") of former adjoining buildings or demolished elements such as rooms or stairs.

The second step is to visit local history organisations, as they have excellent collections of historical photographs, some of which can be photocopied by the public (this is particularly relevant if the property is on a main street).

The Latrobe Picture Collection at the State Library of Victoria also holds a large collection of historical topographical photographs arranged by suburbs, some of which can be viewed at the Picture Australia website.

The third step is to talk to your neighbours.  Previous owners and neighbours can provide information on changes made to your property and they may have photographs of your site which can be used to obtain information on the elements removed from our building.

In circumstances where not enough evidence is available to allow for the accurate reinstatement of lost elements Council advises that the replacement element should be consistent with the architectural integrity of the main building and may be contemporary.


Further information
Statutory Planning Branch
9205 5373

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