Save Pentridge heritage

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[By Martin Smith]  Over 100 protesters gathered outside the former Pentridge Prison on 16 January to say NO to the planned 19-storey residential Pentridge tower.  

A plan to build a 19-storey apartment complex within the walls of the former Pentridge Prison was lodged over the Christmas vacation period.  The proposed residential tower will totally dominate and overshadow the guards’ watchtower.  It will also be the tallest building in Moreland. This would set a precedent for the height of buildings in central Coburg.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe permit application for the 19-storey building was lodged with Heritage Victoria just before Christmas with a 30 December deadline for public submissions. Following a large number of objections, Heritage Victoria has extended the deadline until the end of January.

Speakers at the rally, Moreland North-East ward councillor Sue Bolton, Wills MP Kelvin Thomson, Prof. Michael Hamel-Green (campaigner to preserve Pentridge Heritage) and Felicity Watson (National Trust) referred to the ongoing destruction of the Pentridge Prison social heritage, noting that:

~ Promises to preserve Pentridge’s heritage have not been kept.  H Division was decimated in 2014, holes have been made in the perimeter wall for car entrances, the promised museum of Pentridge’s social history was not established.

~ The proposed tower will have adverse effects on nearby residents including erosion of lifestyle and amenity

~ The destruction of Pentridge’s social heritage has significance not just for the people of Coburg but also for all other Victorians in a similar manner to the state-wide significance of Port Arthur in Tasmania

~ Heritage experts, including the National Trust, have called for limits on building heights to ensure they do not rise above Pentridge’s existing historic fabric

~ The destruction of the social history of Pentridge also has national significance. Coburg and Brunswick were the epicentre of national opposition to conscription during World War 1.  John Curtin, later to become prime minister, was jailed in Pentridge for opposing conscription.  Similarly, others opposed to conscription have been jailed there, including Adela Pankhurst of the famous Pankhurst family.  Up to 1955, Pentridge was also the main women’s prison in Victoria.

~ Much of the social heritage of Pentridge, including significant indigenous heritage, has not been documented and will be lost forever as the destruction of Pentridge’s social heritage proceeds. There are several murals which were painted by Aboriginal prisoners which are not being preserved in any way. One is by prominent Aboriginal artist, the late Ronald Ball from Lake Tyers.

~ The tower proposal and the manner it was introduced just prior to Christmas has resulted in a number of local groups joining forces to oppose the destruction of Pentridge’s heritage and over-development in central Coburg.

~ Residents of the area have limited means of knowing what the is going on due to the very narrow requirements on Heritage Victoria to advise or disseminate information.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn view of the lack of information provided by the government or Heritage Victoria, Sue Bolton advised that a public meeting would be called to discuss what social heritage of Pentridge has been lost, what remains and what we jointly want to call for from the state government, developers and Moreland Council.

Details of the meeting will be distributed as widely as possible to all those opposed to the development proposals and the ongoing destruction of Pentridge’s heritage.

In the meantime, attendees were urged to flood Heritage Victoria outlining their objections to the development.

Objections can be made to Heritage Victoria until the end of January.  Send to <heritage.permits@delwp.vic.gov.au> or PO Box 500, Melbourne Vic 8002.  The permit apllication numbers are: Permit Application VHR1551 HM Prison Pentridge and Permit Application P224644 to construct a residential apartment complex within a 19-storey and 9-storey plus associated works.

For information: Sue Bolton 0417 583 664 or <sbolton@moreland.vic.gov.au