By Kevin Biaggini
Banyule City Council held their fortnightly meeting Monday, June 6th. One of the items up for discussion was the submission of Banyule Council to Heritage Victoria relating to the application to subdivide the grounds of Banyule Homestead and build three ( 3 ) two-storey villas. Sounds obscene, doesn’t it?
There were 60 members of the public in attendance and they all looked pretty fired up. One of the reasons for the numbers was Max Congdon, a resident in the street where the Homestead is located. This man was tireless, no computer, not belonging to any political or active group, door-knocked, rang dropped leaflets at 300 places, spoke with the council officers, councilors, Heritage Victoria, the Planning Minister’s Office.
He was the one who did the most work on the ground. His heart was in the trim. At start of General Business the first item to be mentioned was the Banyule Homestead. This in General Business! Then another person broached the subject of the Homestead, upbraided the council for virtual dereliction of duty to the citizens of Banyule. He told them that they should get their act together on this matter, reminded them that too many fine old mansions had been allowed to expire in the hands of developers and it was time to call a halt.
This guy actually spoke twice during General Busines on this one issue, and the time limit for General Business had to be extended for another 15 minutes. Also, the issue of the Homestead was brought forward, probably to get it over and done with and out of the council’s hair. I spoke, then Dennis O’Connell (Secretary of Friends of Banyule) gave his submission plus two other people.
The best on the night was the President of Heidelberg Historical Society. This man was very eloquent and forceful in his argument. He brought along and showed some impressive photographs that showed how the Homestead was, is and will be if the proposal succeeds. He also informed the Council that the three villas would be sold with the view of Banyule Flats as a major attraction-so how could they be unobtrusive in the grounds of the Homestead?
I have mentioned Max Congdon and his excellent work, the President of the Historical Society, Dennis O’Connell and his submission to Heritage Victoria, all others who rang, wrote, composed and door-knocked, leafleted, etc. It’s a group effort, a community effort that gets the hard yards done. The public gallery was so full that extra chairs had to be dragged out and the people were vocal, every speaker got good applause. After all was submitted , Councilor Tom Melican, the good man, proposed an amendment to the submission of the council to Heritage Victoria, one that placated the people present. All Councilors then spoke for the amendment, with heartfelt feelings expressed for the future integrity of the Homestead and the peace of mind of the public on this sensitive topic. The amendment was passed unanimously, and we all left very happy. High praise to the Council for having the wits to see that this issue is one that will be closely watched by people of Banyule, the groups who hold Banyule dear and the ordinary residents who know a wrong thing when they see it and are willing to protest about it. It’s good to get a win. This issue will be fought over again with Heritage Victoria or VCAT or both. Banyule Homestead needs to have its grounds kept as they are. The building as well as the grounds make up the Homestead proper. Banyule Flats deserves to have Banyule Homestead in its original state. Anything else would be desecration.