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Clean up or pay up: Vic gov’t delivers ultimatum for Nylex site developers

Heritage Victoria has issued the developers of Cremorne’s The Malt District – home to the historic Nylex clock – with a 21-day ultimatum to clean up the deteriorating site or face fines.

A proposal for a 1,000-dwelling precinct at the heritage-listed site, designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects and Oculus, was given the all clear in January 2018, when the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruled in the developer’s favour following a string of rejections from Heritage Victoria and the City of Yarra.

Inspections of the site by Heritage Victoria, City of Yarra, Victoria Police and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade have, however, since shown the site has been poorly secured, and damaged by vandals, according to a statement from the government.

The site has suffered two separate fires, one on 24 November 2017 and another on 24 July 2018, both reportedly suspicious, which caused significant damage to two heritage buildings.

“It is extremely disappointing that fires and numerous acts of vandalism have led to damage to a heritage place of state significance,” said Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery. “Failure to secure this site will lead to significant fines.”

The Heritage Act 2017 requires that owners must not allow heritage places to fall into disrepair.

The developer, Caydon Property Group, could face fines of up to $773,000 if it does not address the “ongoing neglect, arson and fires that have damaged the historic site” by 24 August.

Located on the Yarra River, the former Barrett Burston Richmond Maltings site is listed on the Victorian heritage register for its significance as the oldest surviving independent sale malting site in Australia. It was initially developed as a brewing and malting site in the 1850s and 60s but by 1879 brewing entirely gave way to malting.

The famous Nylex clock, which sits atop the malting silos, is also listed on the heritage register.

After rejecting the development, dubbed The Malt District, in 2016 due to its high-yield nature and lack of positive heritage outcomes, Heritage Victoria gave a revised proposal the tick of approval in March 2017.

“Activation and opening up of the site will enable a greater public benefit and ability to tell the industrial and social story of the precinct to Melbourne’s development history,” the heritage body noted at the time.

“Retention of over 50 percent of the 1962 silos (as presented in the Caydon revised scheme) is a significant improvement on the original Stage 2 proposal that included their total demolition and replacement by new buildings.”

The City of Yarra rejected a planning application for stage two of the development in June 2017, before VCAT overruled that decision on 22 January 2018, noting “the concerns raised by the objectors in addition to those raised by the council […] do not warrant either a refusal of the application or significant changes to it.”

According to the directions issued to Caydon Property Group, it will have until 24 August to: repair and secure all boundary fencing to block trespassers; secure all external doors and windows to protect from weather; secure all stairs, ladders and gantry walkways to prevent unauthorized access; and carry out other works needed to protect from trespassers, vandalism and fire.

“It is outrageous that this important site has been allowed to deteriorate and that’s why Heritage Victoria has taken action,” planning mister Richard Wynne said.

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