Protection a burden?

Freemasons Victoria has urged reconsideration of a heritage overlay at Woodend Masonic Lodge.

Proposed heritage overlays could be too great a burden on not-for-profit organisations, Macedon Ranges Shire Council has heard.

Freemasons Victoria and the Coptic Orthodox Church have urged reconsideration of overlays at Woodend Masonic Lodge and Campaspe House respectively as the council deliberates its latest amendment to the heritage study.

Representing Freemasons, Andrew Baird said a heritage overlay would have significant financial impact and limit the organisation’s charitable works in the Macedon Ranges.

“The current proposal restricts our ability to survive in this location, we fear this may be the final straw for Freemasonry in Woodend,” he said.

Mr Baird said Freemasons Victoria had faced four new heritage overlays in the past two years at different sites around Victoria.

He said Freemasons had a further 20-30 buildings with overlays that demonstrated the struggle to maintain them.

“The increased cost, time and reduction in land use options ultimately led to dilapidated and unused buildings,” he said.

“Individual Freemasonry members have neither the technical knowledge, financial opportunity nor skills to adequately deal with council and heritage development planning processes… Very simply, it’s a real strain on organisations.”

The 1926 lodge at 35 Forest Street was noted in the heritage study for its “demonstration of the importance of freemasonry in the life of country towns, particularly after WWI”.

“It displays typical characteristics of a masonic hall from this period… including a gabled hall-like form, an unadorned red brick exterior, and the incorporation of simple classical detailing and masonic symbols,” the study states.

Gisborne and Kyneton masonic halls are also included in the Heritage Overlay of the Macedon Ranges Shire Planning Scheme.
Woodend’s Campaspe House is also listed as an addition to the heritage study with an overlay planned for the entire 29 Goldies Lane property.

Noted for its 1927 inter-war period house and remnants of Edna Walling designed gardens, since 2017 it has been the home to nuns of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Trustee of the Coptic Orthodox Church Property Trust, Father Daniel Ghabrial, said the church understood the importance of heritage but was seeking to reduce the size of the overlay.

“A drop in value on the Woodend property due to a heritage overlay would cause significant hardships for the church and monastery and may jeopardise its future,” Fr Ghabrial said.

“It’s a not-for-profit organisation that lives on goodwill donations for its functioning and to service the substantial mortgage on the property.”

Fr Ghabrial said an overlay was planned for the property’s entire seven hectares but the report stated that only the main house and garden were of interest.

He argued the decision to include the entire property was based on poor quality data: old photos and poor aerial views.

He said a council representative was yet to visit the property and it should be considered as it stood today.

The council has arranged a date to meet with the owners of Campaspe House.

All submissions to the heritage study amendment will be considered before the council makes its final decision on the document.