By Mitchell Clarke
A controversial planning application to subdivide a heritage listed site in Officer has been unanimously rejected by Cardinia Shire Council.
Development giant Parklea applied to subdivide the iconic James Hicks Pottery site into two lots.
The site, which holds historical significance dating back to the 1880s, contains a brick kiln, chimney and clay pit.
According to the Officer Precinct Structure Plan (PSP), the kiln, chimney and clay pit’s “heritage values” and “regional significance” to the community must be protected, and the council found the proposal failed to address a number of requirements.
Ranges Ward councillor Brett Owen described the application as “trying to subdivide the site by basically carving off most of the land and leaving just the kiln”.
He said it was “so disappointing this application is before us”.
“We know this is one of the last remaining historic sites in Officer and it is so important that we see this kiln saved, restored and celebrated,” Cr Owen explained.
“This applicant is further dwindling the land around it, which will in my opinion, make it almost impossible to achieve that ultimate goal of protecting, preserving and celebrating.”
Fellow Ranges Ward councillor Leticia Wilmot echoed a similar sentiment.
She said it was “incredibly important” to save the site, and added it was a “special place” for the community.
“Once they’re gone, they’re gone. You can’t rebuild a heritage site. You might build something similar but it doesn’t have the history and it doesn’t have the feel,” she said.
“This is an important site and it would be a great shame to lose this wonderful asset, not just for the Officer community, but the whole of the Cardinia Shire community.
“It would be wrong. To carve up this allotment would absolutely seal the fate for this building and that would be a real tragedy.”
As reported by the Gazette in November 2018, the heritage listed kiln was destroyed during a storm, which ripped off the tin roof and metal structure surrounding the chimney.
“When this site was first taken over by the developer, it was promised that this site would be looked after,” Central Ward councillor Jodie Owen said.
“In that time, we saw a horrible storm go through and take the roof off and then we’ve seen demolition by neglect.”
The councillors urged the developer to recommence conversations in a bid to work out a way to save the historic site.
Parklea was contacted for comment.