Kiln’s future secured

A photo of the kiln from the Victorian Heritage Database. 187984_03

By Shelby Brooks

Officer’s historical kiln has been saved after VCAT upheld the ruling Cardinia Shire Council made about the future of the site back in September 2020.

Timbertop Estate had wanted to turn the James Hicks Pottery site on the Princes Highway Officer into two subdivisions, which Cardinia Shire councillors had unanimously voted against.

The site sits within a Heritage Overlay and contains a brick kiln, chimney and clay pit dating back to the 1880s.

In September 2020, the two-lot subdivision at Cotswold Crescent in Officer was rejected unanimously by councillors.

At the time, Ranges Ward councillor Brett Owen, now Mayor, 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.”

In a VCAT hearing held on 14 June 2021, the tribunal upheld the refusal.

“Rather than conserving the setting and the existing fabric of the heritage place, the proposed subdivision will adversely affect the significance of the place by inserting a lot between the kiln and the former clay pit, on which a development would then be undertaken that disrupts the existing visual links between the two associated parts of the heritage place,” the ruling read.

“While the former clay pit’s association with the kiln may not be readily apparent to the casual observer, that is capable of being addressed using interpretative methods that form part of a conservation management plan for the heritage place.

“In conjunction with my concerns outlined above, the proposed smaller lot, considered in conjunction with any future development on the larger lot, will diminish the prominence of the kiln.”

Cardinia Shire Council Policy area planning acting manager Keira Lee said council had refused to grant the permit because the proposal did not meet the heritage overlay requirements by not ensuring appropriate setting or context for the site, does not conserve or enhance the site and will adversely affect the significant of the site.

“These interrelated heritage elements have historical significance for their association with the Hicks family and the origins and development of the important district brick, pipe and pottery industries,” Ms Lee said.

“The proposal did not include demolition, restoration or other works to the kiln.”

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.