|M.Sc Student||Pellach Cygal|
|Subject||Conflicts over Preservation of the Built Heritage in the|
State of Victoria, Australia: Analysis of the
Decisions of the Civil and
Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisor||Professor Emeritus Rachelle Alterman|
|Full Thesis text|
The preservation of built heritage is a conflict-laden issue in urban planning policy and decision-making. This is not surprising: In the absence of clear and consistent norms, the answers to questions of what is considered worthy of preservation, how and why, are based on social and cultural values. The rationale for preservation is most frequently based on a mix of aesthetics, ideologies or particular historic narratives. Dealing with the resulting conflicts can therefore be challenging for judicial bodies; particularly given the lack of measurable criteria in resolving the issues, as compared with other decisions in urban planning.
There is currently very little knowledge about how conflicts in heritage preservation are resolved by the relevant judicial or quasi-judicial bodies. Given that conflicts are an irremovable aspect of planning and heritage preservation, research into how they have been - and continue to be - dealt with is required in order to assist with future decision and policy-making. Planning tribunals provide for specialized, first-instance appeals of planning decisions in a quasi-judicial environment (Mualam, 2014a; 2014b). As such, they are an important subject of such research.
The research involves an analysis of heritage-related decisions of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). It builds on a recent dissertation by Mualam (2012, under the same supervisor as this thesis), which explored the decisions of tribunals in three jurisdictions - Oregon, USA; Israel and England. While our research stands on its own, as a study of the conflicts arising within Victoria, it also contributes a fourth jurisdiction to the previous comparative research and broadens the potential learning that can be extracted from the overall study of preservation conflicts.
The research is grounded in the theoretical framework developed in the context of a PhD dissertation by Nir Mualam, also under the supervision of Rachelle Alterman (Mualam, 2012). Our own empirical methodology involves the content analysis of appeal decisions to identify key factual attributes and relevant dimensions of conflict - architecture, planning, social, economic development issues, property rights and environment. Following the content analysis, we investigate possible explanatory factors for the outcomes of the appeals. Finally, we integrate our results into the cross-national comparative analysis.
Our results highlight a number of features of VCAT heritage decisions: VCAT frequently approves significant changes to heritage properties and overall, appears to value development above preservation objectives. The Tribunal regularly expresses positions from the architecture and planning dimensions and intervenes in the architectural assessments made by local authorities. Moreover, it addresses the social, property and economic development dimensions infrequently and in a sense, superficially. These findings are accentuated when viewed on a cross-national comparative scale.
The findings from this study may be useful for scholars of planning theory, planning practitioners, planning tribunals and those seeking to enhance preservation outcomes.