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State and local government have different responsibilities for heritage

Local councils are responsible for local heritage and locally significant heritage places. The State government – Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council of Victoria – are responsible for state heritage and historical archaeology.

Locally significant heritage places are listed in the heritage overlay of the local planning scheme and are protected under the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

Local councils

Councils are responsible for:

  • making recommendations about what to include in the heritage overlay
  • making decisions about changes to places on the heritage overlay.

Heritage Victoria

Heritage Victoria is responsible for the most important historic heritage sites in Victoria. This includes state significant heritage places, which are included in the Victorian Heritage Register, historical archaeological sites, and shipwrecks. Heritage Victoria regulates the Heritage Act 2017.

Their role includes:

They also distribute grants for eligible places on the register.

Heritage Victoria makes decisions about changes to World Heritage and National Heritage listed properties in Victoria.

Heritage Victoria does not own or manage heritage properties.

Heritage Council of Victoria

The Heritage Council of Victoria is an independent statutory authority established under the Heritage Act.

It has different responsibilities to Heritage Victoria. The Heritage Council decides what to include in the Victorian Heritage Register. They are the review body for permit and consent decisions made by Heritage Victoria.

First Peoples – State Relations

First Peoples – State Relations, together with Traditional Owners and the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, are responsible for Aboriginal cultural heritage in Victoria.

Find out more about First Peoples - State Relations

Heritage overlays

Places with heritage significance to a local area can be protected by a heritage overlay. A heritage overlay is part of a local planning scheme.

The rules for places included in the heritage overlay, and a list of those places, is set out in Clause 43.01 of each planning scheme. The list of places is known as the ‘Schedule to the Heritage Overlay’.

Councils are responsible for issuing planning permits for changes to local heritage places.

The schedule to the heritage overlay might also include state significant places. If a place in the schedule is also in the Victorian Heritage Register, you will need an approval from Heritage Victoria.

Find your local planning scheme

Heritage overlay resources for councils

Planning Practice Note 1: Applying the heritage overlay helps local councils use and apply the heritage overlay.

This includes advice on:

  • what places should be included in the overlay
  • what criteria to use to assess significance
  • writing statements of significance
  • drafting the Schedule to the heritage overlay.

Identifying locally significant heritage places

Local councils are responsible for protecting places with local heritage significance. Section 4 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 obliges councils to use their planning schemes to conserve and enhance buildings, areas or other places of local heritage significance.

Most local heritage places are identified through a heritage study, prepared by a heritage consultant. Usually the community and local historical societies are invited to nominate places of potential heritage significance. These places are then assessed to determine whether they are of local heritage significance.

Completed heritage studies can often be found in local libraries or at the office of your local council. You can also inspect copies at the Victorian Government Library Service.

Process for preparing a heritage study

Councils are responsible for conducing and implementing strategic work to identify and protect places of local heritage significance. This is consistent with s 4(1)(d) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, which makes it an objective of that Act ‘to conserve and enhance those buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value’.

The heritage study will usually be prepared on a geographical basis (eg municipal wide or suburb) or by a theme (eg Art Deco or Modernist buildings) and considers precinct and numerous heritage places.

The heritage study will usually include an assessment report or citation for each place. This will include a history and description of the place, its heritage values, its condition and integrity, and a statement of significance. Statements of significance should be prepared in accordance with the DELWP template at Appendix A of the Heritage Overlay Practice Note.

The statement of significance is a key part of the citation. This identifies what is important, why it is important, and how it is significant. It should clearly explain how the heritage place meets one or more of the recognized heritage criteria, consistent with the Heritage Overlay Practice Note.

Amending the planning scheme

The findings and recommendations of the heritage study should be formally endorsed by Council prior to commencing the amendment process.

The planning scheme amendment for local heritage will generally involve changes to the Schedule to Clause 43.01 (Heritage Overlay), planning scheme maps, and the Schedule to Clause 72.04 to specify a statement of significance or heritage design guidelines.

Requesting an interim heritage overlay

If a site does not have heritage protection, Council can request the Minister applies an interim heritage overlay.

An interim heritage overlay means:

  • the place or precinct is temporarily included in the Heritage Overlay
  • council will assess whether it should be included in the Heritage Overlay on an ongoing basis.

Councils can prevent the demolition of important buildings until the assessment is complete.

Page last updated: 01/01/24


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