Save Pentridge Prison's social heritage

Issue 
Protesters gather outside the former Pentridge Prison on January 16.

Protesters gathered outside the former Pentridge Prison on January 16 to say “no” to the planned residential Pentridge tower.

A plan to build a 19-storey apartment complex within the walls of the former Pentridge Prison was lodged over the Christmas period. The proposed residential tower will totally dominate and overshadow the guards' watchtower.

It will also be the tallest building in Moreland. This would set a precedent for no limits on the height of buildings in central Coburg.

Protesters gathered outside the former Pentridge Prison on January 16 to say “no” to the planned residential Pentridge tower.

A plan to build a 19-storey apartment complex within the walls of the former Pentridge Prison was lodged over the Christmas period. The proposed residential tower will totally dominate and overshadow the guards' watchtower.

It will also be the tallest building in Moreland. This would set a precedent for no limits on the height of buildings in central Coburg.

The permit application for the building was lodged with Heritage Victoria just before Christmas with a December 30 deadline for public submissions. Following protest, Heritage Victoria extended the deadline until the end of January.

Speakers at the rally included Moreland North-East ward councillor Sue Bolton, Wills MP Kelvin Thomson, Professor Michael Hamel-Green, a campaigner to preserve Pentridge Heritage, and Felicity Watson, from the National Trust.

Speakers referred to the ongoing destruction of the Pentridge Prison social heritage, noting that promises to preserve Pentridge's heritage have not been kept.

H Division was destroyed in 2014, holes have been made in the perimeter wall for car entrances and the promised museum of Pentridge's social history was not established.

The proposed tower will have adverse effects on nearby residents including erosion of lifestyle, amenity and property values. Pentridge's social heritage has significance not just for the people of Coburg but also for all Victorians, just as Port Arthur has significance for Tasmanians.

The destruction of the social history of Pentridge also has national significance.

Coburg and Brunswick were the epicentre of national opposition to conscription during World War 1. John Curtin, later to become prime minister, was jailed in Pentridge for opposing conscription. Others opposed to conscription were also jailed there, including Adela Pankhurst of the famous Pankhurst family. Up to 1955 Pentridge was also the main women's prison in Victoria.

Much of the social heritage of Pentridge, including significant Aboriginal heritage, has not been documented and will be lost forever if the destruction of Pentridge proceeds.

The tower proposal, and the manner it was introduced just prior to Christmas, has resulted in a number of local groups joining forces to oppose the destruction of Pentridge and over-development in central Coburg.

Residents in the area have limited means of knowing what is going on due to the very narrow requirements on Heritage Victoria to advise or disseminate information.

Bolton said in view of the lack of information provided by the government or Heritage Victoria, a public meeting would be called to discuss what social heritage of Pentridge has been lost, what remains and what should be called for from the state government, developers and Moreland Council.

In the meantime, attendees were urged to flood Heritage Victoria with messages outlining their objections to the development.

[Objections can be sent to or posted to PO Box 500, Melbourne Vic 8002. The permit application numbers are: Permit Application VHR1551 HM Prison Pentridge and Permit Application P224644 to construct a residential apartment complex within a 19-storey and 9-storey plus associated works.]

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