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PostPosted: 06 May 2014, 01:25 
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Naomi Milgrom wins legal battle to demolish heritage houses
April 25, 2014
Cameron Houston

Victoria’s wealthiest woman Naomi Milgrom has won a legal battle in the state’s appeals tribunal, which approved her contentious plan to demolish two heritage-protected houses and expand the grounds of her sprawling Middle Park mansion.
In a blow to neighbouring residents and the local council, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has allowed the Sussan Group owner to remove the protected Edwardian houses to make way for a greenhouse, garden and pergola.
"We’re not allowed to paint our fence a different colour, but she’s allowed to knock down two buildings. This is preposterous," said neighbour Anne Browne, who opposed the plan in VCAT.
Ms Browne, who has lived in Middle Park for 14 years, said VCAT had been hijacked by wealthy property owners with access to expensive legal advice and heritage consultants.
"It [VCAT] was set up for the little man to represent themselves, but too often, it’s Queen’s Counsel going head-to-head,’’ she said.

Ms Milgrom, who is worth an estimated $430 million, purchased the former Danish Club on Beaconsfield Parade for $12 million in 2009 and spent several years restoring the Italianate mansion. She later paid about $4 million for the adjoining Mills Street terraces, which were part of the original Hughenden estate built by wealthy real estate agent John Robert Buxton in 1890. After Port Phillip council failed to issue a demolition permit within the 60-day deadline, Ms Milgrom’s lawyers launched legal proceedings. VCAT ruled the heritage benefits of returning the estate to its former condition outweighed the loss of the two Edwardian houses. But in a concession to neighbours, VCAT blocked plans by the millionaire retailer to ring the property with a ‘‘fortress-like’’ fence up to four metres high along the Ashworth Street boundary.

Port Phillip council is believed to be considering a Supreme Court appeal to the ruling, which could weaken heritage protection in the area.
"We’re disappointed with the outcome as council policy does not support the demolition of two significant heritage buildings. Council has not yet decided if it will appeal," Mayor Amanda Steven said.

But Middle Park resident, David Mulhall, was satisfied with the VCAT outcome, despite his opposition.
"I think Port Phillip council put forward a compelling defence, and VCAT applied, quite properly, the heritage overlays of the local planning scheme,"’ Mr Mulhall said.
He said he was most concerned about the height and character of the proposed fence, which VCAT agreed to reduce to twometres.

Ms Milgrom, daughter of billionaire construction magnate Marc Besen, is an avid contemporary art collector and patron of the National Gallery of Victoria. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Ms Milgrom took action in VCAT just three years ago against the former owner of the adjoining Edwardian house at 179 Mills Street, who planned to renovate the residence. Lawyers for Ms Milgrom claimed the second-storey extension would encroach on her privacy and the neighbour agreed to frost windows that overlooked the property. Ms Milgrom subsequently purchased the house, which is now earmarked for demolition.

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