Munro Street Signal Box under threat

The Munro Street Signal Box, constructed in 1928, is under threat of demolition by the Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP).

Heritage Victoria have placed an interim protection order on this building and other infrastructure requiring LXRP to apply for permission for the demolition of this infrastructure.

Moreland Council at it’s meeting on 14 August noted in a motion, passed unanimously,

“that in response to Heritage Victoria’s Interim Protection Order along the Upfield Railway Line Precinct, Heritage Victoria have today advertised receipt of an application from the Level Crossing Removal Authority (P31530 for a permit to demolish the Munro Street Signal Box) and the Coburg Brick Signal Box with submissions due by Wednesday 28 August 2019.”

Council has requested an independant heritage assessment and will consider this at a special Council Meeting on Thursday 22 August for a formal submission by Council to Heritage Victoria.

LXRP supporting documments requesting the demolition permit are listed at Heritage Victoria current permits webpage. Submissions close 28 August.

The site is located within the following heritage overlay:
• HO180 (Precinct – Upfield Railway Line Precinct)
• The site is included on the Victorian Heritage Register under the Heritage Act 2017 (Ref No H0952)

See Heritage Victoria significance, Moreland City significance, National Trust significance.

The statement of significance for the site states:

What is significant?
The Upfield Railway Line Precinct comprises the Jewell, Brunswick, Moreland and Coburg Railway Stations, and other buildings, structures, gates and signals between Park Street, Brunswick and Coburg Railway Station, Coburg.

The heritage place includes:
The four stations from Park Street to Coburg Station, the gatekeepers’ cabins and gates, signal boxes, footbridges and other railway structures. These are mapped by the Heritage Council of Victoria as part of the State Heritage listing of the precinct.

How is it significant?

The Railway Precinct is of state historical, technological, architectural and social significance. The group of railway structures-which includes stations, gatekeepers’ cabins and gates, signalling equipment and a footbridge provides remarkably intact evidence of the technology and architecture of a late 19th and early 20th century railway system, and retains elements now rare or unique within the metropolitan area. The inter-relationship of these structures results in an entity-the Upfield line as a whole-which is of greater significance than its individual parts. The Precinct remains a lively, vital linear element in the fabric of the City of Moreland.

Why is it significant?

The Upfield Railway Line Precinct is of state historical significance as a rare and remarkably intact section of Melbourne’s metropolitan railway system from the late 19th and early 20th century, which was an important component of city development and city life during that period and afterward.

The Upfield Railway Line Precinct is of state technical and architectural significance because while most suburban lines have been modified and updated, the Upfield line retains a unique collection of hand and wheel operated railway gates, and their associated buildings and installations, reflecting a safe working procedure more typical of the nineteenth rather than the twentieth century. These include the biggest group of hand operated gates and gate-keepers cabins in Victoria. The original stations on the line – Jewell (originally South Brunswick), Brunswick, Moreland and Coburg – are built of brick in a late Victorian Gothic style to a similar, standard plan. Although other examples of the plan exist (eg Maldon) this grouping of four in such close proximity is unique adding a cohesion to the precinct.

The Upfield Railway Line Precinct is of state social significance as a lively, vital linear element in the fabric of the City of Moreland.

The National Trust citation includes: “The classified precinct is from Park Street to Coburg Station and includes the four stations, as well as gates, gate houses, signal boxes, foot bridges and other railway structures.”

The Munro Street Signal box is of clear heritage significance and contributes to the state and national significance of the Upfield line heritage features.

In the LXRP Reasonable-and-Economic-Use-Statement-a document a cross section is provided of the rail viduct at Munro Street Signal Box. LXRP advocate three solutions:

  • Demolition of the Signal Box (estimated to cost $100,000-250,000)
  • Raising the height of the rail viaduct (estimated cost at $9 -10M)
  • Relocation of the signal box. (estimated cost $8 -10M)
Rail viaduct cross section at Munro Street Signal Box. Source: LXRP

There are no details supplied of the full rail viaduct design, placement of piers and crossheads. The community is being kept in the dark and being asked to make submissions when we do not have all the information available.

Perhaps the pier can be moved north of the signal box to resolve the conflict?
or south of the Signal Box?
Or move the rail viaduct slightly east to eliminate the conflict?

Without detailed viaduct plans the community can’t judge what knock on effects these alternative solutions might provide, or why they are being ruled out altogether by LXRP.

The LXRP concludes:

The significant additional financial outlay in avoiding or relocating the Munro Street Signal Box is not considered beneficial to either the State or local community as the signal box does not clearly contribute to the State-level significance of the Upfield Railway Line Precinct.

Four high value mature trees are also likely to be affected by the work to erect a hard stand at Munro Street. “The hard stand is likely to impact Trees 624 (Sugar Gum), 628 (Spotted Gum) and 629 (Sugar Gum) by approximately 10, 19 and 10% respectively. Tree 626 (Red Ironbark) will require removal to implement the design.” says the arborist report.

Hard stand at Munro street showing signal box and affected trees

LXRP argues that the “location and construction mean is it is never likely to be able to be adaptively re-used for an alternate purpose.”

This signal box building could be preserved and repurposed and possibly leased to Moreland Council for long term use as a Cafe or social business opportunity. This would add to the activation of this area next to Coburg Station Reserve and ground level walking and bicycle paths improving the safety of the area inder the viaduct next to Munro street.

To make a submission by Wednesday 28 August 2019 to Hertiage Victoria please use the Heritage Victoria Form. The email address for submissions is at the end of the form.

The Moreland Council Community Reference Advisory Group held it’s first meeting on Tuesday 20 August. No one has heard yet a word about when the LXRP Stakeholder Liason Group chaired by Pascoe Vale MP Lizzie Blandthorn will meet, even though LXRP are proceeding with demolition plans for Munro Street Signal box. With the inclusion of the rail viaduct cross section, it appears substantial design plans are already substantially advanced yet LXRP are refusing to release these details for community viewing and discussion.

Update 22 August:
Based on the cross-section provided by LXRP at the Munro Street Signal box, here is the hypothesised alignment of the rail viaduct at Munro Street and Bell Street.

Hypothesised Munro Street viaduct alignment based on LXRP cross-section at Munro Street
Hypothesised Bell Street viaduct alignment based on LXRP cross-section at Munro Street

Special Moreland Council meeting 22 August, 2019

On Thursday 22 August Moreland Convened a special meeting, and debated and passed the following
Officer Recommendation motion.

That Council:

  1. Notes the Heritage Victoria application P31530 for a permit to demolish the Munro Street signal box in VHR reference H0952 – Upfield Railway Line Precinct, Wilson Avenue and Victoria Street Brunswick and Cameron Street and Victoria Street Coburg.
  2. Writes to Heritage Victoria and makes a submission to Heritage Victoria application P31530 containing the following key points:
    • a) Moreland City Council does not support the application to demolish the Munro Street signal box and remove the associated tree (ID 626);
    • b) Heritage Victoria is requested to delay a recommendation on the permit application until the outcome of the nomination process is complete;
    • c) The Level Crossing Removal Project Heritage Impact Statement, prepared by GJM Heritage, fails to appreciate the possible inclusion of the asset within an amended statement of significance and registration of the asset on the Victorian Heritage Register;
    • d) Heritage Victoria is requested to seek further information and a revised application and Heritage Impact Statement from the Level Crossing Removal Project and North West Program Alliance. The revised application should have regard to the possible inclusion of the asset on the Victorian Heritage Register and the subsequent elevation of its heritage status to state significant.
  3. Writes to the Level Crossing Removal Project and the State Government seeking the allocation of appropriate additional funding to ensure that the “avoidance” approach can reasonably be taken for the Munro Street signal box.
  4. Writes to the Level Crossing Removal Project seeking clarification and assurance around the extent of tree removal and longer-term protection of trees included in Heritage Victoria application P31530.

Motion Carried

You can download the Council Officer report that included this motion. Attachments to the report included:

If the Hornsby signal box, a larger building, could be moved in one piece 150 metres a decade ago, then surely the Munro Street signal box could also be moved a short distance at resonable cost?

More to follow on this issue.

Munro Street signal box
Munro Street signal box. Source: Google

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