The former mansion at 9-11 Edward Street, KewA multimillion-dollar property has passed in at auction without a single bid after an eleventh-hour council heritage protection.
Issued just 48 hours before the auction, the draft heritage citation turned all prospective buyers away.
Industry sources say a heritage order could wipe as much as $2 million off the value of the house, set on a huge allotment in Melbourne’s leafy east.
Fairfax Media has chosen not to publish the property’s address amid ongoing discussions about its future sale.
The Stonnington Council letter, dated earlier this week, informed the vendors their property had been identified “as having significance and warranting heritage protection” because the architecture was influenced by the work of Walter Burley Griffin.
“This house is one of series of important designs by architect J F W Ballantyne, who played a key role in disseminating Griffin’s ideas,” the letter said.
The owners are understood to be shocked and distraught. A source close to the vendors said the letter had “come completely out of the blue”. Related: Government urged to fund heritage protectionRelated: Iconic mansion site remains ‘ugly paddock’Related: Developer demolishes Kew Federation home
Buyers’ advocate Mal James, who had planned to bid on the property on behalf of a client, said buyers were only interested in building a new house on the site.
He said the situation was diabolical. “This is totally wrong,” he said. “I’ve bought over 1000 homes and I’ve never seen anything like this.
“To be cherry picking one-off homes and then telling them two days before an auction ??? with no previous warning ??? that their home is going to have a heritage overlay that will destroy the auction,” he said.
Mr James said the council had not raised any issues about the property when contacted a week before the auction for due diligence purposes.
In a statement, the council’s chief executive Warren Roberts said: “The City of Stonnington works hard to balance a wide range of interests including the need to support and guide development at the same time as protecting heritage and neighbourhood character.”
It is the latest property to become ensnared in the controversy surrounding heritage protection in Melbourne’s wealthy inner-east.
A string of high-profile mansion demolitions have made headlines recently, with pressure mounting on local councils and the state government to introduce tougher heritage regulations.
Since 2015, Stonnington Council has tried to prevent a repeat of the controversial demolition of an iconic Toorak that was bulldozed after a failed heritage protection bid.
The iconic estate at 16 St Georges Road was, to the dismay of local residents, torn down by the buyer after she paid $18.5 million in 2013.
But heritage protection can adversely impact a property’s value, particularly when buyers are only interested in the land.
Earlier this year, a rundown Toorak house sold for less than what the vendors had paid for it after Stonnington Council slapped a heritage overlay on the house.
The six-bedroom house at 177 Kooyong Road was bought for $6.19 million in 2010 but sold for slightly more than $5.8 million seven years later.
The state government has previously been urged to take a city-wide approach to heritage protection.