THE CITY of Greater Bendigo must urgently bulk-up heritage protections to stop the "demolition by neglect" taking place throughout town, advocates say.
The National Trust says the council urgently needs new powers to safeguard slices of history despite ratepayers sometimes forking out considerable sums to award heritage protection status.
It is lobbying councillors to fast-track changes to the city's planning scheme with a new petition.
The elected officials are expected to formally accept the 13-signature petition at a meeting on Monday.
The National Trust is increasingly frustrated by the damage taking place at multiple unattended properties around Bendigo.
Branch president Peter Cox said stain glass windows had been smashed or stolen at one historic church building in town and floorboards ripped up at one suburb's oldest surviving house.
Some were so vandalised that demolition was becoming an increasingly likely option, he said.
The National Trust is increasingly concerned the council does not appear to have the power to step in to stop heritage deterioration.
That is especially the case for properties where the council had previously added site-specific heritage overlays, Mr Cox said.
"They've spent millions of dollars on heritage overlays because it is so expensive to do all the research that justifies it," he said.
"You don't go spending that money and then allow the property to deteriorate and be destroyed. It doesn't make sense."
The National Trust had itself started conversations with some property owners about securing sites despite believing councils should have been leading efforts.
The discussions were not always uphill battles, Mr Cox said.
In one recent case, the Bendigo branch reached out to a property owner with ideas and support. A deteriorating building was properly secured within two days.
Victorian councils have long said their powers to stop so-called demolition by neglect are limited, Mr Cox said.
This was the reason the Victorian parliament passed legislation last year to give them more powers, he said.
Councils would need to proactively add new powers to their own planning schemes so they were tailored to individual municipalities, Mr Cox said.
Bendigo's councillors will have the option of discussing the National Trust's petition on Monday night.
However, any decisions on what to do with it will likely come in two months, when council staff have prepared a new report on the council's options.
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