UNDERWHELMED councillors want more powers to stop developers who let heritage properties crumble.
They have promised that the council will press other levels of government to get more power to act before buildings need to be demolished.
"We have our hands tied here," Cr Margaret O'Rourke said when councillors met on Monday.
The council is waiting on advice from the state government about how it can use new laws to protect history after the National Trust warned some important buildings were so vandalised demolition was becoming a likely option.
Multiple councillors are frustrated despite the state government last year trumpeting new laws addressing so-called "demolition by neglect", when developers fail to fix damage on properties in the hope of bypassing protections and building something else.
Lawyers have told council staff the reforms will not stop demolition by neglect.
The council can only act on new laws after a demolition - or partial demolition - and a successful prosecution, the lawyers said.
The council would then be able to change planning controls on properties.
Cr Jen Alden said the council's response to a petition on Monday laid bare some of the legal system's constraints.
"[It's] a system where there is no clear guidance to councils on how provisions can be considered or incorporated into planning schemes," she said.
Cr Alden said adding deterrents and "after the fact" actions limited the council's power to act fast.
Cr David Fagg said people all knew of a heritage property that could do with extra protections and urged people to keep reporting them to the council and National Trust.
The council wanted to protect them in any way it could, even if it was limited.
Councillors voted through a host of commitments including pressing the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning for clarity on new heritage laws and lobbying for new powers.
A department spokesperson last week told the Advertiser that councils can soon expect clarity on new laws.
"Planning guidance to assist councils to navigate the strengthened provisions will shortly be available on the DELWP website," they said.
The government has previously told the Advertiser it had a strong framework in place to protect heritage.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.