Incredibly, the NSW Government’s planning White Paper scarcely mentions the word “heritage.”  Perhaps this is not surprising as so often in the past NSW has exhibited a cavalier attitude to its heritage and history. I would like to draw your attention to some particular concerns relating to heritage.

Under the new planning proposals, the State’s irreplaceable heritage is not accorded any particular recognition, let alone the same status and importance as housing supply and affordability as well as employment and growth in the construction industry. Heritage (along with community wellbeing, effective community consultation, design excellence and our environment) have gone missing.

The National Trust NSW is concerned about the planning proposal and is urging that the following steps should be taken to ensure that heritage protection is maintained and enhanced in the new legislation:

  1. The Heritage Act must not be switched off for State Significant Developments. There is no justification for this and a reasonable balance needs to be re-established between development and heritage conservation. The role and powers of the Heritage Council and the legal effect of the Heritage Act should be restored to that originally intended in 1977.
  2. No code assessable complying development should be permitted in Heritage Conservation Areas or for development that would impact on State or Local Listed Heritage Items with the exception of minor work consistent with the Heritage Council minimum standards of maintenance. All existing Heritage Conservation Areas must be maintained and legally protected.
  3. No private certification should be permitted in Heritage Conservation Areas or for development that would impact on State or Locally Listed Heritage Items.
  4. Existing Heritage DCPs, or equivalent policy planning documents of the same standing and intent, should continue to be applied. Site specific DCPs should be prepared for all large sites in Conservation Areas. These DCPS should be consistent with surrounding density and height controls.
  5. Heritage Council concurrence should be retained for development affecting SHR Listed properties and their site boundaries (curtilages) and should be extended to all Council owned Local Heritage Items. There has been some indication from Department of Planning officers that the Director-General Planning will only determine such developments if other government bodies cannot come to agreement. But the draft legislation does not put this into effect and needs amendment.

We believe these points are critical for Glebe, as well as heritage suburbs like Paddington, Balmain and Haberfield. Without protection, the piecemeal and unconsidered addition, for example, of a (code complying) extra storey here and a (code complying) new fence there, could wreak havoc on our extraordinary and relatively intact heritage streetscapes.

Code compliance offers the expediency of the lowest common denominator. Our heritage buildings and heritage streetscapes deserve better.  (Code compliance: private certifier ratifies a DA which is in line with a pre-defined set of basic parameters established by the planning authority.)