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Developing a heritage property in NSW

One area that a lot of owners are unsure about is what type of development they can do on a property that is heritage listed. Does heritage listing mean that I cannot demolish the property and is it sterilised from future development? This article seeks to answer some of these questions.


These days, with the Internet, it's easier than ever to determine whether a property is heritage listed. Aside from obtaining a s149 planning certificate from the Local Council, the Office of Environment and Heritage maintains a great listing of heritage properties across the State at www.heritage.nsw.gov.au. Similarly, most heritage listings are now available in Local Environmental Plan maps on the NSW Legislation website www.legislation.nsw.gov.au. Local Council websites can also be a great resource.


The are two main levels of heritage listing. These are local and state. If an item is on the state heritage register, there can be more scrutiny when a Development Application is lodged and the Local Council will generally be required to refer the application to the Office of Environment and Heritage for their concurrence.


Development affecting a heritage item will typically require a Development Application and this requirement will generally come from the Local Environmental Plan for the area. An example can be found in clause 5.10(2) of the Campbelltown Local Environmental Plan 2015 which states:


Development consent is required for any of the following:


(a)  demolishing or moving any of the following or altering the exterior of any of the following (including, in the case of a building, making changes to its detail, fabric, finish or appearance):(i)  a heritage item,(ii)  an Aboriginal object,(iii)  a building, work, relic or tree within a heritage conservation area,

(b)  altering a heritage item that is a building by making structural changes to its interior or by making changes to anything inside the item that is specified in Schedule 5 in relation to the item,

(c)  disturbing or excavating an archaeological site while knowing, or having reasonable cause to suspect, that the disturbance or excavation will or is likely to result in a relic being discovered, exposed, moved, damaged or destroyed,

(d)  disturbing or excavating an Aboriginal place of heritage significance,

(e)  erecting a building on land:(i)  on which a heritage item is located or that is within a heritage conservation area, or(ii)  on which an Aboriginal object is located or that is within an Aboriginal place of heritage significance,

(f)  subdividing land:(i)  on which a heritage item is located or that is within a heritage conservation area, or(ii)  on which an Aboriginal object is located or that is within an Aboriginal place of heritage significance.


As you can see above, most types of development on a heritage property will generally require a Development Application. These requirements don't necessarily mean that any of the above are not possible development options, however.


Councils will typically require a "Statement of Heritage Impact" for Development Applications on heritage listed property. A statement of heritage impact is basically a document prepared by a heritage consultant that assesses the heritage impacts of the proposed development and will include the following:

  • A description of the item, site and immediate streetscape and building group (where the item is part of a building group or conservation area).

  • Annotated photographs of the item including existing buildings, mature vegetation and major landscape elements and the local streetscape.

  • A summary of the historical development of the place.

  • For heritage items, a detailed statement of significance, based on the physical description and historical summary.  Council's Heritage Inventory Sheets give the main reason a place is listed as a heritage item. Your research might reveal additional information abut the historic associations or aesthetic values or technical merit of a place that could be used to expand the statement of significance.

  • For places in a conservation area, an assessment of the item’s contribution to the significance of the conservation area.

  • A detailed description of the proposed development.

  • For heritage items, an analysis of the positive and negative impacts of the works on the significance of the item.

  • For places in a conservation area, an analysis of the positive and negative impacts of the proposed work on the setting and local streetscape and on the significance of the conservation area.

  • A description of any alternative design or work options and the reasons that they were discounted.

  • In the case of applications for demolition or substantial demolition, justification as to why adaptive re-use is not viable.

Sometimes Councils may also require a "Conservation Management Plan", which is essentially a document that provides a guide to future care and use of the heritage item.


Development on state heritage items requires separate approval under the Heritage Act 1977, although this approval process is addressed as part of your Development Application, as Council will refer a copy of the application to the Office of Environment and Heritage.


As can be seen above, a heritage listing is not necessarily a prohibition on all forms of development on your property. Councils routinely can and do grant consent to demolish or substantially alter heritage items, although the impact of the development needs to be justified and there is greater scrutiny. Many LEPs also contain conservation incentive clauses meaning that forms of development that would otherwise be prohibited are allowed in circumstances where the development supports preserving the heritage item.


At DCA Planning, we can assist in preparing Development Applications for heritage listed properties. Get in contact with me at david@dcaplanning.com.au or 0423 1635 97 for further information.



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@ Copyright by David Carey | Urban City Planner, Project Manager and Development Consultant

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