1 September 2011

Is Heritage Trust listing always a good thing?

| WilliamZ
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I recently read that a property in North Canberra will be “protected in perpetuity” by ACT Heritage Trust.

Is this such a good thing given that the times will change?

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Thanks for your comments, Mozzie. I would agree with you until your final points, e.g. filling in Haig Park with ~ 2000 apartments, with an estimated market value of 800-900 million dollars.

Does Haig Park feel like a billion dollar park?

With 2-3% of that ($20-30 million) spent to refurbish the park it might…perhaps causing a subsequent increase in surrounding property values.

I completely disagree that Heritage Trust listing is always a good thing.

I do agree with the premise that the market does not take heritage value into account and that this creates a justification for government intervention.

For example, a developer might take a house, demolish it and after their expenses, increase the value of the land by an additional $100,000. But this building might have some historic value to society of $200,000. Because the destroyed heritage value is more than the developer’s value add, society is worse off. The government should step in to protect the house.

The principle of heritage laws (as I understand it) should be to restore balance to the market by forcing people to factor in heritage value. But heritage laws don’t do this. They don’t attempt to assign a real heritage value to something, rather they assign things one of two heritage values: zero (if not listed), or infinity (if listed).

Once something is heritage listed, it doesn’t matter how much additional value a person can create by destroying this thing, and it doesn’t matter how much this additional value exceeds the heritage value. It is forever bound to be kept in its original form, or restricted to certain changes keeping certain design elements according to the arbitrary whims of a planning authority.

As for the listing of the North Canberra. I presume that this area heritage listing is designed to preserve some special heritage character. But what if we could increase the value of the land by far more than its heritage value by building medium density apartments throughout? Heritage listing would prevent us from doing this. It would bar society from capturing the true potential value of this land.

Actually, I strongly suspect that the additional value of apartments would be so large, that it would far exceed any reasonable estimate of the heritage value of the Inner North.

aussielyn said :

Josip Zivco, ex owner of Longstay Caravan Park, is on the Heritage Council so he is taking care of property owners’ interests with his vote.

Yep, the man with the most highly-developed (so to speak) social conscience in Canberra is well and truly looking after our heritage (purely for the sake of heritage values, of course).

We can all rest easy that the interests of future Canberrans, and Australians with an interest in their national capital, are in safe, free-of-conflict-of-interest, hands

As perhaps the only fan of brutalist architecture, I rather liked the Cameron offices.

In reference to the last post, I think it’s a bit naive to say that we just preserve for all time. It’s an easy answer to a more complex problem. My latest pet project (or musing question), if you have followed my postings, is asking why North Canberra has a park like Haig Park (bearing a striking similarity to a cemetery…the ACT gov’t can’t even remove that Old Yellow London bus) and Manuka/Kingston has Telopea Park? Similar neighbourhoods for desirability, similar parks in width dimension, but different parks in usage and nature.

I’m not suggesting mapping Telopea onto Haig Park, but that might be nice. Perhaps the comment that Haig park costs little to maintain best explains the status quo…My point in this post is that Heritage listing (replacing individual trees with the same species as Charles Weston planted to “break” the wind) ensures that North Canberra will have a cemetery-like park, not an engaging, dynamic park that brings together a community of apartment (and increasingly fewer house) dwellers. Then again, maybe people want the former or just don’t care!

WilliamZ said :

But, I agree with you, alanioz, if you consider some of the selections on the register for Canberra.

Northbourne Flats
Braddon Flats
Dickson Lyneham Flats

I think it’s great that those are on the register. They should be preserved for all time, with signs indicating that these places used to be used for human habitation, with a message that they serve as perpetual reminders that it must never happen again.

Heritage Listing normally applies to protect the existing building so that there are strict rules applied so that it is protected. Any DA must comply with the Heritage listing. There are many heritage houses in Blandfordia (Griffith) Heritage area that owners want to replace with McMansions.
The Heritage Act is changing. Hopefully there will be incentives for preservation with fire sprinklers combined with sympathetic installation of modern heating & cooling.
A concessional lease applies to the land, not the building on it. 5 cents a year rates mostly apply. If someone want to knock down a church or club and build a block of flats a variation to the Territory plan is needed
Usage of the land applies to its zoning e.g. RZ1 – suburban residential or CZ2 – commercial.
Mittagong, in the Southern Highlands, is preserving many of its 1890s building facades in the main street. In Canberra demolition rather than restoration seems to be the preferred option.

A brilliant example of this, I have been told, is also in Bendigo Victoria. Back in the ’70s (I think) the council instructed the main street shops and hotels to remove their wrought ironwork from their verandahs. One pub refused, suffered whatever the penalty was, and now is the only one left with that fine example of ironwork from Bendigo’s early history.

No one can remember why the council got such a crazy idea into its head, but the lesson is that just because the government of the day doesn’t value something doesn’t make it not valuable (or vice versa).

Who knows, Cameron Offices may have become more loved over time if only the buildings could have survived.

It is all too easy to think of other buildings rejecetd by governments that are valuable, and converesly, buildings loved that don’t appear to have a lot of merit to an outside observer. (Northborne flats anyone?)

History is filled with cases of overzealous developers/governments quickly demolishing buildings in the name of progress. Having looked at photos of the the Capitol Theatre, though not knowing its structural details (soundness), it is a shame that it is no longer with us. If the Telstra Building in Braddon ever gets Heritage listed, we’ll know who to call.

My greatest concern with heritage listing is when stipulation on potential use is rigidly coded. If this is done, perhaps innocently or more malevolently, it can lead to concessional (deep discount) leases for particular users, which might irritate surrounding businesses. Likewise, present use today for a heritage building may, in fact, become way outdated.

They wanted to heritage list the old Capitol Theatre in Manuka and the developers bulldozed it to the ground the weekend before the news came through that it should be saved. The building that replaced it is a block of concrete nothingness. There are so few historic buildings in Canberra. Certainly things built in the 60s really don’t qualify as “heritage”.

Heritage declaration is a lengthy process and involves a detailed assessment process which has to meet the criteria set by the Heritage Act. The practitioners of this Act are well aware of the impact, i.e. economic etc, that a heritage declaration will have on a property. Just because a property is nominated to the heritage register doesn’t mean automatic inclusion. The heritage assessment process allows for process to make decisions on areas and properties that enhance the heritage values of Canberra. Without this process, we could end up with many places of heritage value being demolished and replaced with the ‘concrete monstrosities’ as mentioned above during any given building period. I believe it is healthy for a city to have a diversity of structures and places that provide a unique aesthetic character for us to enjoy. Or would we prefer a utilitarian concrete jungle without pleasant and enjoyable spaces, and buildings that contribute to the heritage value of Canberra.

you need to read the heritage listing in the area and get a creative architect – usually there are limitations on changing the frontage and where you can put the garage/carport on the block. It may also limit the level of development you can do. A lot of inner north areas are in precincts – the Government is trying to preserve the original streetscape in these areas so that future canberran’s see what it looked like in the early years.

if it is the particular house/building then there must be something iconic or special about it. The local architects have gone to great lengths to protect iconic architecture like Callam offices because they represent the style of the day and the growth of canberra. They aren’t ”old'” yet but they wanted to make sure they were still there when the buildings became older and the landscape had changed.

The protection, by the way, is under the Heritage Act – legislation – the Heritage unit in the local Government has the job of implementing and regulating the legislation.

As you say, times will change. So what is considered ordinary or even ugly now may, in the future, be considered classic or even brilliant. Even the Cameron offices.

If we keep knocking things down, we get no history, no soul.

Heritage does get in the way for some landowners who are only looking to make a profit from their asset and think of history as irrelevant. Maybe the War Memorial site would be good for a block of flats.
Heritage listing is a long difficult involved process.
Josip Zivco, ex owner of Longstay Caravan Park, is on the Heritage Council so he is taking care of property owners’ interests with his vote.

William, did you cheer when the Canberra Services Club burnt down?

Waiting For Godot4:27 pm 01 Sep 11

I lost my desire for preserving heritage when they tried to heritage list that concrete monstrosity Cameron Offices, built in 1974. How it was ever built in that form and why it was ever approved in the first place is a total mystery.

Perhaps there is some heritage to preserve in Canberra, e.g. Melbourne/Sydney Buildings (Mooseheads), Old Parliament, etc.

But, I agree with you, alanioz, if you consider some of the selections on the register for Canberra.

Northbourne Flats
Braddon Flats
Dickson Lyneham Flats

Two of my favourites, but maybe not obvious:

Haig Park, a tired preservation of past tree plantings that with some modest funding for refurbishment could serve an increasingly urban North Canberra,as well as the ACT community.

Northbourne Oval, a fantastic parcel of land that would make a great ACT urban park. Can the meager funds the ACT receives the lease possibly justify it sitting behind a barbed wire fence?

Perhaps others could share some…

Heritage? Canberra? Bwaaaaaaaaaaaa – falls about laughing.

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