We live in one of Ainslie’s heritage precincts and were recently told that the ACT government planned to put a recycled 1970s-style concrete-and-plastic bus shelter in front of a local, lovingly-preserved 1936 house.
We thought there must be some mistake and that Jon Stanhope – the Minister for Heritage as well as Chief Minster – and his Heritage Council hadn’t been consulted. After all, Stanhope often enthuses about his passionate commitment to heritage issues.
But a letter to Stanhope produced a startling response from ACT Heritage Council Secretary Gerhard Zatschler. He said his view was that the proposal was consistent with the precinct’s heritage values and indeed was preferable to the alternative design, one of the minimalist and unobtrusive glass-and-steel shelters, which have been appearing around Canberra since 2007 – and which are pretty much the design favoured in Australia’s other cities and in Europe.
The reason, he said, was that the proposed shelter was consistent with the design of other such shelters in the precinct.
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A few of these monsters appeared locally in the 1970s and 1980s with of course no thought of how their brutalist design might fit in with the 1930s/40s architecture and streetscapes.
In the 1990s, the ACT’s Heritage Precincts appeared and since then you’ve been barely able to lift a paint-brush without the Council’s agonised and often bossy guidance. This drives some mad but most residents of the heritage precincts like the local vintage charm – rare for Canberra – and are happy to accept the price.
Stanhope and Zatschler would be hard-pressed to find a single local resident who would agree with their daft view of this issue.
And their attitude suggests the ACT government doesn’t really care about our heritage precincts. It’s inconceivable that the local authorities in for example Glebe or Middle Park would accept such horrible structures being plonked in front of their heritage buildings.
The ACT government has ignored local appeals to reconsider and works began last Wednesday – and only thanks to the efforts of a quick-witted local was the government deterred from also chopping down a magnificent 70-year old plane to construct the monster.
Over to you Greens and Opposition.