Incentivising Ownership of Heritage Buildings

Professional Associations

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In response to the recent enquiry by the government relating to the NSW Heritage Act, I made the following recommendation.

Most people don’t realise that private owners bear 100% of the cost required to maintain, protect and safeguard listed heritage properties in NSW. Grants from local councils or the State government are few and far between. To offset this burden, there should many heritage incentives to make investment in the heritage stock by private owners worthwhile. Currently, we only have a few pieces of heritage incentive in the planning legislation at local and state level. These are the Section 57 arrangements under the Heritage Act and the corresponding Clause 5.10 (3) in the EP&A Act. Additionally, we have Clause 5.10(10) in all LEPs in NSW. Clause 5.10(10) should be much more liberally applied than it currently is by both councils and the Court (LEC). I would like to see Clause 5.10(10) being capable of exceeding every LEP standard and zoning control if it results in a better economic, heritage and sustainability outcome for the heritage building. The entire mindset around heritage incentives needs to change so that it becomes much more worthwhile for private owners to invest in the listed heritage stock. We should take our cue from the English version of ‘Enabling Development’.

Enabling development is defined as ‘development that would not be in compliance with local and/or national planning policies, and not normally be given planning permission, except for the fact that it would secure the future conservation of a heritage asset’. This kind of incentive has a much wider ambit than our Clause 5.10(10) tucked away in our LEPs. Also, it is outcome based. It focuses on what is good for heritage while at the same time facilitating development which can be of any form, height, bulk, scale, size and footprint so long as it secures the future conservation of the heritage asset. In framing the policy, English Heritage states that the most important thing is that ‘the benefits should clearly outweigh the disbenefits’. This places good heritage outcomes at the front and centre of all associated planning policies.

My recommendation is that we should adopt more heritage incentives with a much wider ambit than we currently have in our heritage policies (LEPs, DCPs, EP&A Act and the NSW Heritage Act). It would greatly assist with encouraging private investment in the listed heritage stock. Our current heritage policy framework does not offer much relief for the private owner of heritage places. It assumes that owners can afford to maintain their properties, faithfully look after them and pay for maintenance and upkeep without complaint or assistance. In fact, such thinking is disingenuous and tantamount to a gross presumption that simply drives potential investors away. An incentive equivalent to ‘Enabling Development’ akin to the English model, would turn things around for the better, in my view.

Paul Rappoport – Director of Heritage 21
27 July 2021.

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