SA Planning Commission offers greater clarity on Heritage and Character

10 May 2019

Shortly after the Environment, Resources and Development Committee (ERDC) published its 1st Report on the Heritage Inquiry on 30 April 2019 (Report), the State Planning Commission released its suite of community guides into reform policies relating to Design, Heritage and Character in the New Planning System (2 May 2019). The Community Guide to Heritage & Character, the Snapshot for Practitioners and the Guide to Demolition and Control will be the focus of this note (Commission’s Heritage Guides).

Unsurprisingly, both the Report and the Commission’s Heritage Guides seek a similar outcome: to regulate the protection of heritage and character places and assets under the South Australian planning system and offer clarity on the prospects of land development.

In order to bring this about, the ERDC concluded that there was a clear need for strategic, collaborative and state-wide heritage reform and that any reform undertaken needed to result in a streamlined, clear and responsive process and accountable decision making. An audit of state and local heritage places as well as contributory items was recommended as well as the creation of a long term funding base for the management of heritage going forward.

Such recommendations are to be applauded. However, meeting these recommendations will be no small task. South Australia currently boasts some 17 state heritage areas and 2,295 state heritage places, 7,000 local heritage places and around 12,000 contributory items (being items that ‘contribute’ to community character) (Heritage Assets). The way in which these Heritage Assets are protected and treated can differ widely between Council areas.

The Commission’s Heritage Guides offer a policy “taster” on how the protection and consideration of Heritage Assets is to be streamlined in the New Planning System. Heritage Assets will be “accurately mapped” in the Planning and Design Code (Code) and the State Atlas (associated mapping system) and each class of Heritage Asset will be treated in the same way under a single Code policy. The 2nd and 3rd phases of the Code (which are due to be released in the mid and end of 2019 respectively) will reflect these details. In brief:

  • State heritage places will be:
    • recognised under Heritage Places Act 1993 (as is the case currently);
    • listed in the South Australian Heritage Register (as is the case currently); and
    • subject to a “single, universal policy” and mapped in the Code and State Atlas.

All relevant authorities will be required to consider this class of Heritage Asset in the same manner. In addition, the Heritage Minister, who currently only has a power of recommendation in relation to state heritage assets, will be able to direct the decision-making of the relevant authority.

  • Local heritage places will be:
    • protected under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (PDI Act);
    • listed in the South Australian Heritage Register (as is the case currently); and
    • subject to a “single, universal policy” and mapped in the Code and State Atlas.

Demolition of a local heritage place will only be considered if it has little heritage value, is structurally unsound or is economically unviable. The Commissioner’s Heritage Guides note that the “new system will also make it easier for Local Heritage Places to be adapted for modern uses with a view to retaining them.”

  • All current Historic Conservation Zones will be:
    • protected under the PDI Act as Local Heritage Areas; and
    • subject to a “single, universal policy” and mapped in the Code and State Atlas.

Demolition of buildings within Local Heritage Areas will be assessed by the relevant authority pursuant to a set of criteria in the Code, which will consider their heritage value and the nature of the proposed replacement.

  • All current contributory items will be abolished under the New System, but those items which fall within Local Heritage Areas (all but very few of them) will continue to be afforded a level of protection under the Code’s Local Heritage Areas policy, should they be nominated for protection by the relevant Council.
  • All Character Areas will be:
    • protected under the PDI Act; and
    • subject to a “single, universal policy” and mapped in the Code and State Atlas.

The Code will offer a single state-wide policy for Character Areas and special characteristics of these areas will be reflected in the Code’s zones and sub-zones. Demolition will not require development approval, however replacement buildings will undergo rigorous assessment in accordance with the single policy.

What the Commission’s Heritage Guides make clear is that the “the community will have multiple opportunities to preview and comment on proposed planning policy that relates to heritage and character in the new Code” when the two remaining phases of the Code go out to public consultation. The fact that the Commission has released its Heritage Guides in advance is to be appreciated and supports the ERDC-recommended collaboration between all parties.

While it is not yet possible to understand the detailed impact of the Code on SA’s Heritage Assets, what is clear is that for the first time, Heritage Assets will be mapped accurately in one central location and at a Code level, treated consistently, across the state. This is an impressive step forward in relation to decision-making on Heritage Assets and goes a long way to meeting the ERDC’s recent recommendations.

This article was written by Emma Herriman, Partner.

Emma Herriman

P: +61 8 8205 0841


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