Why destroy our heritage?
After years of shadow boxing, the push to dismantle the state’s heritage protection system is moving full steam ahead under the planning laws introduced by the former Labour Government and blindly being implemented by the new Liberal Government. A huge part of the state’s heritage is being offered up to developers through the removal of regulatory protections, including the rights of neighbours, councils and communities to object to unfettered new development. There is still time to stand up and prevent the greatest destruction of heritage in South Australia’s history, but urgent action is needed to prevent such a disaster.
The new state-wide Planning and Design Code now being created will replace 68 local council development plans, which have regulated development and the protection of local heritage places for decades. Those local plans currently offer some form of protection for around 12 000 historical character places across the state that have been identified as contributing to the value and amenity of local streets and neighbourhoods.
All of those 12 000 places are now at risk of immediate demolition as all protection for them is removed and a new ‘development at any cost’ approach is entrenched as the foundation of the State’s new planning system.
Losing half of the state’s designated heritage places would be devastating, destroying the value of adjacent properties and whole suburbs and replacing our treasured heritage streetscapes and neighbourhoods with more of the overcrowded grey box developments popping up like opportunistic tumours across the city.
The planning bureaucrats in the State Government say it is inevitable and necessary to sacrifice our heritage places to feed the development engine. We disagree. All around the world, cities, state and national governments have recognised that heritage protection and active preservation are equal or greater contributors to long term employment and economic growth than the short term gains made by allowing these assets to be destroyed for the sake of new developments.
Trashing our heritage for a dubious future in Unley
We need to wake up our elected officials to how Adelaide and South Australia can make the most of its heritage buildings and neighbourhoods, not sacrifice them to the rapacious hunger of a small but vocal group of lobbyists for ‘infill’ developments.
Experience from other places is that group listings of historic buildings that form streetscapes, precincts and neighbourhoods over the spot listing approach of focussing on single properties offer significant long term public and private economic benefit. The group listings previously protected as Contributory Items and Historic Conservation Zones are now in the firing line.
The value of heritage listing for property values is clearly borne out in inner suburban Adelaide, defined by its largely still intact historic character. Areas where there is a high degree of heritage protection are strongly correlated with higher property values. In fact, as this map shows, those suburbs with the highest concentration of heritage listed places are also those areas with the highest median values (over $1m).
This will quickly be eroded If historic conservation zones and the contributory items that typically comprise them lose the protection of heritage listing. The proposed removal of the contributory items designation exposes 12 000 properties across the state to immediate demolition, without so much as local council approval.
Recently released draft guidelines for development assessment under the new Planning and Design Code offer no protection for those properties and remove the requirement for any development approval to demolish any single story building. Local heritage places are exempted from that regulation, but contributory items and historic conservation zones are not. If these regulations are allowed, the door will be open to the greatest destruction of historical character buildings ever seen in South Australia.
And what will replace them? Across Adelaide and other capital cities the push for greater density has created a wave of quick and dirty construction, increasingly described as ‘overdevelopment’ where short term profits from construction are favoured over long term sustainability, amenity and economic gain.
In Adelaide the worst examples of this can now be seen in the suburbs of Prospect and Campbelltown. A plague of unsustainable subdivisions into tiny allotments has allowed a proliferation of poorly built and hopelessly overcrowded infill developments, with inadequate parking, a lack of trees and green space and a heavy reliance on energy intensive heating and cooling systems.
If our historic character suburbs are going to be sacrificed to the developers we can expect that cramped and ugly grey box apartments will soon outnumber the original brick and stone heritage places that make our cities, suburbs and towns distinctive, liveable and a source of ongoing employment for the many small building companies and skilled tradespeople specialising in restoring and adapting such heritage places. That industry and the highly skilled employment it creates will be sacrificed for quick and cheap modern builds that provide little sustained employment after they are completed.
Is that the kind of future we want for our heritage? No.
Is there still time to prevent this disaster? Yes. And you can help.
Sign the petition to the Premier to protect our heritage.
Write to the Premier, the Planning Minister, your local State MP or the State Planning Commission.