Guest Speaker: Ian Arnott the Planning Manager at Willoughby City Council made a presentation on Council’s new heritage processes covering Willoughby’s vast Conservation Areas, Heritage listed buildings and Council’s plans for the future recognition of the Heritage of Willoughby. Ian’s new role covers certification, building matters and heritage listing.

Ian opened with some history on the current development controls, then went onto presentation on the new heritage controls. Ian opened speaking to a map of the heritage listed items/areas in Willoughby City and the Heritage Conservation Areas. In Ian’s 24 years at Willoughby History it was the National Trust that was the primary body concerned with heritage listing in the 1960s. Around the mid-1980s, following the Environmental & Assessment Act there was a move to site specific or area specific environmental plans, such as the Griffin Conservation Area in Castlecrag.

In 1995 Council created a Consolidated Local Environmental Plan (LEP) that brought together the various heritage provisions in the form that we see them today. The 1979 Act also had provision for Development Controls that defined how conservation of the heritage items was to occur. The current Controls are in Willoughby Conservation Plan Part H of which covers Heritage conservation items.

More recently the State Government has created the Greater Sydney Metropolitan Plan that created three cities has specified the district plans that area areas were required to address. Willoughby City is within the Northern District Plan. During 2017 Willoughby Council prepared various plans that recognized the heritage elements of the city, while seeking higher density areas that would enable lower density heritage areas to retain their existing character, For the next five years Willoughby has a target of 13,500 new dwellings and over the next 20 years there will be expanded density targets. Particular attention has been given to the local suburban shopping centers.

The heritage register defines State Heritage items and Local Heritage items, the former being items listed on the State Register. The controls on State Heritage items are far more stressful than local heritage items. Any changes that occur much respect the heritage elements of the building.

In terms of Conservation Area the issues are more about street scopes, so there ae more lenient controls on changes to buildings. A State Environmental Development Control can enable development that overturns Council controls, but they do not apply to heritage items. Council has largely been removed from the process of managing controls in recent years.

State Heritage items have enhanced ability to obtain State Government Grants for maintenance or upgrading the item. Under the Local Environmental Plan there is consideration regarding the impact of the development in terms of heritage impacts on neighboring properties. In terms of development on State Government’s land, it can override heritage listings by Council, as has happened in several instances at Royal North Shore Hospital.

A recent heritage review undertaken by Willoughby Council sought to identify any items considered to have potential for heritage listing. This may occur as a result of proposals by Council officers or members of the public. There are dangers in trying to utilize heritage as a means of stopping developing, for some areas without due merit being listed as a Heritage Conservation Area. The review focused on mid-20th Century architecture. Two Conservation Areas were put forward, one that had previously been considered in the Artarmon area and found to be not worthy; and in West Chatswood, which was recommended but is awaiting a public meeting to address this item. The next step is to go to State Government to assess its heritage qualities.Heritage Conservation Areas have moved from character issue to controls.