Council: More than just Roads, Rates & Rubbish: Provider of Conservation Grants

As I wrote just last week Council is much more than Roads, Rates & Rubbish. It is a provider also not just of Community Grants. We a provider of Conservation Grants.

A number of properties in the City of Unley have a significant contribution to the history of Unley. We have homes not only listed in our Heritage Building Register. We have a number of historic conservation zones in our Development Plan.

In these zones houses have a level of protection not dissimilar to those listed in our register against unsympathetic redevelopment. The Development Plan is trying to preserve our built form history. This does place restrictions on what you as the home owner can do.

If your home is listed or in one of these zones Council recognises that you may be financially challenged in order for you to protect the heritage of the amenity around you.

The same can be said if you are the owner of a significant tree. Under the State’s Development Regulations you cannot remove a significant tree or even prune the tree without Council approval.

Council has therefore a Conservation Grant Policy designed to provide you some assistance/ relief. This policy allows you as a home owner of a heritage building, or of a significant tree, to seek a contribution from Council for the cost of preserving either in a ‘safe and aesthetically pleasing condition’.

Grants may be allocated for up to 50 per cent of the total cost of a single conservation treatment. The maximum amounts available per application are:

  • $1,000 for pruning significant trees; and
  • $5,000 for local heritage buildings and contributory items within Historic Conservation Zone

There is a current round which is open until Tuesday 2 May 2017. If you have a project in mind or a tree requiring pruning I urge you to check out our policy and make application here.


What do you think of Unley Council? That is what I was met with this morning by one of our Rate Payers.

She was clearly distressed. They are tearing down the Council Chamber she declared. “We have to stop them” she said repeatedly.


central-squareHer concerns related to Council’s recent announcement about investigating redeveloping the Civic Centre Site. She understood Council was about to demolish the Town Hall and the Library. She believed that Council had sent her a letter confirming this.

Newspaper articles have refrained from identifying the Civic Centre site. They have used words like “towering over Town Hall”.  Words like “radical proposal to cannibalise its own Council Chambers”. Ratepayers and others are also distributing flyers indicating Council WILL be building 8 storeys on the Village Green.

Please, please, please! Pay no attention to this alarmist dialogue. It is untrue. For the truth I invite you read my recent blog post.

And let me stress:

1    The Council is only considering whether or not to redevelop the Civic Centre Site. The Civic Centre site houses Council’s administration.

2   We are not demolishing the Town Hall or the Library. They are State Heritage listed buildings. As anyone who knows, we are very proactive in protecting our heritage.

3   We are not going to build over the Town Hall or Library.

4   We have no intention of building an 8 storey building on the Village Green.

5   We have not sent any letter saying otherwise.

6   We are simply looking into what opportunities a redevelopment of the Civic Centre site will provide to better serve the community of Unley.

7   The investigation will take some 12 months.

8   Our community will be asked to contribute what they believe we can achieve in considering such a redevelopment.

We will soon be asking you to help us determine what would be the best use of the Civic Centre site for our future community.

Can I close by asking you this question. Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?


Carramar Saved from redevelopment

With Parkside Ward Councillor and heritage advocate Mike Hudson taking some time off comes the news that HISTORIC Greenhill Rd mansion Carramar House in Parkside is set to return to being used as a private residence.

The heritage-listed Federation-era home, which had been used as a mental health clinic until the government decided it was surplus to its needs, has sold to a private investor.

Friends of the City of Unley Society president Ros Islip was pleased the house, on 4174 m2 on the corner of George St, would be used as a home.

It is a property that came under notice earlier this year as Council prepared a submission to the Minister of our Heritage DPA. Developers were hovering ready t pounce if there was any hiccup in the listing.

I am sure the vast majority of the Unley population would be sharing Ros’s pleasure. 

Pity Mike is not around as I am sure he would have beaten me to the punch to blog on it.

Planning Approvals: Fast Track vs Community Consultation

The State Government is conducting a review of the Procedures behind obtaining Planning Approvals in this state, the First big shake up since 1993. This review is being conducted by an expert panel chaired by Brian Hayes QC.

This review is hot on the heels of the Governments push for Councils to contribute to their 30 year plan.
I attended last night a forum hosted by FOCUS, The Friends of the City of Unley. This forum was considering the question of protection of heritage buildings and the presenter, Prof Norman Etherington  was quite concerned that one of the criteria being adopted by the government for considering if a building is worthy of local heritage listing is whether or not it is a prime development site, under the 30 year plan.
The audience were all quite concerned that the Government does not have enough empathy for the history of our little community. FOCUS contributed significantly to the recent series of Development Plan Amendments that Council have prepared to address the Governments 30 year plan.
While they are concerned with this however the Government is also reviewing the planning processes used to assess developments. A day after the FOCUS meeting an article appeared on Adelaide Now that speaks to this very topic, highlighting such things as preventing elected members being on Development Assessment Panels (DAP). Why? Because we allegedly will take the views of the community into account, whereas independent members allegedly will not.
This article is worth reading and can be accessed here
The afternoon prior to that Focus meeting, as a member of HIA (Housing Industry Association) I read with concern statements made by HIA supporting more than removing elected members from DAP. 
They are looking at removing Councils from the process by using Private Certifiers (currently being utilised to assess building rules consent) to be able to assess Planning applications as well. They are seeking the Private Certifiers being able to certify planning applications that fit within the Res Code, even if located in a Historic Conservation Zone.
I have to say (as a retired builder) that there is good reason behind such a request. I can remember some 5 to 10 years ago waiting 16 weeks for an approval that came only after threatening an eastern suburbs council that we will proceed without their approval and they can take us to court if they don’t like it. 
This is an absurdly long time to obtain approval for a free standing roofed pergola sighted well away from boundaries and visible to no neighbour. This is evidence of the motivation behind the industry taking the stance they have.
Yes 16 weeks is ridiculous but the risk is however if this is taken too far that neighbours will get little or no opportunity to be able to contribute to the development approval process and protect their neighbourhood.
If you have an interest in your neighbourhood and want to avoid losing your ability to contribute to its future built form then I suggest you visit the panels web site at
and find out how you can contribute to this. Bodies such as my HIA will be lobbying hard, so you need to too.
Being involved on both sides I can say without fear or favour that the planning process does need change. as with all things Government everyone with a vested interest needs to contribute to the review so that we don’t come up with a solution that goes from one extreme to the other.
Many people in Unley AND FOCUS contributed to the 30 year plan DPAs. If they had not I think everyone is of the belief the Government would have proceeded down the path they originally touted and Unley would have lost most if not all of its heritage. Instead we have isolated 60% of our area from the 30 year plan higher density formula.
The same is needed with the planning view. It is up to you.

The other side of the storey

Whilst the focus in recent times has been on opposition to increased density in the inner suburban areas the City of Unley be co-operating with the Government has protected it’s heritage.

As the article (click on the link below) from The Eastern Courier explains, as a trade off for working with the Government to selectively increase the housing density within our borders we have double the number of heritage places.

We would hope we have managed to strike a fine balance between new development and protection of our heritage.

Heritage Protection Into the Future

The Unley Community continues to be challenged as they seek to protect our built heritage.

I, along with the Mayor and two other councillors, Michael Hewitson and co-councillor Jennie Boisvert, attended a workshop called “Heritage with Heartbeat” last Friday. A lavish affair it was, held at historic Rymill House.

We got to appreciate the true value of heritage and that is the storeys of the people who lived or worked in heritage listed buildings. We also got to understand the cost that society is imposing on those who wind up being custodians of a heritage listed property; a property that the community wants to retain and gain pleasure from but a property inevitably privately owned.

In other words this was not a workshop promoting one point of view. It was extremely provocative on occasions as we heard conflicting view points.

One thing that came out of the information provided on the day that hit home to me and which I reported to Council at our meeting last Monday night was that of “commercial” properties that have been heritage listed. The community has a challenge that must be addressed into the future and that is who pays for the pleasure of keeping our historic “commercial” buildings. Those buildings providing services to the community and whose owners are competing against others who provide their services from younger, more efficient buildings, buildings that comply with the current Building Code of Australia and comply also with the Disability Discrimination Act and which can command higher rent returns as a result.

It must be accepted that private owners of commercial properties that are heritage listed can’t be expected to pay costs way above that which their competitors pay to run their businesses. We cant expect them to be penalised whether financially or by way of planning requirements like car parking etc because the cold hard facts are they will abandon the building for one that allows them to compete on an even playing field.

The end result – a building left to deteriorate and that means the community loses too.

Food for thought for our community and the elected members. What are we prepared to do to assist the owners of these properties to keep a community asset.

Conservation Grants

A number of grants recommended by our Manager, Development were approved at last weeks Council Meeting.

As part of it’s intent to protect Unley’s heritage Council has a program where grants may be offered for restoration work. This has become well known and is now well accessed by residents and institutions alike seeking to defray the cost of the upkeep of a heritage listed property.

With our successful application to protect large sections of the City of Unley against the State Government’s 30 year plan more people have taken advantage of the scheme. As we enter into preparing next year’s budget this is an issue that will need to be reviewed in light of it’s popularity. Clearly extra funding is going to be required and we will need to re-examine the criteria under which grants are approved.

Protecting our HERITAGE Buildings

Part of my election campaigning centred on protecting Unley’s heritage and in particular its buildings.

Once elected I was fortunate enough to find myself as a member of our Development Assessment Panel (DAP). This provided me with a direct opportunity to live up to my promises. I have enjoyed this role in the short time I have been on the panel, although as I think back on it has already been 9 months. Wow!

As a building inspector by day I bring a unique viewpoint to the DAP wherein I can interpret some of the jargon that is used in development applications that others may not. This provides me an opportunity to question information provided when an applicant is requesting approval to demolish one of our precious homes.

I exercised this last month when the report provided did not convince me that the only course of action reasonable with a particular home was to demolish it. By putting a motion that we seek an independent assessment of the building I provided us with a chance of protecting something that need not have gone under the wreckers processes.

As it has turned out this house, vide the report we commissioned, has serious defects that I am now happy means we cannot avoid demolition. For this reason I acknowledged at the last DAP meeting that I was the one that held it up and that I was happy to move the motion for demolition.

The citizens of the City of Unley can rest assured that all that could be done was done. We do have to acknowledge unfortunately that this is the only option with some houses and that we have a process that ensures that only those that should will.