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.