Learn more about accessing the Trust's fascinating historical archives
Frequently Asked Questions
The National Trust of Australia (NSW) is a community based, non government heritage conservation organisation.
Listing on the Trust Register does not have legal force. It is however, recognised as an authoritative statement of the heritage significance of a building, site, item or area and, by listing such items in the Register, the Trust hopes to advise the public of the value of Australia’s national heritage.
Local council Heritage Listings are statutory listings under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act, 1979 and appear in Schedules of Environmental Heritage (usually Schedule 5) in Local Environmental Plans.
Following are some of the frequently asked questions about local council Heritage Listings.
Expandable list section
What is a Local Heritage Listing?
A local heritage item is a building, structure, object, landscape or location which is considered to have local significance. Items could include a house, property, farmyard structure, tree, view, streetscape, monument or public art. Heritage items which are deemed to have community significance are listed in the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) which is prepared and managed by Council. These are ‘Local Heritage Listings’.
Does a heritage listing cover the whole site?
Yes, in most instances, but it depends on the individual entry. The entry usually applies to the whole title boundary. A common misconception is that listing only relates to the facade or front of a building. If you are unsure about what is entered in the schedule please contact your local Council.
Does a heritage listing restrict ‘the use’ of a place?
No. Placement on a Local Environmental Plan heritage schedule does not restrict the purpose for which a place is used. Use is governed by the Local Environmental Plan. Approvals have been granted to change the use of heritage properties in the past. Examples of this include the changing of churches to homes, banks to galleries and houses to shops.
Can a place be removed from a Local Environmental Plan Heritage Schedule?
Yes. Draft heritage listings are put on public exhibition and are open for comment. Following assessment of all submissions Councils may recommend the removal of certain items. Places on the LEP may also be removed by the Minister but only if it is considered that the item or area no longer meets any of the required criteria.
Does a heritage listing affect my ownership rights?
No. A heritage listing does not affect ownership rights. Ownership remains as it was prior to nomination.
Can I demolish a heritage item?
Heritage places are deemed to possess an intrinsic value to the local community. It is preferred that a heritage place be maintained and ‘conserved’ although there are some instances where demolition could be approved. Demolition requires Council consent and such an application would require supporting documentation justifying the application which would then be publicly notified and assessed by Council officers.
If I build, do I have to use a Heritage Architect and other building specialists?
This is not a requirement. However, it makes good sense to use reputable people with the right expertise for a heritage job. Heritage consultants, builders and architects who specialise in heritage items will offer a high level of expertise. The NSW Heritage Branch maintains a Heritage Consultants Directory – a database of conservation architects, builders, and suppliers of heritage services.
Can I object to the entry of my place in a heritage schedule in the LEP?
Yes. You have the opportunity to object to a draft proposal and may also appeal to the Minister for Planning. An objection can only be made on the basis that the place does not satisfy the criteria on which the listing is based.
Do I have to submit a heritage impact statement with a development application?
Council Heritage Advisors should be consulted for any development application on a heritage item. Councils will be able to inform the owner of what information may be required to form part of the application documents. The complexity of the heritage impact statement will depend on the nature of the proposed application. For further information please consult the heritage impact form and criteria listed on the NSW Heritage Council web site. Where the proposal is considered ‘minor’ it may be acceptable for home owners to prepare their own statement through the use of a template. With more significant heritage items, a Conservation Management Plan may be required for major or complex development proposals.
What is a Heritage Conservation Area?
A heritage conservation area is a locality defined by a Council in its Local Environmental Plan (LEP) as having cultural significance.
Does a local heritage listing prevent changes being made to my property?
Heritage provisions do not prevent change, but are intended to guide how changes should occur.
How does a Council determine if a place or an object has heritage significance?
Councils play an important role in heritage management by identifying, assessing and managing heritage places and objects in their area. Councils usually prepare community based heritage studies which identify heritage items that should be included in their Draft LEP. Councils follow the steps that the State Government requires to identify, assess and update their LEPs. Councils utilise the rigorous criteria set by the NSW Heritage Council to determine heritage significance. Under the NSW Heritage Council guidelines, an item must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as significant:
a. an item is important in the course, or pattern, of NSW’s cultural or natural history;
b. an item has strong or special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in NSW’s cultural or natural history;
c. an item is important in demonstrating aesthetic characteristics and/or a high degree of creative or technical achievement in NSW;
d. an item has strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group in NSW for social, cultural or spiritual reasons;
e. an item has potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of NSW’s cultural or natural history;
f. an item possesses uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of NSW’s cultural or natural history;
g. an item is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of NSW’s cultural or natural places; or cultural or natural environments
Do I have to turn my place into a 'museum'?
No. Being listed does not dictate the use of a place. It does not freeze it in time or oblige owners to open the property to the general public. Normal maintenance and building safety standards are required for any listed item, as is the case for all properties in a local government area.
Does a heritage listing allow people to come onto my property?
No. Heritage does not change common law – that is, a person must ask permission to enter private land, unless authorised by a State or Local Government agency.
Can I paint my house or fix-up the garden? Will it complicate my renovations?
Day-to-day ‘maintenance’ including gardening, cleaning and the painting of interiors are permissible. An advantage of heritage listing is that it can provide access to a range of grants and free advice for renovations and beautification. Council Heritage Advisors may be available to draw up an agreed table of exemptions that would apply under the guidelines for up to five years without needing a development application.
What happens if a subdivision occurs?
Properties can be subdivided after being entered in the heritage schedule of Local Environmental Plans. In these cases, all of the new titles remain entered until such time as the entry is amended to remove all or part of any title to reflect this change in status. An application for this could occur at the same time as assessment of a subdivision application.
Does heritage listing reduce development potential?
Development potential varies for all sites. Zoning, physical site constraints, impact on neighbours and the environment can all contribute to development potential. Heritage concerns can still be raised by Council, Councillors and the community for unlisted places when development is proposed. Prior identification of these issues can help make the development process smoother. All development application enquiries should be made to Councils to determine what is permissible for your property.