ACT National Trust Statement on the Northbourne Housing Precinct
It is unfortunate that so much of the commentary regarding the processes for managing the future of the Northbourne Housing Precinct has been ill-informed. To understand why the National Trust is raising concerns about the current process it is important for people to know the following:
• After deliberating for a number of years the ACT Heritage Council publicly announced the provisional listing of the entire site, which comprises approximately 79 buildings, in September 2014. There were originally 169 dwellings in the precinct – 77 three bedroom; 36 two bedroom; 28 one bedroom; and 28 bed-sitters – when it was developed in the early 1960’s. These consisted of 16 garden flats, 5 maisonette buildings, each with 15 units; 4 two storey flats with 12 units per level; 32 buildings in De Burgh Street; and 4 towers.
• The Heritage Council subsequently amended the final listing to approximately half of the existing buildings without any reason being made public to explain the rationale behind their decision.
• The now revised provisional Heritage Council nomination is a new scenario with a further reduced sample of just seventeen buildings proposed for preservation.
• The ACT Government has submitted Development Applications for demolition of the majority of the heritage buildings including a DA which proposed the retention of only two buildings. A new and revised DA has just now been submitted appears to retain just eleven buildings
• The listing refers to planning and landscape elements as being significant but there is no opportunity to appreciate these planning elements as most of the buildings and spaces between them will disappear
• The Heritage Council refers to future potential development in its nomination but this should not form part of the Heritage Council’s consideration when assessing heritage significance
• The proposed listing is now so fragmented that it is not considered a precinct any more yet the precinct has heritage values.
Because of these anomalies and confusions the National Trust is concerned that:
• Due process has not been followed and no reasons have been provided as to why the heritage listing has been modified when the analysis and significance has not materially changed.
• The only Development Application provided by the ACT Government is for the demolition of most of a heritage site.
For these reasons the National Trust considers that it must continue to press for open and transparent planning processes to ensure that our Heritage is not dismissed without proper consideration and consultation. In the end all ACT planning and development decisions need to keep faith with the local community and its expectation that due process is followed.