Heritage Conservation & Management
It little wonder that ‘steeped in history’ is a by-line in our regional logo, we have a rich heritage reflecting lifetimes of indigenous presence and the 200 years since the first Europeans crossed the mountains and settled. Since then the rich heritage of our indigenous forebears has been overwritten by four distinct layers of history;
- The Hartley Valley was discovered and became the route through which Western New South Wales was developed.
- We saw the settlement of early graziers like the Walkers and Browns who developed grazing runs that were measured in square miles rather than acres
- We saw the development of the coal, iron, pottery and similar industries and then the railway.
- In turn this extraordinary industrialisation created a rich array of social history, of community development and a rich lode of industrial relations lore.
This pageant of history has left us a huge array of built heritage that reflects our rich past. We have houses, farmhouses, barns, road remnants, railway artefacts, industrial property and esoteric items, like the gun emplacements for instance, that provide a potpourri of interest that has great potential to be one of the things that brings people to our region.
What is heritage and why is it valuable?
Heritage is what we inherit from previous generations and is part of our national, community and individual identity. Heritage reflects the past and identifies how a place has developed into what it is today.
Heritage does not have to be old, it is anything that we value and identify as worth protecting to enjoy now and in the future. Items of places of heritage significance are not identified just because they may be old, other reasons include
- They are associated with important phases in the history or an area or with persons or events of great importance,
- They are rare,
- They have been constructed with unusual materials of techniques, and/or
- They are fine, representative examples of their type.
A heritage item or place does not have to be completely intact or in good condition for it to be of heritage significance. Rather it is the ability of the item or place to demonstrate a particular heritage criteria or theme that is important.
Heritage significance can be historical, scientific, cultural, social, archaeological, architectural, natural or aesthetic value. Determining these qualities and values is inevitably subjective but professional guidelines are provided in the Australian National Heritage Charter and the Burra Charter (the Australia ICOMOS Charter for places of cultural significance) which underpins all heritage legislation in Australia.
What is Aboriginal Cultural Heritage?
Aboriginal cultural heritage consists of places and items that are of significance to Aboriginal people because of their traditions, observances, lore, customs, beliefs and history. It provides evidence of the lives and existence of Aboriginal people before European settlement through to the present. Aboriginal cultural heritage is dynamic and may comprise physical (tangible) or non-physical (intangible) elements. It includes thing s made and used in traditional societies such as stone tools, art sites and ceremonial or burial grounds. It also includes more contemporary and/or historical elements such as old mission buildings, massacre sites and cemeteries. Tangible heritage is situated in a broader cultural landscape and needs to be considered in that context and in a holistic manner.
Aboriginal cultural heritage also relates to the connection and sense of belonging that people have with the landscape and each other. It recognises that Aboriginal people understand cultural heritage and cultural practices as being part of both the past and the present and that cultural heritage is kept alive and strong by being part of everyday life.
Cultural heritage is not confined to sites; it also includes peoples’ memories, storylines, ceremonies, language and ‘ways of doing things’ that continue to enrich local knowledge about the cultural landscape. It involves teaching and educating younger generations. It is also about learning and looking after cultural traditions and places, and passing on knowledge. It is enduring but also changing. It is ancient but also new.
Aboriginal cultural knowledge provides crucial links between the past and present and therefore represents an essential part of the identities of Aboriginal people and all Australians.
How can I find out about Aboriginal objects and places in my area?
The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) maintains the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System, (AHIMS) which includes:
- information about Aboriginal objects that have been reported to the Director General, Department of Premier and Cabinet
- information about Aboriginal places which have been declared by the Minister for the Environment to have special significance with respect to the Aboriginal culture
- archaeological reports.
AHIMS has operated since the 1970’s and as June 2011 contained detailed information on 67,000 recorded sites and 10,700 archaeological and other Aboriginal heritage reports.
How are Aboriginal objects and places protected?
The National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act), administered by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), is the primary legislation for the protection of some aspects of Aboriginal cultural heritage in New South Wales.
The NPW Act protects Aboriginal objects and Aboriginal places in NSW. Under the NPW Act, it is an offence to do any of the following things without an exemption or defence provided for under the NPW Act (penalties apply):
- A person must not knowingly harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object.
A person must not harm or desecrate an Aboriginal object or Aboriginal place (strict liability).
Harm includes destroy, deface or damage of Aboriginal object or Aboriginal Place, and in relation to an object, move the object from the land on which it has been situated.
Further information is available on the Office of Environment and Heritage website at:
Does Council have a local Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Study?
No. This has been an identified gap in Council’s heritage management framework. This work will be undertaken as resources permit.
What are the different types of heritage listings?
NSW has two main types of heritage listings known as Heritage Items and Heritage Conservation Areas. Heritage listings flag that a place or object has heritage significance.
What is a heritage item?
Heritage items are buildings, relics, structures or places of individual value. They may include a house, outbuilding, farm shed/stables, road infrastructure such as culvert or
bridge, church, cemetery, gardens or landscape feature etc or the remains or ruins of these things.
What is a heritage conservation area?
Heritage Conservation Areas (HCAs) are more than a collection of individual heritage Items; they comprise areas in which the historical origins and relationships between various elements create a sense of place that is valued and worth preserving. HCAs are identified by analysing the special characteristics which make up its heritage significance. This may include its subdivision pattern, the consistency of building materials or architectural style, the common age of the building stock and /or its social connectivity to the origins of its locality.
There are thirteen heritage conservation areas listed within Schedule 5 Part 2 of Lithgow Local Environmental Plan 2014.
Further information on these heritage conservation areas can be found in the Lithgow Heritage DCP Study 2010 prepared by Paul Davies Pty Ltd
Why is statutory listing of heritage items required?
Listing is the way our heritage items and places are identified and managed. It safeguards the environmental, economic and social benefits of this limited resource for present and future generations.
As with zoning, certainty is the driving reason for listing. By flagging our heritage items and places, listing gives owners and the community certainty about what is a heritage item or place. It provides advance knowledge about the approvals process, and confidence that future changes to listed items and places and surrounds will be sympathetic ahead of important decisions such as purchasing.
Listing avoids the uncertainty, delays, unforeseen costs and unnecessary conflict that can result when heritage is identified late in the development process.
What does listing mean?
By providing a balanced framework for managing change, listing keeps heritage items and places authentic, alive and useful.
- Listing does not inflexibly bound or “mothball” property.
- Listing will not stop all change or freeze a place in time.
- Listing is a beginning – the first step in protecting significant items and places – not the end result.
- Statutory listing protects heritage items and places in three basic ways; recognition, approvals and support.
Listing gives public recognition to heritage items and places under law. It will not change property ownership nor open private property to the public. Listing produces information about the history and significance of an item or place to help owners and communities understand and manage their property/places.
Listing permits sympathetic development of heritage items and places through an approvals process. The process to gain approval ensures changes retain the significance of heritage places.
State listing normally prevents demolition and neglected maintenance. NSW listings do not otherwise prescribe how a place can or cannot be changed.
Any change to a listed item or place can be assessed for approval.
Changes are assessed on their merits when owners submit development applications. In this assessment, the relevant consent authority decides whether the proposed works or development will have an unacceptable impact on the significance of the item or place. Owners have an opportunity to submit their own assessment in the “statement of heritage impact” before a decision is made.
Listing gives owners improved access to heritage grants and free technical advice from local heritage advisors on how to make sympathetic changes. Listing also often allows a wider range of land uses for a property to be considered than land use zoning would otherwise permit, provided the land use can be shown to facilitate conservation objectives and sympathetic and adaptive reuse of the item.
Owners of heritage listed properties can request a “heritage restricted valuation” through Land and Property Information (formerly Valuer-Generals Department). If this results in a lower property valuation, the valuation will be forwarded to Council who will then levy rates based on the lower valuation. A lower valuation may also have implications for State Land Tax. Enquires on this matter should be directed to the Office of State Revenue.
Council may from time to time have Local Heritage Assistance Grants for
works that add to the heritage value of item or places listed.
OEH Reference Document – Heritage Listing Explained https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/heritagebranch/heritage/HeritageListing2010final.pdf
How to find out if a property is heritage listed?
Four main statutory lists contain heritage listings for places that are significant locally, state-wide, Australia wide and/or world wide.
Locally significant items or places items are listed in local councils Local Environmental Plans (LEP) in Schedule 5. Lithgow Local Environmental Plan 2014 can be viewed on the NSW legislation website at: https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/#/view/EPI/2014/824
As well as being listed locally, State significant items or places are listed on the State Heritage Register on the NSW Office of Environment and Development website at:
Heritage items and places can also be listed on non-statutory registers such as the National Trust of Australia (NSW). These registers do not carry any legal requirements, but are an indication that an item or place is considered to have heritage significance and is a valuable resource for investigation.
Can a property be taken off Schedule 5 of the LEP and what is the process involved?
Yes it is possible, however uncommon. Council can delete an item form the heritage schedule of the LEP if it receives information from a suitably qualified source that an item is not as significant as initially indicated or the item has been incorrectly identified. This requires amendment to Lithgow LEP 2014 including public exhibition.
Depending on the individual circumstance, an application to amend Schedule 5 of the LEP may need to be accompanied by a heritage assessment and document justifying any request for deletion off the Schedule.
Can a property be added to Schedule 5 of the LEP and what is the process involved?
Yes, Council is open to suggestions for new items or places which may have heritage significance. The process to list new items or places is an amendment to Lithgow LEP 2014 via a Planning Proposal. Such amendment involves community consultation.
What information is available in relation to local heritage listed items or conservation areas?
In the preparation of the Lithgow Heritage Study 2000, inventory sheets were prepared for items now listed. The heritage inventory sheets contain basic but useful information such as a brief history of the item, listings, a physical description of the item and where available a photographic image and a statement of significance.
These sheets are being progressively updated with information received during the various community and agency consultation processes and will in time be made available through a link to the NSW Heritage Office Website. In the meantime these sheets are available by contacting Council’s Development Assessment Team.
The inventory sheets provide information provided from a number of sources and therefore the accuracy of these sheets may not be guaranteed. They act as a trigger or starting point for further research and investigation only.
The Lithgow Heritage DCP Study 2010 provides information for all listed heritage conservation areas including a description, a discussion of its heritage value, nominated heritage items with their status, policy recommendations, photographic data sheets and drawings analysing the location and setting of the HCA.
What may happen if a property with potential heritage value is not listed and is under threat?
If Council becomes aware of a property of potential heritage significance, which is NOT listed under the Lithgow LEP 2014 and is under immediate threat, it can make an Interim Heritage Order (IHO) over the property under the NSW Heritage Act, 1977 under authority delegated to Council by the Minister.
When an IHO is made it is an office to:
- Alter the building, work, relic or moveable object
- Display any notice or advertisement on a place or precinct
- Damage or destroy any tree or the vegetation on the land.
An IHO is valid for twelve months, giving Council time to investigate the heritage value of the place and if necessary prepare an amendment to the Lithgow LEP 2014 to list the item so that it is legally recognized as a heritage item. In this period, the NSW Heritage Council is the relevant authority for any development applications received over an IHO property.
What obligations does local heritage listing place on landowners?
Obligations as an owner of a heritage item are no greater than an owner of any other property, including normal maintenance and repair. The main difference occurs when a landowner proposes to make changes to the heritage item.
Are their specific clauses in the Lithgow LEP which apply to heritage items and heritage conservation areas?
Yes, Clause 5.10 Heritage Conservation of Lithgow Local Environmental Plan 2014 applies. Heritage items are listed and described in Schedule 5 and shown on the Heritage Map. Heritage Conservation Areas are shown on the Heritage Map as well as being described in Schedule 5. This clause is a Mandatory Clause of the Standard LEP Instrument and applies in all LEPs across the State.
Can a building that is heritage listed be demolished?
No building can be demolished without development consent whether it is heritage listed or not.
If submitting an application to demolish in whole or in part a heritage item, such application may be supported by a heritage impact statement and justify the case for demolition. Demolition would only usually be supported if it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable alternative.
Can an owner make changes to a property if it is heritage listed?
In most cases, changes to a heritage listed property can be made if it is sympathetic to its heritage significance and setting.
Upgrading kitchens, bathrooms and services and rear extensions to meet contemporary standards are commonly approved changes.
What is meant by “sympathetic development”?
Sympathetic development means undertaking changes to an item or place whilst maintaining its heritage significance. This may require retaining the form and architectural style of an item, such as retaining original roof pitch, materials, window placement and scale, setbacks and colour treatment or placing extensions at the rear of the building, which all play a role in maintaining and conserving the character of an item or place.
Is development consent required for all changes to a heritage listed property?
In most cases development consent will be required except for those that are listed as exempt development under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying) Codes 2008. However Clause 5.10(3) allows the consent authority not to require development consent for certain minor development that would not adversely affect the heritage significance of the heritage item or place. In order for this to occur the applicant must notify the consent authority in writing before any work is carried out and Council will provide written confirmation.
Does local heritage listing affect whether development can be considered as Exempt or Complying Development under State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying) Codes 2008?
There are further restrictions on some development that would otherwise be exempt development if the land is a heritage item.
Complying development cannot be undertaken on land that contains a heritage item/s. Further complying development specified for the General Housing Code or Rural Housing Code cannot be undertaken on land within a heritage conservation area.
Further detail is provided in State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying) Codes 2008.
Does the heritage listing apply to the whole of property or just the facade?
Heritage listing applies to the whole of the building and/or land as described in Schedule 5 of the Lithgow LEP 2014. It includes any element upon that land that contributes to the heritage significance of the item. This may include internal detailing, floor layouts, external setting of an item including gardens, fencing and landscaping and relationship to other buildings.
What is a heritage management document?
Heritage management document means:
(a) a heritage conservation management plan, or
(b) a heritage impact statement, or
(c) any other document that provides guidelines for the ongoing management and conservation of a heritage item, Aboriginal object, Aboriginal place of heritage significance or heritage conservation area.
Heritage conservation management plan means:
A document prepared in accordance with guidelines prepared by the Division of the Government Service responsible to the Minister administering the Heritage Act 1977 that documents the heritage significance of an item, place or heritage conservation area and identifies conservation policies and management mechanisms that are appropriate to enable that significance to be retained.
Heritage impact statement means a document consisting of:
(a) a statement demonstrating the heritage significance of a heritage item or heritage conservation area, and
(b) an assessment of the impact that proposed development will have on that significance, and
(c) proposals for measures to minimise that impact.
OEH Reference Document – Conservation Management Documents
When may it be necessary to have a heritage document prepared?
A heritage management document is usually required to be prepared when considering changes to a heritage item or to a property in the vicinity of a heritage item or place or within a heritage conservation area.
There will be varying levels of complexity required for these documents depending on the scope and scale of the development proposed.
Are properties not listed as a heritage item but are located next to a heritage item affected in any way?
Yes. Clause 5.10 of the Lithgow LEP 2014 applies to development on sites in the vicinity of a heritage item. Council may require a heritage management document to be prepared to assess the extent to which the carrying out of development in the vicinity of a heritage item or a heritage conservation area would affect the heritage significance of the item or area.
There will be varying levels of complexity required for this documentation depending on the scope and scale of the development proposed.