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Renovating Heritage Homes

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Renovating Heritage Homes

If your home is heritage listed, this means it has historical significance to the area it is situated in. If you want to alter or renovate it in any way, there are certain rules governing what you can and can’t do. This is to keep any changes in line with the original appearance and design of the house, to preserve its heritage status.


Before undertaking renovations, you will need to seek approval from your local council or the heritage council. The heritage council operates under four values; historical, aesthetic, social, and technical/research. These values not only determine whether a property is heritage listed or not, but they will also determine the type of renovations allowed to take place. Consider these values and how they apply to your home before approaching council for approval for a renovation that may not coincide with the values.


Each value has its own assessment criteria, and this is best applied on a case-by-case basis, as each property is unique. Usually all aspects of a property will be taken into consideration, as the quality of the heritage value will comprise all its parts. The most important aspect is that the design of the renovation is in keeping with the significance of the place in which it is situated. The term used to describe this is ‘adaptive reuse’.


A statement of heritage significance in relation to the property should have been developed and issued upon heritage listing. This will be the basis for the conservation management plan, which will form the guidelines for the renovation. If this statement was not issued with the heritage listing it is a good idea to obtain or develop one before seeking council approval for renovations. The heritage council or local council heritage advisor can help with the preparation of the statement.


The next step is a conservation policy, which outlines the significance of the heritage property, in terms of its value historically, in relation to the ability for renovations to take place around this significance. It’s a good idea to include an outlook in terms of maintenance or reuse.


The statement and policy come together to form a management plan. A more successful policy and plan would outline how the renovations would enhance the conservation process, and provide opportunity to increase the value of a heritage asset. This is more likely to be approved than a plan that seeks to merely work around the limitations of heritage listing, or is not in keeping with the significance of the property. The heritage council will not approve renovations unless it has approved a management plan.


Finally, a statement of heritage impact is needed to tie together the management plan with the proposal for renovations. This will outline how the proposal fits the management plan and has observed the conservation policy.


Developing all these statements, policies, plans and proposals will save time and money when trying to obtain approval to renovate a heritage listed property. These documents seek to demonstrate the owner’s ability to understand the value and significance of the heritage status, as well as show their commitment to conserving this status.

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