Buying a heritage property?

When many people buy a heritage property they want to know what changes they can make.

Put simply, change to a heritage item must be managed to retain or enhance what is culturally significant about the property.

Each heritage property is different and what is significant about the property varies. In some an original bathroom must be retained while in others a bathroom could be changed with a minor works, and still another might require a development application.

So how do I know what is significant?

To know what is significant ask the real estate agent for a copy of the heritage inventory sheet for the house. This is the heritage assessment the heritage listing is based upon.

If you are still uncertain get advice from a heritage architect or a heritage consultant. Professionals experienced in heritage development know the types of developments that are likely to be approved and can give advice on what is significant about the heritage item e.g. the garden, the original wood panelling, an original service wing. A list of registered heritage consultants is available from the Office of Environment and Heritage.

What are the rules?

Council’s Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan contain the development controls and objectives that guide development and change. It is a good idea to read these to understand the rules for change. In Ku-ring-gai the interiors of heritage items are also listed so changing the configuration and the finishes would require Council approval.

Ku-ring-gai Council does not offer a heritage advisory service. If you want to know the likelihood of an approval being granted please apply for pre-Development Application consultation. Council staff will discuss the merits of your development proposal and identify any aspects that do not comply. The verbal and written feedback provided can help you address any issues with your proposal prior to lodging your DA. This is useful as you are only given one opportunity to amend your proposal during the DA assessment process. A pre DA could save you time, money and alleviate uncertainty.

Types of approvals

If you are uncertain which approval you require please talk to Council’s duty planner. The three types of approval are:

  1. Development application.
  2. Minor works approval.
  3. Exempt development.
Take away message

In summary, if you want to buy a heritage property and you want to make change: 

  • Know what is significant.
  • Get heritage advice form a heritage professional.
  • Understand the type of approval you need.
  • If lodging a development application it is strongly recommended you undertake pre Development Application consultation.

Common questions

Can I change the bathroom and kitchen?

A new fitout to a non-original bathroom or kitchen may be done with a minor works. If the heritage advisor determines the scope of the works is not minor they will require a development application. A new fit-out to an original bathroom will require development approval.

Can I do an extension?

Do your homework and seek advice from a heritage professional on what is significant. They can then make recommendations on the scope and the form of a possible renovation. An extension (alteration and addition) will require a development application supported by a heritage impact statement.

Can I demolish an original outbuilding?

If the building is significant then it is unlikely the demolition would be supported. It will require development approval.

Can I add a garage to the front of the house?

Garages forward of the front building line (integrated or freestanding) are generally not supported. This will require a development approval.

Can I remove a tree?

The removal of a tree that is a threat to human life (this must be confirmed by Council) is exempt development otherwise a development application is required.

This information is considered as advice only. The relevant approvals should be sought from Council.