«Welcome to the electronic edition of Heritage Politics in Adelaide. The book opens with the bookmark panel and you will see the contents page. Click on ...»
The Role of Adelaide City Council COAHAC met for the remainder of 1991 and most of 1992. Some of the objections were protracted and extended over more than one meeting. Among the most controversial were objections to the listing of the Star Grocery store at Hindley and Morphett Sts with associations with the Greek community in the post-World War II period, Gawler Chambers (see chapter 5), the Kithers Building in King William St, recommended for its innovation as the first reinforced concrete building in Adelaide rather than its architectural merit, a former dance studio (previously Osborne Hall) in Gouger St, Adelaide, and Eagle House in Grenfell St, a 1968 office building of the International Style. Of these, only the Star Grocery store and the dance studio were not heritage listed, the latter having been significantly altered. ACC considered additional buildings after the public exhibition and some were transferred from the townscape initiative, to be discussed in the next chapter. At the end of the process, 117 items were added to the Register of City of Adelaide Heritage Items, of which 13 were statues, memorials, public gardens and the West Terrace cemetery. This process confirmed ACC’s commitment to its register as its list of prime heritage buildings at the same time that ACC recognised the community’s desire for protection of the city’s character through its townscape initiative.
Heritage Principles Restrictions on development relating to heritage buildings were contained primarily in Principles 19 and 20 of the 1986–91 City Plan. Principle 19 ‘Heritage Items’
Development of items within the City of Adelaide listed on the following, shall
conserve the substantial whole of the items:
• Register of State Heritage Items;
• Interim List established by the South Australian Heritage Act, 1978;
• Register of City of Adelaide Heritage Items.
Where adaptation of such items to new uses involves additional construction, part demolition or where alterations are proposed to the fabric of such items, development shall neither detract from nor destroy their cultural significance.
The State Bank Centre and the REMM-Myer project represented the most serious violations of this principle, with the approval of the SHB, the ACC and the CAPC.
The former required the demolition of the heritage-listed grand chamber of the Commonwealth Bank in Currie St, one of a few spectacular internal banking spaces Heritage Politics in Adelaide in Adelaide at the time. Rather than argue for retention of the heritage building, ACC quibbled over reuse of the pressed metal ceiling panels in the foyer of the new building, which ultimately replica panels replaced. In the case of the REMM-Myer project, the SHB and ACC argued that renovations had spoiled the original interiors of the heritage-listed buildings in North Terrace and were not worth preserving.
In fact, the original interior of Shell House was intact and of significant heritage value.
Principle 20, ‘Development Adjoining Heritage Items’, provided that ‘the design of buildings on a site adjoining the site of an item of city or state heritage should respect and complement the built form character of such item in terms of scale, building form, materials, external finishes and colour’. There are many examples in Adelaide that illustrate how willing ACC was to overlook this principle. Among them are the modern Commonwealth Bank in King William St, the Grenfell Centre and Telecom building in Pirie St and others surrounding the three-storey heritagelisted Stock Exchange building, the SGIC office building next to the former Marine and Harbours building (shifted from its corner position to make way for the SGIC building) at Victoria Square, and the modern office buildings surrounding the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Flinders St.
These examples illustrate the truism expressed by urban historian Chris McConville: ‘The economic factor in heritage conservation is crucial. In each Australian state and territory, heritage legislation and other protective mechanisms are as strong or as weak as the pressure from developers and local interests, and the political will of federal, state and local governments’.43 ACC often bowed to pressure from the state government and developers and gained economically through fees and increased rates by approving large-scale projects despite their impact on the city’s heritage and character, while individual members may have benefited from donations to their election campaigns.
Incentives for Heritage Conservation When the Register of City of Adelaide Heritage Items was approved, ACC resolved to encourage heritage conservation through financial incentives as recommended in the Heritage Study - Stage II. In her 1985 term of office report, Lord Mayor Wendy Chapman announced that ACC would design a package of financial incentives for heritage conservation along with its heritage register. After considerable correspondence with the state and federal governments seeking taxation and rate Davison and McConville, p. 60.
The Role of Adelaide City Council concessions, ACC exhibited the package for public comment in 1986. Alderman Harrison had then moved that the amount allocated for heritage incentives in the 1986/87 budget be at least $500,000 to reflect ACC’s strong views regarding Adelaide’s heritage, but the actual allocation fell far short of that. The final scheme, approved by ACC on 22 February 1988, included a rate rebate and the waiving of all planning and building application fees in relation to conservation work.
ACC allocated a total of $100,000 for grants covering up to 60 per cent of the cost of the work for commercial properties and 20 per cent for owner-occupied residences.
The maximum value of a grant was $1,000. Clearly, a $1,000 grant would not cover the major costs of maintaining a heritage property. As former Alderman Harrison said, 13 years after the grant scheme was initiated, ‘the real truth is there was never enough money allocated to heritage protection and there still isn’t’.44 Former Lord Mayor Steve Condous concurred and added that the state government had not done enough for heritage either.45 Neither of these men was a strong heritage advocate as a council member, but once ACC was committed to a heritage register, they professed to believe adequate funding should be provided to maintain the city’s heritage. ACC’s heritage architect Paul Stark pointed out that while ACC had been at times divided on the degree of heritage protection, ‘from 1988 onwards it had not until [the 2001–02] financial year downgraded its positive impact on heritage management and its assistance to private owners in custodial management of heritage places … It was the biggest local government commitment of its type in Australia’.46 Transferable Floor Area Transferable floor area, a measure to provide funds for the restoration and maintenance of heritage places, was adopted in all states in the late 1970s and 1980s. ACC incorporated it in the 1986–91 City of Adelaide Plan along with the city’s heritage register. Under Principle 17 of the Plan, ACC was able to approve the sale of unused floor space by an owner of a heritage-listed building if the height limit in the precinct was higher than the heritage-listed building. That is, the owner of a City of Adelaide heritage item located in a precinct where the Plan permits a higher plot ratio could sell the unused plot ratio and any allowable bonus to a developer to increase the plot ratio of a project within the same district. Both sites had to be located within the Michael Harrison, personal interview, 30 July 2001.
Steve Condous, personal interview, 6 August 2001.
Paul Stark, personal interview, 10 September 2001.
Heritage Politics in Adelaide core or frame district. ACC maintained a register of development rights to record the transferred areas to avoid transfers beyond the permitted limits. It assumed the funds gained from the sale of the floor area would be used for restoration and maintenance of the heritage item, and it could specify conditions in the TFA agreement.
Among the earliest groups to take advantage of the scheme were the owners of Observatory House in Flinders St. They sold all of the TFA entitlements of this heritage property to two purchasers for $166,200 to enable restoration of the building and the construction of a three-level addition at the rear. In the next two years, four churches in the frame district sold portions of their TFA entitlement for maintenance work, and one homeowner sold 50 per cent for $17,000 in 1991 for renovations. Only one transfer under the scheme was effected in the core district, and in that case no major conservation work resulted. As Scarborough and others have found, the increases in basic plot ratios contained in the 1986–91 Plan meant fewer bonuses were necessary for developments in the core district, limiting the need for the acquisition of TFA. ACC effectively destroyed the TFA system with the 1991–96 Plan when all state, city and local heritage buildings were incorporated into the scheme, raising the number of buildings eligible for TFA from 100 to 1000.
As a measure to compensate owners of heritage buildings and to ensure the maintenance of the city’s built heritage, the TFA scheme was unsuccessful because supply far exceeded demand.
Conclusion From the 1970s, ACC played a major role in South Australia’s heritage debates. As the capital city and the site of the oldest buildings in the state, Adelaide was the setting for key public protests against the demolition of historic buildings. The first City of Adelaide Plan and the subsequent five-yearly reviews prescribed by the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976) were often the catalysts for heritage policy development as ACC and city planners prepared for the next five years of urban planning. ACC was the first SA council to introduce its own heritage register, but by the time it was gazetted in 1987, this register of 419 heritage items, including 363 buildings, was widely considered too conservative and inadequate to protect the built character of Adelaide. ACC then faced the impatience of the Adelaide community seeking to implement more extensive heritage protection in the face of a rapidly changing built environment. Additions to the register were proposed in 1989, and at the same time, ACC began to consider implementing a scheme to protect historic streetscapes that formed the character of Adelaide. Such schemes for The Role of Adelaide City Council conservation zones had been in place in Melbourne from 1982, and were gradually approved for suburban districts in SA from 1989.
Like all political entities, councils are fluid in nature. In 1984, amendments to the Local Government Act resulted in dramatic changes in the membership of ACC.
From that time, the number of elected members who resided in a council ward, with a constituency largely comprising residential voters, increased steadily and roughly equalled the commercial representation from 1989. The business sector for the first time faced strong opposition with respect to development, urban design and heritage issues in council as ACC divided into ‘pro-heritage’ and ‘pro-development’ factions.
With greater autonomy than other local governments through the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976), ACC tended to act as if it controlled development in the City. Controversial ACC decisions were subject to review by the City of Adelaide Planning Commission, a joint city-state committee, but as noted in chapter 2, the CAPC overturned few of its decisions. On the other hand, significant state government projects during this period — the Adelaide Station and Environs Redevelopment project, the State Bank Centre, Town Acre 86, the REMM-Myer project and the East End Market site — showed the state had the upper hand in negotiating major developments.
When ACC’s townscape debates appeared to be too disruptive, the Minister for Urban Development and Local Government Relations took command of the matter in 1992. Parliamentary legislation controls councils, and the Bannon decade ended in 1993 with parliamentary legislation that altered the city-state relationship.
The Development Act (1993) repealed the City of Adelaide (Development Control) Act (1976), bringing Adelaide under the same state planning administration as all other local governments.
The federal government’s deregulation of the financial sector and lifting of controls on credit from 1984 led to a speculative building boom throughout Australia. ACC altered its policies by raising height and scale limits on developments, increasing the development potential of sites with low- to medium-density buildings. Rampant speculation in office buildings in the core and frame districts, and to a lesser extent in residential areas, resulted in a rapid loss of Adelaide’s older building stock. Heritage activists reacted strongly, contributing to the most inflammatory heritage debate of the decade, ACC’s townscape initiative, which is the subject of the next chapter.
Townscape Protection to Local Heritage Local government operates within a framework of intertwined alter egos – the elected council and the employed staff … Many councillors see their election as a popular mandate for them to make decisions, regardless of their background or expertise. On the other hand the council staff often view these representatives of the democratic process as a hindrance to the simple and effective working of the council, guided by those fundamental axioms, the building and planning codes.
— Howard Tanner, architect1 The first City of Adelaide Plan recognised ‘a need to protect, reinforce and enhance many … subtle qualities of townscape throughout the City’. The Plan described ‘Desired future character’ statements for each precinct of the city, but those statements did not afford adequate protection to townscapes. Such protection could only come from statutory recognition of a concept of heritage beyond the criteria for listing on the Registers of State and City of Adelaide Heritage Items. ACC’s townscape initiative aimed to conserve groups of buildings that contributed to the traditional character of the city and reflected past periods and change. They might be mansions or modest villas or rows of workers’ cottages, shops or warehouses, corner pubs or minor churches constructed of stone and brick in Victorian and Edwardian styles common to Adelaide and North Adelaide. Owners of designated townscape properties would be required to retain only those portions of their buildings viewable from the street, whereas owners of heritage-listed buildings were required to maintain the whole of their buildings. Contributory and non-contributory items were to be identified within each townscape. The former were to be retained while Howard Tanner, ‘The Role of Local Government’, Building & Architecture, 14, 3, April 1987, p.14.
Townscape Protection to Local Heritage non-contributory items could have been demolished provided buildings that were ‘in keeping with’ the character of the townscape replaced them.