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derp
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This thread is to put any articles you come across that discuss the constant battle between heritage and progress across the country....

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http://www.theherald.com.au/news/lo...stead-in-way-of-2bn-coal-deposit/2030631.aspx

Historic Singleton homestead in way of $2bn coal deposit

BY DEBRA JOPSON
21 Dec, 2010 04:00 AM

SHE is a grand old lady of the colonial era, looking tired and a little tipsy, with 20 million tonnes of premium Hunter Valley coal worth $2 billion under her skirts wanted for export to Japan.

Wambo Homestead, built in 1830, is on the path to possibly becoming the first protected property de-listed from the state heritage register under changes to the NSW Heritage Act, which came into effect in January, because the world's biggest private sector coal company wants to mine the seam under it.

Wambo Coal Pty Ltd, owned by the American giant Peabody and Japan's Sumiseki, has applied to the NSW Heritage Council for permission to demolish the homestead on the basis the company would suffer "undue financial hardship" if it must sacrifice coal to protect it.

As the state's Planning Department's heritage branch prepares a report to the NSW Heritage Council, residents and historians are horrified at the possible loss of the cluster of nine buildings, including three 1830s "old colonial Georgian" buildings displaying the earliest European architectural style used in Australia.

The Victorian Regency main house, whose timber Tuscan-inspired columns holding up the verandah roof remain elegant, if wobbly, and a grand entry to a central sandstone flagging hall, with fine, high windows overlooking valley and hills is still stylish.

"It is a test case of whether we are to be sacrificed to god coal," retired history teacher Carol Russell said.

The Heritage Council said six years ago: "Wambo Homestead is highly significant in the context of Australian pastoral activities and horse breeding in NSW."

It is "rare in NSW in that many outbuildings still remain substantially intact allowing easy understanding of the development of a homestead complex", it said.

Peabody Energy executives said it was not rare and initial research indicated that 78 other Hunter Valley homesteads were established before 1850 and had outbuildings.

Vacant for 10 years, Wambo homestead is not fit for habitation, has become increasingly isolated and will become more so as mining expands over the next 20 to 30 years, the company said in its application to the Heritage Council.

"Look at the cracks. It's just old, the poor thing," Peabody external affairs vice president Jennifer Morgans said during a tour of the main house.

The company has offered $3 million to help move three timber buildings to another site and pay for other ways of remembering the Wambo homestead, such as "virtual visits" online.

But Ron Fenwick, a member of the mine's consultative committee who wants Wambo restored on site, said: "You can't move it because it loses its identity."
re: the bolded part - I find this quite amusing as if the revenue from coal is "as of right". How would this be any different to someone buying a heritage property and being unable to demolish it anywhere else in Australia?

Unfortunately I know very little about the context of this heritage item so I can't really comment on whether it should stay...
 

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If you buy a heritage-listed structure, you buy it under the understanding that it is listed, which will restrict what you can do on the site.

This is just the way it is - from individuals who buy listed houses, to developers looking to breath new life into a tired old, often neglected building. They aren't allowed to demolish their buildings, often for good reason, and neither should the Coal Mine.

Make them save the buildings and let them suffer the "undue financial hardship" I say! They're a mining company owned by large American and Japanese interests, I'm sure they're not short a dime or two!
 

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Galactic Ruler
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If you buy a heritage-listed structure, you buy it under the understanding that it is listed, which will restrict what you can do on the site.

This is just the way it is - from individuals who buy listed houses, to developers looking to breath new life into a tired old, often neglected building. They aren't allowed to demolish their buildings, often for good reason, and neither should the Coal Mine.

Make them save the buildings and let them suffer the "undue financial hardship" I say! They're a mining company owned by large American and Japanese interests, I'm sure they're not short a dime or two!
That sounds like a productive suggestion. Thanks for your time
 

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This is a topic close to my heart.

I understand the need for progress, however the property is listed and obviously has some importance that has warranted that. It maybe in a poor state, but can be easily restored.
In letting people/companies demolish such buildings for personal gain just makes a mockery of the heritage and listing process. If this happens, do we allow developers demolish other heritage items to build a unit building, and if they don't they will suffer financial hardship? Surely we can live without Government House, Elizabeth Bay House, Lyndsey House etc and why not knock down SOH too while were are at it, I mean think of the dollars that a unit building there could bring in! Sadly, I would not be surprised if this homestead is lost, as money talks. Australia really is backward and short sighted in these instances, if we allow this continue where does it stop? Did we learn nothing from the 50's and 60's? $2b worth of coal that will eventually run out and what are we left with once this non-Australian company take their fill and leave us with lost heritage and a ravaged landscape, not a step in the right direction.
 

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derp
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I have skimmed the heritage report related to the proposed demolition of this homestead and it must have absolutely killed the authors, who are obviously passionate enough about heritage to be heritage consultants, to have to write a report putting forward a case for demolition of such a property.

The key themes seem to be:
- the state of disrepair of the homestead
- the lack of public access due to mining/private property
- there are apparently 120 or os other homesteads from a similar area still in existence in the wider Hunter valley

It is certainly a difficult situation - I side with Cariad though that de-listing and demolition would set a dangerous precedent and make a mockery of what is already a joke of a heritage protection system.

I'd love historyworks' opinion on this too, although I doubt he reads this part of the forum these days...
 

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To a degree. Adaptive reuse of heritage items may be a profitable option in some instances, particularly if a developer can snag some grant funding.
That's very true! In fact, there are two developments in Brisbane that both integrate portions of heritage buildings into them (the almost-complete 123 Albert St, which will include a heritage laneway/arcade that creates a cross-block link, and the soon-to-begin, very controversial Regent Tower development that integrates the heritage listed Entrance and Grand Foyer of Brisbane's Regent Theatre.)

However, this only works in cases where the area is in a plan to redevelop the site. In this case, they are wanting to knock it down so as to mine the coal which the site happens to sit on. It's not like we're so short of coal to mine that this is the last site where it exists...

The key themes seem to be:
- the state of disrepair of the homestead
- the lack of public access due to mining/private property
- there are apparently 120 or os other homesteads from a similar area still in existence in the wider Hunter valley
Well, we have the miner's side of the story for wanting to level the buildings. Obviously it will be biased towards demolition, so I want to hear the point of view of the heritage council to balance the scales. It's worth noting that although the story focuses on a single building, it mentions that it is actually one of nine building, 3 of which are circa 1830.

Regardless of who's point of view is correct, as people have said, allowing the de-listing and demolition would set a very dangerous precedent and create a loophole that could pose a danger to numerous heritage listed buildings, and at worse negates the whole point of having a heritage protection system!
 

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derp
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It's worth noting that although the story focuses on a single building, it mentions that it is actually one of nine building, 3 of which are circa 1830.
Yes, the heritage report puts forward the case for relocating only a couple of the ancillary buildings (stables etc) whilst the main homestead will be demolished. This is obviously the most difficult one to relocate due to the size, complexity and condition of the building.
 

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Worst case scenario, I would at least rather see it moved.
Well they may as well be made to. If they can't demolish it, they'll begrudgingly work around it in a manner than would like may it completely inaccessible anyway.

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As a general concept I think we too readily protect buildings or perhaps rather, make it too hard to demolish buildings once they are protected. A heritage order from the outset should really only be something that requires a further study be done to assess its heritage value when a development proposal is made, rather than something that should be considered as making the site sacrosanct or something.

Look at this this way, apply current heritage laws to 19th century London or Paris. What cities would you have?
 

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derp
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
^ Perhaps if you are looking at it from the POV of what is listed in LEPs as heritage items. There aren't that many State Heritage items though, those which are of higher significance.

That said, the RTA has demolished a number of items on its heritage register in recent years.

I think if a heritage listing leads only to a 'review' when a development proposal comes in, what mechanism is there for preserving it? Anybody can mount an argument for destruction of any heritage item.
 

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But shouldn't they? After all even the Sydney Opera House isn't sacred (or maybe, even St Mary's isn't sacred).

My point being that Westminster Palace or the Old Bailey were pulled down (the latter in the 20th Century; pity it appears in the trailer for the new Pirates of the Carribean film...) and no one decries their replacements. Napoleon III increased the roadspace in Paris by some factor I can't remember, but Paris is the jewel in the crown of Europe.

Or maybe more tangibly, in Sydney, you'd never be able to pull down something as "historic" as Fort Macquarie Tram Depot to build the Sydney Opera House. People enough lament the loss of the Hotel Australia for the MLC Centre (well maybe they have a point because I don't like Seidler). At least nobody's said UTS can't build a Gehry because the Diary Farmers milk depot is "a part of Sydney's history"...
 

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Yeah good topic and sometimes not clear cut

If society is to be moral and if law and government are to have purpose and meaning - then you must not let people get away with buying a property to then speculatively lobby government for laws surrounding its use to be changed, and then profit from it.

This principle is even more important than the preservation of old buildings per se.

Having seen the show about moving large structures I'm sure just about anything can be moved for a price; and $2b worth of coal (according to the company) would pay for just about any movement and restoration you had in mind.

The government could chip some in on the basis of any real significance of the building.

In the long run I'd like to see government pay for all heritage outright, but therefore being very sparing about what it actually preserves. If the building can then be onsold, covenanted for permanent good repair and maintenance, then so be it. If the building has low commercial value for modern purposes, the government can then accept a lower than otherwise price, or subsidise rents/costs to make up the difference.

For example, if you dictated that Flinders St Station had to be productively used after restoration, but no-one really wants a ballroom at full market rates, you could accept a low sale price (conditional on the future owner keeping it maintained) or subsidise its use.
 

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i'm pro-development, but i support the preservation of heritage buildings, as it adds character, and gives history to the area. But with that being said, sometimes local councils take things too far, and designate ugly old derelect wooden shacks as heritage listed. I think in order for old buildings to be considered heritage listed, they must have brick or stone walls, unless the building looks good enough to keep.

For egsample, in wentworthville, the parramatta council designated an ugly old derelict wooden shack as heritage listed, stopping developers from redeveloping the block. The house isnt worth keeping, and is in a prime location, as it is infront of the train station.
Eventually the house mysteriously burnt down, and it had to be knocked down for safety reasons, and a developer is now building a block of units on the land.

here's a pic of the old house which you can still see on google maps:



here's a pic of the house
 

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^^ Councils do have a habit of going too far with heritage listing, as in that case. I wouldn't say that buildings need to be built of brick to be listed - here in Queensland we have a lot of our original 'Queenslander' style houses heritage listed and they are of timber construction. Some are in terrible shape but are still able to be restored to a very high quality.

I think the key feature that should be looked at is the structural integrity of the building. There has been a case in Brisbane in the last week in which an application was made to demolish a heritage listed, 122 year old house, which had been heavily modified in the past few decades and now sits derelict, to be replaced with a carpark extension to the adjoining Greek Club.

Council decided that the building, although in a terrible state, was structurally sound and able to be restored - a process performed on many similar properties in the same street - and so the application was rejected. A decision that I strongly agree with.

Here is a link to the story, with a picture gallery: LINK

I can't speak about the buildings in question, having not seen them. However, if they are at all capable of being restored, and are of heritage significance, they should be retained.
 

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Preserving heritage listed buildings with genuine uniqueness is important as it gives a sense of historical realism and perspective. The last thing I want to see is historic buildings torn down just for modernity.
 

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I like development as well but sometimes we do need to preserve the buildings that have contributed towards the overall development of a city over time or society. Also I always have felt that we need to preserve examples of architecture built during a particular period.

However I have felt that councils have gone too far when it relates to maintaining heritage, keeping buildings that lack history.
 
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