The demolition of Linden Lea, a Tudor-style historic home in Toowong, and several other similar cases have triggered a review of the effectiveness of the Queensland heritage protection system. Here are the findings and recommendations of the Queensland Heritage Advisory Panel.
In 2021, a group of residents sought the protection of the 85-year-old Linden Lea on Archer Street in Toowong from demolition through a heritage register application. The effort, however, proved to be too late as the historic home was eventually knocked down which prompted calls for legislative changes.
The Queensland Heritage Advisory Panel (QHAP) was established in April 2021 to develop recommendations to better protect heritage places in Queensland by examining the effectiveness of the current heritage protection system.
“…Limitations of the current system, including those within the Heritage Act, have been brought to light through cases like “Home” (Lamb House) at Kangaroo Point and the Broadway Hotel at Woolloongabba. Both properties, included in the QHR and locally listed in the Brisbane City Plan 2014, have been at risk in recent years, the report said.
“Linden Lea, an interwar period house in a Brisbane City Council (BCC) character area was demolished in March 2021 despite considerable community concern and a reactive heritage register application. This illustrates that approved development cannot be prevented by current Heritage Act provisions and that a strategic approach to community heritage register applications needs to be encouraged.
“…Given these recent high profile incidents involving heritage places and that the Queensland Heritage Act is now nearly thirty years old, an examination of the heritage legislative framework is timely.”
The panel’s recommendations focused on three themes: legislative reform and strengthening Qld’s heritage framework; support for heritage stakeholders; and better communication, understanding and engagement.
Some of the key issues identified through the QHAP process include:
- Additions to and removals from the QHR rely on applications from the public or place owners, resulting in an ad hoc approach to which places are considered for entry in the QHR, and leading to underrepresentation of Queensland’s diverse heritage places.
- An increasing number of stop order requests and community-led QHR applications are seeking to prevent approved development or development applications proceeding; however, the QHR application process cannot override an existing development application or approval.
- The range of local heritage processes provides flexibility for local governments, but has resulted in an inconsistent approach across Queensland and created confusion
- The QHR registration process and stop orders cannot overturn existing development approvals or change the outcome of development applications, despite community expectations to the contrary.
- Queensland’s lack of interim protection for heritage places at State and local levels is not best heritage practice and puts it well behind other Australian jurisdictions.
The recommendations include:
- Undertake gap analysis of the QHR to determine under-represented place types.
- Engage with local councils and key advocacy agencies to establish a more strategic heritage listing approach for State and local heritage places informed by gap analyses and thematic research data.
- Engage with the community to encourage strategic community applications for local and State heritage places.
- Revise Heritage Act provisions relating to essential repair and maintenance work to meaningfully allow for the protection of at-risk State and local heritage places and align them with current standards across Australia.
- Explore legislative options to provide appropriate interim protection for places that are the subject of a QHR application, and align interim heritage protection with other jurisdictions across Australia.
The Queensland Government recently adopted all 22 recommendations of the QHAP’s report in relation to heritage places and the effectiveness of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992(Qld).
Following the release of the QHAP report, the Toowong Residents Group, who campaigned against the demolition of the Linden Lea noted that “problems are continuing.”
“Unfortunately, the problems are continuing – for example, Bundaberg has recently lost its historical Anzac Memorial Pool due to its belligerent council rushing to demolish the pool while recommended heritage classification was being formalised.
The group’s and former Queensland Health deputy director-general Dr John Scott likewise underscored the importance of policy-makers focusing more on what would be best for a neighbourhood rather than the dictates of the market in their planning decisions.
Toowong has been undergoing a transformation in recent years and the group has been advocating for the preservation of the suburb’s character amid a slew of development applications since 2015.