THE COMMUNITY IS ‘OVER’ THE GROWTH TO BENEFIT DEVELOPERS AND THEIR FOREIGN CLIENTELE
*Victor Yang claims he has been locked in limbo since the City of Ryde council put an interim heritage order on his 100-year-old house in the north-west Sydney suburb of Denistone. He says the order has halted his plans to redevelop the block and pushed him to the verge of bankruptcy.
“We’ll lose our home through no fault of our own,” Mr Yang said. “This is about fairness, not development politics.”
*But the City of Ryde said the freeze order was necessary to protect the home, as councils aim to strike a balance between Sydney’s development rush and protecting the city’s heritage precincts.
Mr Yang said his house had not been covered by heritage protections when he and his wife bought it in March last year.
*He was shocked when the council put the interim heritage order on his house for a maximum of 12 months last September, soon after he had lodged a development application to subdivide. He plans to demolish the house eventually and to build a duplex or triplex.
Interim heritage orders are aimed at preventing significant changes or damage to properties while authorities decide whether the sites should be heritage listed.
The council cited community opposition and independent heritage advice that found the house was a good example of an inter-war Californian bungalow and had “cultural heritage significance”.
Mr Yang said: “How can it be right for a homebuyer to find, after they’ve bought their home, that new conditions apply? Right now, anyone in NSW buying an older home could find themselves in this position.”
Independent Ryde councillor Roy Maggio opposed the interim heritage order on the house and said it was an “unfair process”. “There should have been more discussion with the applicant,” he said.
The mayor of the City of Ryde, Jerome Laxale, pushed for the house’s protection. He has seized on community concerns over perceived overdevelopment as Labor’s candidate for the state seat of Ryde.
Cr Laxale declined to comment. A City of Ryde spokeswoman said the council “takes the protection of buildings and places of heritage importance seriously” and Mr Yang’s house was “no exception”.
She said the council had put the order on the property “and also obtained a court injunction to protect it from irreparable damage while council seeks to officially place it on its heritage list”.
“Council does not resile from its position to protect the property as it is an important historical asset for the community.”
Lawyer Helen Macfarlane, who is a partner in planning and environment law at Sydney firm Addisons, said there had been a rise in the past several years of councils imposing interim heritage orders when a development application for a site was lodged, or when a tightly held property was put up for sale.
“It’s become a form of de facto development control,” she said.
She said that councils were not obliged to tell the landowner they had applied for an interim heritage order and they could be applied swiftly.
The council spokeswoman said the council was considering further legal action to protect the home “as the property continues to suffer damage”.
*Mr Yang said he hadn’t “done anything except maintain the tarpaulins on the roof”.
The dilemma over preserving heritage homes slated for redevelopment has been echoed in other parts of Sydney.
The independent mayor of North Sydney, Cr Jilly Gibson, said the council had recently pushed for the state government to put an interim heritage order on a Neutral Bay home.
Cr Gibson said the order was “a last resort” in response to a proposed development that residents feared would “drastically change” the character of the harbourside street.
“I support high-rise development in appropriate locations. The flipside of that is we have the responsibility to work tirelessly to protect the character of our conservation areas.”
Megan Gorrey is the Urban Affairs reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald.