An original timber cottage in Lismore’s Little Keen Street is to be removed despite Council’s and neighbours’ concerns about its impact on the heritage status of the neighbourhood.
On Tuesday night, Lismore City Council approved the removal of the house at 2 Little Keen Street despite a previous stay of execution three months ago, when mayor Jenny Dowell used her casting vote to delay approval of a DA to demolish it.
Crs Ekins, Clough, Ritchie and Houston voted against its removal.
Council was informed that funding might not be available for heritage consultation until the end of 2014, so there are currently no development controls that it can implement to consider the heritage significance of the homes on the street.
Speaking at public access, Little Keen Street resident Tony Gilding commended Council on its commitment to recognise the area for its heritage significance but asked that the DA to remove a dwelling from the street be put on further hold until future plans are put in place.
The dwelling is listed for removal on a website for $89,000 – which, according to Mr Gilding, is not the way to verify the value of the property.
‘I dispute the council’s heritage adviser… the only way to establish the market value is to get a valuation or a market test, which has not been done,’ Mr Gilding said.
Mr Gilding reminded councillors that development intentions are ‘unclear so there is an uncertain outcome. I ask that councillors do not approve any DAs until the owners are prepared to put up their future plans for their three sites in the street.’
Council staff confirmed that there is no future development application for that site.
Cr Neil Marks told Council that the ‘dwelling will end up going; it is better to go as a usable dwelling than to be demolished and go in pieces’.
Cr Marks said that allowing a property owner to remove a dwelling is well within their rights and is a complying development.
Cr Matthew Schiebl said the ‘DA was lodged in May. This is not a good look for Council… freehold land is freehold land. We should recognise the property owner’s rights to do as they wish.’
Cr Ekins said the house to be removed ‘was the prettiest house on the street and that the demolition is only by neglect. Removal is a better option than demolition but this is a poor outcome for the street.
Councillors also supported (Cr Bennett and Schiebl against) a recommendation by the council heritage adviser to undertake further heritage research and community consultation to conserve residential character and streetscape of the Little Keen Street area.
‘That report told us that it was worth creating a heritage precinct in that area,’ Cr Vanessa Ekins said.
Cr Ekins referred to a quote from the heritage consultant that describes part of heritage classification as ‘… modest dwellings/buildings of the lower socioeconomic populace, who are generally the majority, have been ignored as has their contribution to the development of towns and cities’.
‘The type of dwellings still extant in Little Keen Street represent a cohesive group of modest buildings inhabited by ordinary people for now more than a century and thus should be conserved and maintained.’
The Little Keen Street heritage study area is adjacent to St Carthage’s and St Andrew’s heritage conservation area.
Cr Ekins added that the area contributes to a significant part of Lismore’s housing stock.
‘I am interested in our downtown housing stock as we keep losing it to development,’ Cr Ekins said.
Cr Ekins said that Council now have a ‘housing strategy that identifies housing supply and shortages and we have an officer here to start implementing that strategy. This is an excellent opportunity for us to do further consultation in the Little Keen Street area.’
Cr Ekins allayed development fears by saying, ‘the conservation will not prohibit commercial development in that area. What it will do is influence the shape of the built environment to recognise the existing streetscape.’
This work is subject to Council receiving a Heritage Grant which, according to LCC strategic planning coordinator Paula Newman, may not be until at least the end of 2014.
Cr Neil Marks asked Ms Newman what the implications of heritage conservation were to the owners of properties in the study area.
‘Placing areas under conservation or heritage protection does not guarantee their conservation and indeed it is not unusual for landholders to allow their properties to fall into disrepair.
‘If there is any development in those areas there will be another layer of regulation to consider the impact of the proposal on the heritage significance.’
Ms Newman was questioned by Cr Greg Bennett on how unique she thought these dwellings are.
‘I think they are unique. Heritage is one of those things that we don’t miss until it’s gone!’ she said.