Owning a Heritage Item

Page hero image

What is a Heritage Item?

Our city's heritage items are diverse and reflect our history and culture. We've listed them for three main reasons:

  • To safeguard their significance through regulatory control
  • To promote their long term conservation
  • To provide incentives for their survival, occupation and use.

They range from buildings, monuments, sandstone kerb and guttering, gardens and parkland, industrial machinery, structures, farm buildings and whole streetscapes.

Importantly, heritage items provide links to our local history, including our maritime heritage and our history of work and enterprise. Our heritage items frame the city and give it a great sense of character. Heritage items have value for everyone who lives in Newcastle or visits our beautiful city.

We expect that development proposals for heritage items will respect and enhance them and ensure their longevity.

In considering whether to approve a change to a heritage item, we consider the heritage significance of the heritage item and how a proposed development affects heritage significance. We also consider how negative impacts are to be managed. 

If you own a heritage item and you wish to change it, think about its significant elements. In most cases a 'statement of heritage significance' can be obtained from the State Heritage Inventory.  

Once you know what's significant about your heritage item you can then look at what options you have to change the item, knowing what it is you need to keep.

It is advisable to discuss your proposal with council's Duty Officer before you lodge a development application.

Can I demolish a heritage item?

Generally speaking, demolition of a heritage item is not permitted.

Demolition of a heritage item would only be approved where the significance of the item has been destroyed or lost; or where there is demonstrated structural failing (an example would be major damage caused by an earthquake). 

The reason we list heritage items is to encourage their care, and to support the conservation of those items through their ongoing maintenance and adaptation. Our heritage items reflect our local history and give a sense of character to the city. Heritage items are evidence of our cultural heritage and have intrinsic value for everyone.

We encourage owners of heritage items to make sure the building has a viable use and to carry out frequent maintenance inspections including doing repairs in a timely manner. Unoccupied buildings face a much greater risk of damage or neglect than those that are used and maintained. 

We are supportive of creative and innovative solutions such as finding approrpiate new uses for buildings where the original purpose built function has ceased.

Heritage items provide the talented designer or architect with a rich canvas by which to achieve exemplary design through building recycling. 

Do I have to submit a Heritage Impact Statement with my Development Application for a heritage item?

When you submit a Development Application for work to a heritage item or for work requiring consent in a heritage conservation area, you need to submit a heritage impact statement. The complexity of the report should be tailored to the nature of the development proposal. For alterations and additions, our best advice is to engage a heritage practitioner early in the design development process so that we can work together to find the best option for your development application. 

A template has been prepared for these situations to assist you in formulating your statement: Heritage Impact Statement template (PDF)

In some circumstances, a Conservation Management Plan may be required for major or complex development proposals, or for state significant heritage items. 

Do I have to use a Heritage Architect?

It makes good sense to use building and design professionals who have experience in heritage conservation work. Heritage consultants, heritage builders and heritage architects are trained to offer a high degree of expertise in historic buildings and traditional construction. This is an especially important consideration if the building you are altering is a heritage item.

The NSW Heritage Branch maintains a database of conservation architects, builders, and suppliers of heritage services for you to find the right heritage expert for your situation. You can use it to search for a heritage practitioner relevant to your particular job. Browse the Heritage Consultant's Directory.

Where can I find tradespeople that will do restoration work?

A comprehensive Products & Services Directory  has been put together by the NSW Heritage Council to assist people in finding heritage tradespeople and products.

Maitland City Council's Heritage Group has produced a list of heritage tradespeople and suppliers in the Hunter region which is published as the Maitland Heritage Trades Directory and Maitland House Style Guide. This is a terrific resource for us to use in Newcastle as well.