Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Heritage places

Last week owners of an 1860s heritage listed home, Lochiel, copped a $350,000 fine for alterations made to their building without Queensland Heritage Council approval.

A Courier Mail article said that the owners bought the already heritage listed house in Hamilton for $6.4 million in 2006.  They removed foundations and walls and enlarged a wine cellar without the necessary approval. The fine was the highest ever imposed for such an offence.

The Heritage Register describes Lochiel as "a rare, intact and fine example of a suburban estate; its evolution over several stages (the earliest believed to date from the 1860s) well illustrating the development of Brisbane..."

Lochiel image from here

Read the full article here if you'd like. But it is actually the 127 comments attached to the online article which are more interesting.

Old real estate listing of Lochiel. Image from here
An alarming number of the comments were in support of the owner who was fined.

There was an attitude that the laws were draconian, government should butt out since they don't own the property and some even suggested the owners torch the home as revenge against the fine!!

Whoa! It is pretty depressing to think how little some people value heritage.

And I understand people don't like to be told what to do on their own property. I wouldn't like to be told how to renovate our old bathroom either.

However, I did not purchase a heritage listed property which places restraints on what you can do to the property. I did not take on the responsibility of a heritage listed home and what that entails. Click here to find out what owning a heritage property in Queensland means.

There were also comments that said if the external facade is preserved, then the owners should be able to do what they like inside. No one will be able to see it anyway.

Other comments also highlighted the hypocrisy and poor track record of successive State Governments when it came to protecting heritage listed places.

Yungaba image from here
The beautiful Yungaba, a 120 year old immigration centre and the majestic Regent Theatre are now in the hands of property developers and sadly, preservation is not the name of the game when you're a developer.

Regent Theatre image from here.
All is not yet lost with the Regent, so if you haven't had your say and wanted to save the theatre, follow this link.

So, what do you think about heritage places? Do you think it is fair to be fined for renovating an heritage listed property? Is it really government being draconian? Or are Queenslanders a bunch of rednecks (I can say this, because I'm born and bred in Queensland), who just don't get what heritage means?


  1. I just wrote a huge comment and then wiped it.

    So, basically, private property is private property. Do with it as you will. If the State wants to intervene, then the State should buy the property and pay for its preservation.

    The present Govt sees fit to spend, goodness knows how much, on a football field on the Gold Coast, and then stands by while legislation allows private land-owners to be fined for altering their own property.

    As a tax payer, I'd prefer $6.4mill to go towards purchasing Lochiel, than for the construction of a sports field.

  2. Wow! That is a steep fine! I do agree however that if you buy a heritage-listed building, you do have certain responsibilities.

  3. If you buy a heritage-listed home, you're well aware of the restrictions you face. We need to preserve our history, and without intervention we'll return to the days when every building of historical significance will be at the mercy of developers looking to make a quick buck. And unless the fines are high, they'll be ignored. I do love this particular house - my sister lives nearby and I often drive past and think what a gorgeous place it is. Fingers crossed the next generation will get to admire it as well. K xx

  4. heritage is sacred. leave it alone. if you have that much money, buy or build what you want.
    in canada we tear down old buildings ( which by european standards arent even old )which i think is sad. i like new also but the old ones are usually more interesting.

  5. Hmmmm you've started it again lovie...Very interesting.... Will have to have a think before I blurt something out because its easy to understand both sides, cheers Katherine

  6. As the owner of a listed property it frustrates me no end when people complain about the restrictions. You are fully informed when you buy a listed property what you can and can't do. If you don't like it - don't buy it. My only more cynical thought however would be that if the government was serious about heritage they would put the $350000 fine into packages of perhaps $20 000 for grants for owners of listed properties to use to help restore their houses. It is so expensive to get anything done on a listed house that sadly I think many people can't afford to restore their houses. There definitely should be more government funding for appropriate restoration NOT renovation.

  7. It's so sad to see how little regard people have for history (can anyone say Sir Joh?) Our house is listed as a 'place of cultural significance' however we have never received one piece of information about what that might mean for the place or whether anyone would like to heritage list it in the future. There were no questions asked during building approval for the raise either which is a little scary.

  8. No matter what state you're in (I'm assuming) you know the deal when you buy a listed property. There are restrictions and if you don't like it, then don't buy it. While I understand the argument that alterations that aren't obvious from the outside should be allowed to go ahead....a heritage property is just that, through and through.
    It's a hefty fine, but they knew the deal...if they don't like it then I'm sure they could've spent less than 6 million on a new "reproduction" and had the exact cellar they wanted.

  9. Reading the comments on Courier Mail articles is like reading talkback radio transcripts. It's good for a laugh, but these people are moaners who will bleat wherever they can.

  10. Oh my god!!!! $350,000 fine!!! Can't believe it.

  11. It's a tricky one but I suppose if you knowingly purchase a heritage listed house your take on the rules as well. Otherwise, buy an old house with no heritage listing and do what you like!

  12. We own a house that is the same age. When we bought it, it wasn't heritage listed. Council is now considering heritage listing it. If we had known this before we bought it, we wouldn't have bought it.

    Thankfully, it looks now as if it's not going to be heritage listed for now. See, I can understand where people are coming from. We have respect and a love for the history of this house, but at the end of the day, we're the ones who have to live in it.

    We believe with our house, because it wasn't heritage listed before we bought it, we didn't sign up for that stuff, and yes, we would fight for our right to make changes as we see fit. I also think a $350,000 fine is really harsh.

  13. Another thought provoking article Anita.... The interesting thing here is that it may have been approved had the sought proper approval. I tend to agree with you though, in that if you take on a property knowing it is heritage listed, then you need to respect those laws. Luckily our house isn't in this situation as we have knocked the odd wall out and re-arranged doors and windows - lol! ;-)

  14. Thanks everyone for your comments. It was interesting to read Ani's House and Lou's experiences with their homes. But I feel for Hear Mum Roar - it would be a pain to have your house heritage listed after you have been living in it for some time. It would be hard to accept Heritage guidelines when you never signed up for it in the first place!

  15. I'd be quite straitlaced about this sort of thing - if one knowingly signs up to a deal, contraventions are fineable. And the fine is nothing compared with the cost of the house.

  16. I waited until my 150 year old new house went unconditional today before I commented. I didn't want to jinx the sale. I agree that in this country it cannot be more obvious when you buy a house that is heritage listed. If the real estate agent doesn't point it out to you your solicitor certainly will. Surprisingly few houses are actually heritage listed and are easily found online. (I thought ours would be but it is not but still that will not stop me from making my changes within while keeping its heritage integrity.) National Trust listing is another thing and this tiger has no teeth. They'll hate you if you do unsympathetic changes but they can only curse you not fine you. For a long time owners and developers have been flouting the law with heritage buildings. Fines were never great and seen as a slap on the wrist and just factored into the renovation costs. Seems that this has at last changed. Even so, a fine of $350,000 on a $6.4 million house with a renovation that was also probably in the hundreds of thousands is no great fine. The owners got what they wanted, probably improved the value and saleability of the house (as far as the uber rich luxury market goes) and the house is also company owned so the company picks up the tab. No real repercussions, just a bit more expense which will be covered by (and will be factored into) the next sale value. This legislation will only have teeth when courts can order the work be undone and the house returned to its former state.

    It only takes money and a selfish frame of mind to do what ever you want to a heritage listed house but it takes talent and commitment and a clever mind/architect to get what you want within the guide lines. The powers that be just don't say "no". They challenge you to preserve the integrity and history of a building and leave your imprint of your time in it. Imprint, not sledge hammer.

    Off the soap box now :)

  17. This is completely off topic, but it is a reminder that Brisbane is still sometimes a small place.

    My niece Maddy C was over for dinner last night. She has started blogging and so far she has two followers, me and her Aunt from her Dad's side of the family the erudite and glamorous Kath.

    Maddy said ‘Aunty Kath's blog is called 'The Old Boathouse’

    I said “Gee, why does that sound familiar?”

    Hi Kath!

  18. No way! So you and Katherine are kind of that's a small world. What's Maddy C's blog? I'd love to check it out.

  19. Jo, well done on the unconditional contract! Your rant was spot on. xx

  20. Yeah way.

    If you drew a Venn diagram of our Nieces and nephews there would be an area of mutual inclusivity consisting of five Nieces.

    Related! Get this, her father married me!



  21. I love the character of our historical homes & even my children can appreciate the beauty & craftmanship that went into these buildings. It would be a shame to lose this history for future generations to admire. You know the rules when you purchase these treasures, you become the legal guardian of our history & should do your best to restore & maintain rather than renovate & update.

  22. Whilst certainly a steep fine, I believe if you have a heritage listed home, then your solicitor should have informed you at purchase time what you are buying/essentially signing up for. The irony is that if all the beaurocracy guidelines had been adhered to, the alterations would have gone through; even if it needed a bit of tweaking.
    I think it essential we try to hold some semblance of our history. Australia is so young after all, so it's sacrilege to lose what we do have. Particularly in Brisbane which demonstrates such individual architecture with the Queenslanders for example, which are uniquely 'ours'. (For a Darwin girl I'm sounding awfully pro QLD).
    It's a priviledge bestowed on anyone wealthy enough to live in many of these 'gems'.
    Okay I'm on my soap box. I'll step down now.

  23. Hey Tony( c/- brismod), a true "what the...?" hilarious and how amazing, xx kath

  24. Originally form England and having worked on many heritage listed interiors in the past I have to agree with the rules that try and save these lovely pieces of history intact for future generations. With careful consideration and approach you nearly always can work within the guidelines to achieve quality designed improvements.

    I do think that the fine was a bit high for alterations. When you are looking for a new character house one of the first things you can check with the local council is to see if there is a heritage listing on the building or on the street. Then take it from there. Food for thought. Have a great weekend, Lisa

  25. Maybe instead of imposing fines, violators should be forced to visit my neighborhood in Los Angeles (at their own expense) and see what a neighborhood looks like when character has been stripped from 100+ year old homes because the owners thought they would make "improvements."

    They are fortunate to have such an extraordinary home. While there is much to be said for the rights of property holders, they did know what they were buying into.

  26. I agree with you completely. I think it is too easy to dismiss heritage because it's hard and can be costly. As a whole, I think many people dismiss heritage as unnecessary but I fear that one day people will realize we've razed too much to the ground to make way for too much modernization. These owners knew the rules when they bought the place. If they didn't like it, then they should have stayed away.

  27. I'm with Jo. Now lets talk about the horror boxes that are built in between heritage style homes in non character coded areas..... grrrrrr. A-M xx

  28. I agree with Jo. I act for a lot of developers and they have a different set of concerns in terms of profit and maximising land value. And when it comes to normal purchasers they know what they are getting into.

    I live on the border of Armadale and Toorak. My side (Armadale) has a heritage overlay. It doesn't mean you can't change or demolish, it just means you have to get permission and stay within the envelope. The other side of the road is Toorak. No heritage overlay, do what you want. The result - heaps and heaps of demolished houses and apartment blocks. There is nothing left there.

    I could go on but I won't.

  29. Lochiel is back up for sale if you have a spare $ ... or perhaps 10,000,000 of them.

    1. I saw that in that in the paper last weekend!. Sorry just saw your omment. Let's hope it will be respected with the next owners. Shame it can't be turned into a museum or sorts... xx


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