Hutt's heritage approach criticised by Historic Places Trust

SIMON EDWARDS
Last updated 10:09 12/06/2012

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Hutt City Council will leave it up to property owners to decide if their building deserves heritage status and protection, a process the Historic Places Trust criticises as "most unusual".

Councillors on the district plan sub-committee last week struck out a recommendation that the council pay heritage expert Ian Bowman to continue to address issues raised last year by owners whose buildings were listed on a heritage inventory.

Council officers are instead to approach owners to ask them if they wish their building to remain on the inventory.

Only if they answer "Yes" will officers undertake further research and work to identify the buildings as deserving a "high", "medium" or "low" ranking in terms of their historic importance.

Divisional manager environmental policy Bronwyn Little says even a "high" ranking is no guarantee the building will be listed on the District Plan as one deserving protection.

Councillors have decided that listing in the District Plan will only happen with the written consent of the building owner.

However, they did ask for a further report on the "appropriateness of leaving listing up to individuals, how this works in other councils and how it could be applied to the District Plan".

Last week's discussion was a follow-up to controversial debate last December.

Mr Bowman and another heritage consultant Warwick Johnston had worked for three years to compile an inventory of some 400 buildings and structures - a large number of them private homes - they felt had importance because of their historical connections, architecture or other features.

The list was leaked to the press and around 100 irate home and building owners mobbed a council meeting to express concern the inventory listing limited their rights or could undermine the resale value of their properties.

Ms Little confirmed to Hutt News last week she expected most of the home and building owners will ask to be deleted from the inventory.

Historic Places Trust central region co-ordinator David Watt said he hasn't come across any other council in his territory that leaves it to property owners to decide issues like this.

"Councils are required to identify places that should be listed for protection in the District Plan in accordance with their responsibilities under the [Resource Management Act]."

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