After a resolution by Councillors, Willoughby Council ran an information forum on the proposed Eddy-DeVilliers Heritage Conservation Area. There were between 30 to 35 people in attendance. However, some were from outside the area.
Ian Arnott from Council did a quite reasonable job of providing information both for and against Heritage Conservation (HC) areas. The only thing he was a bit ‘silent’ on was the fact that now, far more Development Applications are determined by Council Officers ‘on-merit’ under delegation and that the weight the Local Planning Panel would give to community concerns is relatively unknown. Also, he did not flesh out that more cost might be involved in lodging a DA due to the need for specialist heritage reports being needed..
Ian had arranged for a real estate agent, Mr. Snodgrass from Forsyths and a local architect to also address the forum. The messages from all three presenters were consistent. Basically they suggested residents might fall into one of two camps.
‘Long termers’ who intend to live in their homes, probably without major additions who can use the HC codes to protect their amenity from ‘development bent’ neighbours. Short termers who are looking for significant financial gain for their property investment. using exempt and complying development provisions.
There was no ‘straw poll’ taken. However, negative comments from the floor seemed to outweigh cautious positive views by about 5:1. Probably about 50% of attendees made comments. Many comments related to the lack of an overall consistency across the area. Ian had also commented on this and that elevating an unworthy area to HC status can in fact downgrade the value of existing HC areas elsewhere in the city.
A big issue for many was how they only found out about the proposal a year or so after it was nominated and after Council had expended significant costs with having consultants undertake a study. They felt they should have been advise/consulted much earlier.
There was a question regarding research that has shown properties in HC areas become more valuable. Ian Arnott and Mr. Snodgrass confirmed that there had been such studies but they are now out-of-date. Snodgrass in particular stated that the heyday of positive financial returns from HC has passed with the emergence of Chinese investment into Chatswood’ residential areas. Now it is non HC properties that enjoy a premium.
The final question was ‘what happens next’? Ian Arnott outlined the Councillor’s motion only called for the forum to be held. However, he said he would probably send an email to Councilors advising them the forum had taken place and advising that the next move is in the hands of Councillors.