Heritage and Conservation

Heritage underpins a community's cultural life, identity, and sense of place.

It includes such things as buildings, landmarks, streetscapes, parks, bushland, and views. These elements are tangible links to North Sydney's past and experience of cultural life. Because of this North Sydney Council has introduced plans and development guidelines over several decades to protect heritage.

In 1981 Council undertook a ground-breaking Heritage Study - the first of its kind by local government in New South Wales under the Heritage Act, 1977. That study identified key themes in the historical development of the local area, through which the natural and built environment could be understood. Another more extensive study was undertaken in 1993. That work identified nearly 1400 heritage sites and established the basis for the current system of Heritage Conservation Areas, localities within the North Sydney Local Government Area which hold many built and natural features with heritage significance. Though there have been changes to the areas and the items, that study has since formed the basis of North Sydney’s understanding of its built heritage.

The heritage items and conservation areas are listed and protected in the Local Environment Plan (LEP) and the Development Control Plan (DCP). Some of North Sydney’s Heritage Items are also listed on the State Heritage Register, Section 170 Registers (items under the control and management of NSW state agencies), the Commonwealth Heritage Register, and the National Heritage Register.

On 1 July 2018, the  North Sydney Community Strategic Plan 2018-2028 came into effect, which identifies the community's main priorities and aspirations for its future, and details strategies for achieving them. The Plan confirmed that “North Sydney is distinctive with a sense of place and quality design”. To protect that sense of place it was necessary, in turn, to “Protect and promote North Sydney’s built heritage including significant architecture, objects, places and landscapes”.


North Sydney Council's heritage protections

LEP 2013 and DCP 2013 provide the controls for development of any heritage items and all buildings in conservation areas throughout the Council area. Part B Section 13 (Heritage and Conservation) of the DCP 2013 gives more detailed development guidelines for particular issues, such as the permissible scale of development, roofing design, and car accommodation. The individual Neighbourhood Character Statements of Part C of the DCP 2013 provide additional controls specific to each area.

A heritage listing or location within a Heritage Conservation Area does not preclude changes. However, there are special conditions that apply to these properties in order to retain their heritage values and those of the locality are not compromised. Generally, development to a heritage item or within a conservation area will require some form of development consent from Council. If your property is listed as a state heritage item on the NSW Heritage Register or any other statutory register, such as the Commonwealth Heritage Register, development may require additional steps to seek approval.

Heritage NSW allows you to search the State Heritage Inventory for a comprehensive list of state-listed heritage items as well as for items listed in the North Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2013. Heritage listing information pertaining to Commonwealth, National, and World Heritage items may be accessed on the Australian Heritage Database via the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Some forms of minor development may be carried out as Exempt Development or as Maintenance or Works of a Minor Nature, which would not require a Development Application. You may email or telephone Council’s Planning & Development Advisors to find out whether you need written consent before carrying out any work.


Heritage Resources for your property

The North Sydney Heritage Centre was opened within Stanton Library in 2004 to manage Council’s extensive archive and research collections and to provide public access to these resources. Many are vital for researching the history of particular buildings and sites.

The Centre holds copies of the 1981 and 1993 heritage studies as well as dozens of studies of Heritage Conservation Areas, individual buildings, and other sites. There are several thousand short histories of existing properties and the resources to conduct research on buildings not previously studied. Building registers in the collection can determine the date and nature of developments undertaken before 1996.

There are many other works that help with an understanding of architectural history and renovation.

Staff are on hand 1-5pm Monday to Friday to assist with property and other historical research.

The North Sydney Heritage Centre links to further online resources.


Further fact sheets issued by Heritage NSW and the NSW Heritage Council, including on how to list a property and the maintenance of heritage properties, may be found on their website here: https://www.heritage.nsw.gov.au/search-for-heritage/publications-and-resources/

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