Queensland

Highgate Hill homes: Government issues stop work order

Three heritage homes in Brisbane's inner south may yet be saved, after the state government issued an eleventh-hour reprieve to enable their historic value to be assessed.

Brisbane City Council's planning committee chairman Cr Amanda Cooper on Thursday welcomed the Queensland Government move to protect the homes and have the Queensland Heritage Council research the homes.

"We are absolutely delighted that the state government has decided to use their state government powers to protect these sorts of things," Cr Cooper said.

"This is exactly what we have been asking the deputy premier to do since the weekend and we are so thrilled that she has taken the opportunity to use these powers." 

The Queensland Heritage Council will hear a report on the homes in May 2016.

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"We look forward to seeing what the decision from the Queensland Heritage Council is in May this year," Cr Cooper said.

In addition, the developer who wants to transform the site into a five-storey block of units has been told their proposal is too dense for the site, Cr Cooper said.

"Council has also currently indicated that it believes the current proposal is 'over-development of the site' and not in keeping with the character of the local area," she said.

"And those are ongoing discussions as part of the development application process."

The three century-old Highgate Hill homes, including the 140-year-old Keddington Villa, looked set for the wrecking ball earlier this week, after the Brisbane City Council admitted they "slipped through" the planning process and it was powerless to override a private certifier approval for demolition issued last year. 

However, late on Wednesday, as the developer was preparing to demolish the homes, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad stepped in to issue a stop work order, which will give the state's heritage council time to assess the homes.

Under the council's City Plan 2014, all pre-1911 homes are ostensibly guaranteed preservation, however, the council's planning boss Amanda Cooper admitted the three Highgate Hill homes "slipped through" the process.

A war of words has since broken out between the two tiers of government, with Ms Trad accusing the council of inaction, and Cr Cooper accusing the government of the same.

"The Brisbane City Council failed to protect these heritage buildings from demolition," Ms Trad said.

"I understand that the local councillor raised this matter with Brisbane City Council late last year.

"It took the council more than two months to act on these warnings – and only after the demolition permits were approved."

On Thursday morning Cr Cooper said Ms Trad was wrong to criticise Brisbane City Council because they began researching the pre-1911homes  in November as soon as she received advice from local councillor Helen Abrahams. 

"She bought forward to me that the homes might be over 100 years old and the heritage team immediately got into action to investigate the age of those buildings," Cr Cooper said.

"It was as soon as I got it, which was in November of last year," she said.

Cr Cooper said there was "no magical list" of properties that are over 100 years old and extensive research was needed.

The work includes manual checking of mortgage records, phone directories, newspaper clippings, archival records to establish the age of the records, she said.

"As soon as we had that evidence we put the temporary local planning instrument proposal in place, and then we went to the state government and sought their support," she said.

Cr Cooper made similar comments on Tuesday.

"It's quite a manual process and it all needs to be documented."

Heritage Minister Steven Miles issued the stop work order on Wednesday under the provisions of the Heritage Act.

"The properties have never been considered by the Queensland Heritage Council, which is the state's independent advisor on heritage matters," he said.

"Therefore, I have asked the Queensland Heritage Council to consider a register application for the properties at their meeting on May 6, 2016.

"We cannot have loopholes in local government planning laws allowing Queensland properties of potential heritage value to be demolished without proper consideration."

The Highgate Hill homes were not included on the Brisbane City Council heritage register.

Cr Cooper said that was due to the fact their construction date was not known.

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