Chief Minister's counter-proposal for Canberra's national heritage listing
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Chief Minister's counter-proposal for Canberra's national heritage listing

After years of objecting to Canberra being registered as a national heritage site, saying it would freeze the city in time, Chief Minister Andrew Barr has quietly put forward an alternative proposal.

Proponents of two initial bids to list the capital, made in 2009, have criticised Mr Barr's counter-proposal saying it's reduced scope failed to offer adequate protections.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr: Clubs ACT is a wreckage and a joke.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr: Clubs ACT is a wreckage and a joke.Credit:Jamila Toderas

A decision is due to be made on whether or not National Heritage Listing goes ahead for Canberra by June 30, provided the council does not seek a further extension.

All submissions regarding the nomination are under consideration and will be put forward to the federal environment minister and will run to the same timeline.

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Ed Wensing overlooks Canberra from the Mt Ainslie lookout.

Ed Wensing overlooks Canberra from the Mt Ainslie lookout.Credit:Matt Bedford

Mr Barr's counter-proposal seeks protections for Red Hill, Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain nature reserves, the parliamentary triangle and several unique axial roads.

"The ACT government does not support our entire city being frozen in time on the heritage list," Mr Barr said.

"The ACT government remains pleased to support and discuss our compromise proposal and are hopeful the federal government will adopt it once their deliberations close."

The territory government's proposal draws from the approach taken in the Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout entry for National Heritage Listing.

Mr Barr explained it protected the formal grid layout of the city and its surrounding green space, "while explicitly stating developable parcels of land within the area are not included in the listing."

Planning and heritage expert Ed Wensing said he felt Mr Barr was "deliberately snubbing a National Heritage Listing".

"It has now become farcical. In fact, more than farcical," he said. "As evidenced by Mr Barr's letter to Mr Hunt in 2015 it has become an exercise in futility to see how small the area can be made to make it meaningless."

He took issue with Mr Barr pitting development and prosperity against the listing.

"Listing a place, ie Northbourne Avenue, is not necessarily going to prevent the construction of light rail or redevelopment of block either side of it," he said.

"What's important to heritage values is the vista of the place, the street alignment Griffin designed. If you retain those in your design there is no way a listing will prevent."

Mr Wensing, who was involved in the national heritage listings of Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building and the Sydney Opera House, said the scope of the ACT government's proposal failed to protect significant parts of Canberra's planning history and heritage.

"We recommended all the designated areas under the first version of the National Capital Plan, also all the national capital open space system, and all of the existing unleased land including significant parts of inner Canberra," he said.

Their nomination encompassed all the original street layouts that matched the original Griffin plan stretching from Lyneham to Campbell in the north and from Yarralumla to Kingston in the south.

They also called for building heigh restrictions to be maintained below the base of the Parliament House flagpole and for several documents relating to Canberra's planning to be protected.

Mr Wensing said he would be "grossly disappointed" and call for a review if the minister approved the ACT government's counter-proposal.

A spokesperson Department of the Environment and Energy said work would continue with stakeholders, including the ACT government, to try and seek agreement on a potential National Heritage listing.

Correction: A previous version of this story failed to include the word not in a statement by Ed Wensing. He said listing of Canberra places would not necessarily prevent redevelopment.

Georgina is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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