Canberra's peak heritage body has lost an administrative appeal over the planned demolition of the Northbourne Avenue public housing precinct, moving the Barr government's redevelopment plans one step forward.
ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal presidential member Peta Spender ruled on Friday afternoon the National Trust ACT branch had no legal standing to appeal the ACT Heritage Council's decision to protect about 40 per cent of the 1960s precinct because of an administrative error.
The ruling did not consider the heritage value of the dilapidated buildings or plans for demolition and redevelopment, but rather if the National Trust had legal authority to argue for protection of the whole precinct.
The trust was excluded from the process because an incorrect date was included in the public notification of a consultation period on the area's heritage listing.
The trust responded to the consultation period, administered by the government-appointed Heritage Council, two days after the required four-week period had ended because the response period was advertised as ending on October 22 last year.
However, rules set out in the territory's Heritage Act required submissions to be received by October 20.
The tribunal heard the wrong date had been published in an "innocent mistake" which the Heritage Council accepted had been made because of official processes related to notification of the consultation.
It said the views put forward by the National Trust branch had been considered along with about 30 other submissions from members of the public, despite the submission being received late.
The National Trust had sought to win protection for all of the Dickson Towers, Owen Flats, pair houses, three-storey flats and maisonettes designed by Sydney Ancher for the National Capital Development Commission.
Professor Spender said she made the ruling with "some reluctance" but found there was no ambiguity or question of construction that needed to be resolved by the tribunal. She said the legislative requirements were clear, despite the incorrect date being published.
Further matters related to heritage assets on Northbourne Avenue will be considered in future ACAT processes.
After the ruling, Heritage Council chair David Flannery said the outcome was unfortunate.
"Obviously the tribunal and the legal minds that represented both parties had to argue this issue in terms of the law, legislation and precedent.
"But the tribunal has been unable to make an assessment on any fairness value," he said.
"I think it would have been much preferable had we been allowed to proceed to an inquiry the National Trust, although we don't see eye to eye with the level of registration of the Northbourne Housing precinct, we think they've got a case to put and they should have been allowed to make that case in a hearing."
Mr Flannery said the Heritage Council would determine the next steps in coming days.
"We'll just go back and assess where we are up to. Certainly there has been an error in the dates and the National Trust made their submission in good faith and its unfortunate that they weren't allowed to proceed to an inquiry, which we would have been happy to proceed to."
National Trust spokesman Eric Martin was unavailable for comment on Friday.
This week Chief Minister Andrew Barr warned heritage advocates the government was prepared to use "every avenue available" to proceed with its plans to build 1100 dwellings on the land. Mr Barr wants just one building on each side of Northbourne Avenue to be retained.
The ACT government's Environment and Planning directorate declined to release the public submissions on the heritage protection, citing privacy restrictions.
Debate about demolition of the post-war international modernist-style homes has continued for years. Heritage experts have argued the precinct has historic value while the government and property industry seek redevelopment of the area.
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