Residents in the leafy, inner-city suburb of Reid have been left frustrated after house plans which they argue do not meet the heritage requirements of the historic precinct were approved.
Reid Residents' Association president Marianne Albury-Colless said it was inappropriate there was no formal process to challenge the decision to approve the plans, which were originally informed by a mid-century modernist design.
A group of residents has called for changes to the process to ensure heritage values in the 1920s-era suburb are strongly protected and subject to greater public scrutiny.
But authorities have said plans for the house at 23 Dirrawan Gardens were amended to better suit the heritage character of the precinct and the approval system was working.
Residents have raised concerns that the roof pitch for the planned house is not suitable and windows were full height rather than small openings which were usual for the suburb.
Ms Albury-Colless called for a change to the approval system for houses in heritage precincts, saying there should always be a development application put out for public comment.
"A certifying process in a heritage precinct, it's a nonsense," she said.
Ms Albury-Colless said the process had been frustrating and made residents aware how limited heritage protections for the precinct were.
"The process hasn't worked at all to bring about a really good outcome," she said.
Derk Swieringa, also a member of the association, said the new house would create a precedent in the suburb that would put the whole precinct's value at risk if new development was allowed to creep in over time.
Environment and Heritage Minister Mick Gentleman said the ACT Heritage Council found the plans complied with the Reid Housing Precinct's heritage requirements following consultation with the architect and mulitple changes.
"The Heritage Council required several changes to ensure the building now complies with heritage requirements and fits with the suburb's character. These include requiring a new dwelling that was single storey, of painted rendered and face brick, which retained the original front setback, and which did not exceed permitted site coverage.
"I'm satisfied that the Heritage Council considered all aspects of the new building, including its form, scale, materials, setbacks, site coverage and building height," Mr Gentleman said.
In a letter seen by the Sunday Canberra Times, the ACT's chief planner, Ben Ponton, said the heritage guidelines did not require an exact replica but a building that would "reflect and complement" other original buildings.
"A complementary approach allows for new buildings that reflect and interpret the key heritage qualities of a place in a modern way, through their form, scale and use of materials," Mr Ponton wrote.
A spokesman for the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development directorate said the development proposal was assessed by a private building certifier and did not require development approval.
"Exempt developments do not require public notification, as they are not required to go through a [development application] and approval process. However, the proponent is required to inform adjoining properties about the proposal, for information and this was undertaken in the case of 23 Dirrawan Gardens," he said.
The spokesman said building approval had been issued and could not be reviewed under the ACT's heritage laws.
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Initial concept plans for the house were lodged on October 25, 2018 and amended plans were endorsed on April 24, 2019.
Residents have sought a meeting with the owners of the block, which has been sold twice since the original house, contaminated with Mr Fluffy asbestos, was demolished.
Heritage architect Eric Martin prepared sketches of proposed amendments to the house's facade that would have allayed most of the neighbours' concerns.
A letter dated July 11 was dropped to houses in the heritage-registered Reid housing precinct, calling for residents to write to the ACT government and heritage unit to oppose the decision.
"It doesn't fit with the unifying architectural style, scale and materials of Reid," the letter from "concerned Reid owners" said.
"If totally out of character designs can get the heritage tick in our oldest, best preserved streets and beautiful garden precincts, what will that do to the value of your home over time? Will Reid remain special? Why have a heritage area if its character is not maintained?"
The owners of the block could not be reached for comment.