Saving our heritage in an era of development

All too often modest domestic architecture is overlooked in an assessment of an area’s heritage until it is too late.

The grander buildings in a region are more obvious in their claims to importance, achieving heritage listing in their own right.

However, a labour of love over five years by a dedicated group has resulted in three residential streets becoming the first Heritage Conservation Area officially recognised in the Kiama Local Environmental Plan (LEP).

The Pheasant Point Conservation Area, encompassing Fitzroy St, Devonshire St and a portion of Minnamurra St is part of the original William Gard Estate.

This is a case when the importance of the largely intact group of buildings contributes to the value of the whole.

All the dwellings, the unique streetscape and the original 1870s subdivision with its narrow lanes remain basically unchanged and represent a unique physical record of the basalt boom period of Kiama’s history.

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The listing on the LEP provides statutory protection for this unique 19th century area from unsympathetic development now and in the future.

The recent sale of a house in Devonshire St for over $1 million shows that heritage listing can no longer be seen as detracting from a property’s value.

While demolition is not an option, and extensions and alterations must not detract from the heritage significance of a building, owners still have the ability to make sympathetic improvements.

The precinct was given National Trust listing in 2013. Having the Trust’s backing gave crucial support to listing the Pheasant Point Heritage Conservation Area on Kiama Council’s LEP.

Protection of this unique area of Kiama has been achieved through the co-operative efforts of residents, the broader Kiama community, the Illawarra Branch of the NSW National Trust and councillors and staff at Kiama Council.

An upcoming photographic exhibition of the history of Kiama’s domestic architecture is currently being prepared and will be on display in the Old Fire Station in October. This exhibition is under the auspices of the Kiama and District Historical Society

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