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Frequently asked questions


What changes can be made to a heritage property?

When many people buy a heritage property, they want to know what changes they can make.

The heritage listing does not dictate what you can or cannot change. Instead, listing triggers a process for assessing change.  Historic buildings can be changed through this careful process that seeks to maintain the heritage significance of the place.  Typically, this process involves a development application.  For minor works with no adverse impact, a simplified ‘minor works’ application process is an alternative to a full development application. 

As each property will have different features and its own unique history, this careful approval process allows changes to be individually assessed by Council on their merit.

In general, the goal for changes to historic properties is to keep and maintain the original or old features of the place and ensure that new works are sympathetic to and do not overwhelm the old. This maintains the authenticity of listed places that make them distinct.

How do I know what is significant?

Information about the heritage values of a heritage item can be found on its heritage inventory sheet available on the NSW State Heritage Inventory database.  Please be aware that the information on the inventory sheets is not comprehensive and further investigation is usually required in order to understand all the heritage values of a place.

If you are still uncertain, you can seek advice from a heritage architect or a heritage consultant. Professionals experienced in heritage development know the types of developments that are likely to be approved and can give advice on what is significant about the heritage item e.g. the garden, the original wood panelling or the original roof form.

A property may also have heritage value for its contribution to the heritage significance of a conservation area. The heritage significance of a conservation area and a map of contributory properties in the conservation area can be found in Appendix 1 of Canada Bay Development Control Plan.
What are the rules?

The key controls relating to development of a heritage item or development within a heritage conservation area can be found in the Canada Bay Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan which contain the development controls and objectives that guide development and change.

It is a good idea to read these to understand the rules for change. In Canada Bay the interiors of heritage items are also listed so changing the configuration and the finishes would require Council approval.

If you wish to know the key issues associated with the development of a heritage item or development within a heritage conservation area please apply for pre-Development Application consultation. Council staff will discuss the merits of your development proposal and identify any key issues with the relevant planning controls. The verbal and written feedback provided can help you address any issues with your proposal prior to lodging your application. Using the pre-DA consultation service could save you time, money and alleviate uncertainty.

What approvals are relevant when undertaking work to a heritage property?

The three types of approval are:

  1. Development application - The Canada Bay LEP 2013 contains heritage provisions which outline when development consent is required in relation to work carried out to heritage items and properties within a heritage conservation area.

  2. Maintenance & Minor works - You may submit a Minor Works Application for certain work.

  3. Exempt development - State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 outlines certain work that may be undertaken to a heritage item or within a heritage conservation area that does not require development consent.

What is an appropriate colour scheme for my house?

Colours are of particular importance in the presentation of heritage items to the streetscape, and in maintaining a consistent streetscape character in conservation areas. 

Council does not have a set of colour schemes for buildings. A range of different colour schemes may be acceptable.

Colour schemes for heritage listed buildings must be appropriate to the period and style of the building. If you wish to reinstate the original colour scheme, paint scrapes on your building or historic photos may give some idea of the original colours.

Colours should complement the best traditional colour schemes in conservation areas. Effective colour schemes often have a simple range of colours and use tonal differences to highlight architectural features.

Additions to heritage items and buildings in conservation areas must carefully consider established sympathetic colours.  Incorporating these in new work often helps to unify the design. 

There are many publications with information on traditional colour schemes, including Colour Schemes for Old Australian Houses and More Colour Schemes for Old Australian Houses.

Some paint companies offer paint charts with heritage colour schemes.

Is my property a heritage item or located within a heritage conservation area?
  • You can find out if your property is a heritage item by looking at Schedule 5 of Canada Bay Local Environmental Plan 2013 which can be accessed on the NSW Legislation website. The heritage maps are accessed on the same website. This is the most accurate method of determining heritage listing. 

  • Appendix 1 of Canada Bay Development Control Plan has a series of maps showing contributory properties in heritage conservation areas.

  • You can also find out if your property is a heritage item or located within a conservation area by looking at the maps on the eplanning spatial viewer website. Just type in your address, then click on the arrow for “Principal Planning Layers” and scroll down and click on the heritage layers. (You can also click off the zoning layer which appears automatically.)


Where can I find information about why my property is heritage listed?

Heritage listing followed heritage studies undertaken by heritage consultants who made recommendations for heritage listing. The potential heritage items and conservation areas were subsequently publicly advertised and affected owners written to; then the potential heritage places were reported to Council. Council’s decision to list places as heritage items and heritage conservation areas was then sent to the Minister of Planning for approval.

Heritage inventory sheets are available on the Heritage NSW website.

Please be aware that the information on the inventory sheets is not comprehensive and further investigation is usually required in order to understand all the heritage values of a place. If you require further information on a property you will need to seek the advice of a heritage consultant.

What part of the property does the heritage listing apply to?

The heritage listing applies to the whole of the property. It is not limited to the front façade.

Not all parts of the property will have the same heritage value. For instance, there may be a modern kitchen or bathroom which do not have heritage value.  Or the original front fence may have been replaced. Typically, the main body of the original building, including the main roof, has heritage value as well as other components of the property eg the original front fence, garden, original garage, mature trees, sandstone outcrops etc

Expert heritage advice may be needed to identify the heritage value of individual components of a property.

Can I make changes to a heritage item or property in a conservation area?

The aim of heritage listing is to protect the heritage values of the property. Change can occur, however the impact of the proposed change on heritage values of the property must be carefully considered. Heritage listing triggers a process for assessing proposed change.

The Canada Bay Development Control Plan sets out controls for development associated with heritage items, for properties located in heritage conservation areas, and for properties located within the vicinity of a heritage item or conservation area. You need to look at these controls in order to understand the nature of changes that can be made to your property.

You may need to seek independent heritage advice from an appropriately experienced and qualified heritage consultant to understand the impact of what you propose on the heritage values of the property.

Council has some general advice here:

Can Council give me advice based on a verbal description of how I would like to change a property?

Council cannot provide an assessment as to the acceptability or not of proposed works via a phone call. Council has a pre-lodgement advice service which you may like to use. You can also seek independent heritage advice from an appropriately experienced and qualified heritage consultant.

Can I change the bathroom and kitchen of a heritage item?

A new fit-out to a non-original bathroom or kitchen is acceptable.

If changes are only to cabinetry (ie no changes to walls) this may be able to be done via a Minor Works application. Otherwise, a development application is needed.

Are there any heritage consultants Council can recommend?

Council is unable to recommended heritage consultants or heritage works contractors.

Can I demolish a heritage item or a place within a conservation area?

The demolition of a heritage item, or a place that contributes to the character or significance of a conservation area is contrary to Council's development controls.

Does my development proposal need to mimic the heritage building, or other buildings in the conservation area?

New work may be sympathetic if its siting, setbacks, bulk, form, scale, character, colour, texture and materials are similar to the existing fabric, but imitations should be avoided. It is better to complement the existing architectural qualities of a heritage item or of contributory buildings in a conservation area using a sympathetic modern design solution for the development. 

Can I add solar panels to my house if it is a heritage item or in a conservation area?

Adding solar panels to the roof of heritage items or a building in a heritage conservation area can affect the aesthetic values of a building or place.

Controls C2.10.C7 and C4.11.C7 of Canada Bay Development Control Plan require solar panels to be located on rear facing roof slopes.

However, State Environmental Planning Policy (Transport and Infrastructure) 2021 (the SEPP) overrides the Canada Bay Development Control Plan, and its provisions in relation to solar panels therefore prevail. Requirements for solar panel installation are set out in Part 2.2 Division 4 and Part 2.3 Division 4 of the SEPP. You must satisfy yourself that your proposed solar panel installation will comply with all the requirements of the SEPP.  

If you have any queries about this State Government planning policy please contact the Department of Planning and Environment.