• Touring the Past

Granny Flats and Heritage: what you need to know

Updated: Dec 28, 2018

Over the past several years, urban consolidation agendas have made it far easier to gain approval for the construction of granny flats, studios and secondary dwellings in NSW. From chic, upscale designs to modest modular versions, granny flats are proving affordable and versatile housing options. One of the factors fuelling this ‘boom’ has been the ability of proponents to utilise the complying development pathway of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009 (AHSEPP), enabling them to lodge granny flat proposals with council or accredited certifiers and see rapid approval.

However, for those that own a listed heritage property OR are situated in a heritage conservation area, the complying development pathway is not at option.

Confused as to whether or not your property is a listed heritage item or situated within a heritage conservation area? Use the NSW Planning Portal Tool to find out – simply enter your address and use the planning layers (left bar) to see if the‘Heritage’ layer appears. Alternatively, contact Touring the Past and we will tell you everything you need to know regarding your heritage situation.

Granny flat developments can offer intriguing possibilities in the cultivation of balance between the historic character of places and contemporary development. (Source: Granny Annexe, <https://bit.ly/2OTlTQj>)

But fear not, granny flats in heritage contexts are still viable options

The above situation does not mean you cannot construct a granny flat but simply that approval via a development application (DA) with the relevant council is needed. Pointedly, making this marriage – between granny flats and heritage – work does not need to be a herculean challenge.

Councils, eager for density increasing alternatives to mid- and high-rise at heritage sites and precincts, are more willing to consider granny flat-type developments than ever before. On top of this, Touring the Past is well-placed to guide you and your designer past any heritage snares.

Yes, the DA-pathway is not the authobahn of the planning world but the approval times are far from prohibitive and, in regard to any additional costs brought upon by heritage requirements our competitive and cost-effective services will not break the bank.

Households are returning to more traditional modes of multi-generational living. There is no good reason why, with a bit of design ambition, that granny flats developments are not able to harmonise with a neighbourhood's existing character and sense of place. (Source: your garden room, <https://bit.ly/2Mj6KJo>)

What you will need... a Heritage Impact Statement and perhaps, some Heritage Advice

Breaking it all down – a granny flat proposal in a heritage setting will require the preparation of a Heritage Impact Statement, also sometimes referred to as a Heritage Impact Assessment or Statement of Heritage Impact. We have blogged about these reports previously (see here for the basics and our general costing and here for the insider track on heritage impact assessment) but, cut down to the bone, these are documents that provide a heritage expert’s opinion on the potential impact of change on the value of a heritage asset.

In the case of granny flat proposals this often revolves around issues of scale, visibility and materiality. For instance, the report might deal with the proposal’s perceptibility from the public domain or the way in which it relates via its features and fabric with significant character elements in the surrounding built environment. Ultimately, the Heritage Impact Statement offers a recommendation to the consent body about whether a proposal should go ahead or not on heritage grounds and/or if further mitigation measures need be considered.

Foreboding? We hope not! Because it is our experience that the adaptability and human-scale of granny flat designs generally provides them with an edge when it comes to the necessary process of assimilating within sensitive aesthetic, historical and social contexts.

What we do suggest is that proponents or their designers consider seeking professional heritage advice at the outset of their project OR once plans are concrete, subject them to a review on heritage grounds (click here for more information on Heritage Advice).

Unlike the Heritage Impact Statement – which is mandatory – heritage advice is not. Yet again and again, we find that in situations where it is not sought design mistakes and overreach occur, leading to frustrated aspirations and wasted resources.

Granny flat design in heritage contexts

Lastly, we are often asked if 'restrictive' heritage controls make the design and cost of a granny flat unfeasible? Our answer is consistently no. The idea that heritage is all about deterring change or making the life of your project challenging is a misconception.

At heart, all the controls require is the demonstration of a design mindful of its context and demonstrating good design principles so that what makes a place special can be conserved in the present and future – we doubt that you find such an aim abhorrent.

Granny flats and heritage can and do work.

To get started immediately, let us know the address, any information about your granny flat proposal and contact details. We always aim for a same day quote. Be it the preparation of a Heritage Impact Statement or its combination with Heritage Advice, Touring the Past is eager to assist.

As with any type of development in a heritage context, issues of siting, orientation, detailing, proportions, texture and colour all come into play. Importantly, this does not necessarily preclude the installation of sleek and contemporary designs. Talk to us to find out what is possible. (Source: https://bit.ly/2M5YzRx)

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Touring the Past:

Heritage Consultancy

0491 341 906


PO BOX 966

Artarmon, NSW 2064; and

 Medlow Bath,

Blue Mountains, NSW 2780

0491 341 906


PO BOX 966

Artarmon, NSW, 2064


ABN 55 402 896 237

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