• Touring the Past

How much does a Heritage Impact Statement cost?

Updated: Dec 28, 2018

Change within the historic environment will be scrutinised and questioned. Well-founded and robust reports are needed to explain and justify such developments. (Source: Author's collection, Berrima)

Google the search terms ‘Heritage Impact Statement’ and the spectral algorithms don’t hesitate. The top result is always: ‘how much does a heritage impact statement cost’.

This is understandable. Organising a development application can be a mammoth task. It often requires multiple expert voices and consultant reports, so identifying necessary expenditure is important. Before breaking down how Touring the Past approaches fees for this type of report, it is worthwhile reading the following sections to get an idea of what a Heritage Impact Statement is and what it is not. If that sounds too difficult, skip to the end of this blog for some insight into our costing for this type of report.

Not just 'green tape'

Since the early 1990s, Heritage Impact Statements (also commonly known as Statements of Heritage Impact or Heritage Impact Assessments) have been increasingly requested and/or required for development applications at or near places identified as being of cultural heritage significance.

How do I find out if I need to consider heritage in relation to my development? Look up your property here or ask Council. Better yet ask Touring the Past, we would be happy to check and advise.

The Heritage Impact Statement is in essence, a down-to-earth tool used to inform statutory or community decision makers on development and planning applications. These decision-makers need objective and expert knowledge and analysis about the potential effects of a development on a heritage asset, enabling them to deliberate before they act. A good Heritage Impact Statement should:

  1. Provide specific and candid information about the way(s) in which a proposed development may effect a heritage place.

  2. Identify and elaborate the potential direct and indirect impacts – be they positive, benign or adverse – on the established heritage significance of a heritage item.

  3. Detail and/or recommend mitigation strategies to eliminate or counteract any potential detrimental impact of the development.

A host of other detail, explanation and justification may also be necessary. For instance, the Heritage Impact Statement may need to go into detail about the twist and turns of the design journey to explain why a particular destination was selected, prepare a Statement of Significance from scratch and/or consider effects on the integrity and authenticity of the heritage place.

In addition, all of the above takes place in the context of legislative requirements and principles as well as the best-practice guidelines outlined in The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, rev. 2013, and the NSW Heritage Manual published by what is now the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Accomplishing any of the above in an efficient and effective fashion requires a heritage professional to complete a comprehensive desktop survey and archival research as well as a physical investigation of the site and its setting. This process is greatly benefited by a broad, multidisciplinary approach that can quickly establish the appropriate scope and depth of such investigations. Touring the Past encompasses this skillset and experience.

It is worthwhile stressing that these reports are not just ‘green tape’. Beyond its role as a key ingredient for sustainable conservation, the Heritage Impact Statement is the instrument which allows the decision-makers to grasp and weigh up the acceptability of your proposal on heritage grounds. It is a very meaningful document that should crystallise site specific heritage matters, unpack design rationales, explore solutions and, on balance, evaluate the heritage appropriateness of a development. In other words, the Heritage Impact Statement speaks for the heritage dimensions of your proposal – via the expert voice of the heritage consultant – to the various planners, communities and other authorities who decide its fate.

What can happen in the absence of heritage reporting. (Source: Author's collection, inner city Sydney)

Common Problems

The process described above can be relatively simple to apply but the complications which can arise in understanding the cultural significance of the heritage place should not be underestimated.

In Australia, the assessment of heritage impact revolves around the Statement of Significance included in the report. We go into the nitty-gritty of ‘significance’ and ‘value' in another blog but essentially it should be a plain English summary of the cultural value of a site and the attributes through which its importance is expressed. The problem is that for many identified heritage sites, perhaps the majority, our understanding is simply inadequate and/or outdated.

For the most part (and with some honourable exceptions), heritage sites were recognised, listed and their significance explained through sweeping studies undertaken during the 1970s and ‘80s. By their very nature, such exercises mostly applied broad (and now outdated) brush stokes in explaining the what, why and how of a place’s cultural value.

This deficit in knowledge can hamper informed change, as the data about a place is insufficient or based on incorrect assumptions. To illustrate this point, an existing Statement of Significance may not reflect later built changes or erosions of its curtilage. Fresh understandings and evidence could reveal previously hidden elements that may alter contemporary perspectives of a site’s heritage value. It is even possible that the heritage consultant may have to offer a revised or even completely new Statement of Significance. While this may not automatically trump the endorsed, pre-existing Statement it does provide an up-to-date understanding of the place’s value. Decision-makers will often appreciate this as a far sturdier basis from which to consider the appropriateness of potential heritage impact.

The thought of delving further into your site might be unnerving. What if you discover something new or major that stifles the proposed development? We understand your apprehension but suggest it is unfounded.

Ignoring, underselling or obfuscating elements of heritage significance usually become apparent at inopportune moments. Proactive and forward assessment is a sounder way of avoiding costly delays, rejections and unproductive relationships with decision-makers and communities. It is also our experience that a fresh, holistic view of a heritage site will not prove prohibitive but rather deliver new avenues for design imagination and innovative heritage management.

Contemporary conservation is about managing change in the historic environment and assisting a smooth continuum between the past, present and future. (Source: Author’s collection, inner city Sydney)

Cracks in the facade

Like any expert report, a Heritage Impact Statement can be flawed. These reports are mostly commissioned by the proponent, so they can be seen as advocacy documents. Any report you engage a consultant to produce should be independent and objective in order to address such concerns.

If your report cannot withstand scrutiny or comes across as an advocacy broadside it will be ignored and decision-makers will attempt to fill in what they perceive as the gaps. There is no surer way to imbue mistrust and unwanted intervention than to submit an uncritical, prejudicial Heritage Impact Assessment report.

In saying that, let us stress a now well-established tenet of contemporary heritage practice and a central pillar in Touring the Past’s practice – change at places of heritage value is both natural, desirable and achievable. The stipulation is that it should be reasonable, contextually informed and not inappropriately impact on the identified significance of a heritage site.

Okay thanks for all that ... so again, how much will it cost?

Fees largely depend on the extent and accuracy of the available assessment of a heritage site and the complexity of the proposed development.

The format of a Heritage Impact Statement can range from the micro to the macro – and everything in-between. As a rule of thumb, reports should be proportionate to the potential level of impact posed by a new development and the significance of the site.

  • The micro … In some cases, a succinct Heritage Impact Statement in the form of a letter may suffice. This option is typically below $600 and can be turned around quickly. The letter format is not suited to every project and does not normally include a site visit or a large degree of background research.

  • In-between … Moderate proposals at sites of middling significance that require a medium degree of ‘unpacking’ (in-depth research, field work, significance assessment etc.) can usually be completed in three-to-four working days for around $1000.

  • The macro or contentious … Large-scale complex projects and/or sites of particular significance require depth and deliberation. Touring the Past will provide a realistic quote for such projects following a brief consideration of the particulars and context.

The above figures and completion times are indicative only. What we can guarantee is that Touring the Past will realistically scope your requirements, avoid hidden fees and contain administrative costs in pricing your Heritage Impact Statement.

Winding up

A visual representation of the core principles which inform our approach to heritage reporting. (Source: made with WordCloud.com)

We believe that unless your Heritage Impact Statement – whatever its type – is ticking the collection of adjectives represented in the Word Cloud above it will be doing your heritage site and your development proposal a disservice. These are at the core of the Touring the Past approach. If your heritage consultant is not focused and systematic then your Heritage Impact Statement will be neither cost-effective or purposeful.

The most effectual and supportive Heritage Impact Statements also walk hand-in-hand with frank and considered heritage counsel. The earlier your design or proposition incorporates heritage advice, the stronger your chances of achieving development approval. The heritage guidance Touring the Past offers is expert, current and costed at a reasonable hourly rate – so you can rest assured that you are paying for the right amount of heritage advice needed by your project. No more, no less. (Read more here)

Engaging Touring the Past will ameliorate heritage issues and enhance your prospects of a positive heritage result. We produce clear, impartial and evidence-based reports – whatever the format – at a price level that you can understand and afford.

Get in contact today and let our touring of the past inform your developments for the future.

To grasp the significance of a heritage place it is important to understand its historical evolution. This photograph of Braidwood in the Southern Tablelands of NSW exhibits multiple built layers - how many can you spot? (Source: Author's collection)

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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


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