Heritage grants questioned

PERTH council’s ruling commissioners are considering dropping generous heritage grants to privately-owned buildings.

The city awards grants to heritage-listed buildings in need of restoration, but at the April 30 meeting commissioner Andrew Hammond threw a spanner in the works.

“I’m not convinced that it is good public policy to invest ratepayer’s funds into privately owned properties,” the commissioner said.

“I’m not saying it’s a wrong thing, but I’m saying it’s something that requires review.”

The commissioners deferred a $20,000 grant that’d go towards a conservation management plan for the privately-owned Bon Marche arcade until after a review of the city’s heritage policy.

They did approve grants worth $366,157 for six private properties at Connor Quinlan estate on Barrack Street, but Comm Hammond added a note cutting off any more funding until the policy review was complete.

Perth councillor Reece Harley — sidelined along with the rest of council by the state government’s inquiry into the city — had been the most pro-heritage voice on council.

Accountable

“Councillors are democratically elected community representatives and accountable to the people,” Cr Harley said.

“In workshops I attended to develop the city’s Strategic Community Plan 2029, protecting and treasuring heritage was a repeating theme put forward by community members.

“One of the key goals that flowed from the plan was for Perth to be a city that ‘showcases and celebrates its heritage’.

“Council officers have been negotiating in good faith with owners of heritage properties across the city to encourage them to retain and restore their buildings.

“Throwing these discussions to the wind and fundamentally questioning the value and purpose of a community-endorsed strategy and policy is certainly an interesting approach.”

Cr Harley says a restored heritage building with a tenant helped lifted the rates paid to the council, repaying the grant many times over.

“Owners always pay the lion’s share of any restoration with the city’s heritage grant only comprising a small portion,” he said.

“If the government-appointed Commissioners desire a more beautiful city that treasures and celebrates its history, then investing and protecting what little remains should be a top priority.”

by DAVID BELL

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