A sliver of contention

A photo from the 2017 UNESCO awards showcasing the precinct’s modest worker cottage stylings. 

A SECOND storey on an inner-city Perth house has been described by some neighbours as threatening more than a century of heritage and tradition in the preserved rows of workers cottages.

The Brookman and Moir Street precinct contains 58 workers cottages built around the 1897-1898 gold rush. The modest houses 

on smallish blocks were designed for tradesman, and it’s the last example of a whole neighbourhood of intact working class accommodation from those days.

Over the years residents fought for heritage listings, getting it on the Vincent heritage inventory in 1995 and then the state register in 2007. In 2017 the precinct won the award of distinction in UNESCO’s cultural heritage conservation awards. 

Now one owner plans to turn his cottage into a two-storey, five-bedroom house. Alan Stewart, an urban planner, says it’s a respectful design that supports a modern family and the second storey will be “barely visible”.

Seven neighbours lodged submissions against the plan, with concerns it’ll disrupt what makes the street unique and set a precedent for similar developments. Three others had concerns, and it’s up for a vote at the next Vincent council meeting on December 14.

Resident Marion Granich spoke at this week’s council briefing, telling councillors “all of the heritage documentation for this precinct, including the City of Vincent’s own heritage guidelines, refers again and again to the precinct’s modest working class housing, its uniformity, and its homogeneity”.

What’s there (top) and what’s proposed (bottom). Homeowner Alan Stewart says only a sliver of the second story will be visible, but some neighbours outright oppose the additions.

She said: “Because the whole precinct is uniform row housing, approving a development of significantly greater scale and size really matters.

“A two-storey, five-bedroom, two-living room proposal would destroy the uniformity of this wonderful precinct of row housing which is heritage listed precisely because of its modest scale.”

Mr Stewart spoke in defence of the plans saying “if council is looking for an exemplar 

of heritage conservation and contemporary sustainable architecture that respects the streetscape and heritage fabric of this area, then this is the best example you’ll find.

“The design has been supported on two occasions now: At the State Heritage Office, and [by] the city’s own independent heritage expert.”

He said “the height of the addition satisfies the Brookman and Moir Street guidelines and it is not visible over the roof of the existing house when viewed by a pedestrian on the opposite side of the street, exactly as the guidelines require it to be measured”.

The designs are outside the usual deemed-to-comply standards on several fronts so will need councillors to exercise discretion before it can go ahead.

It’ll have slightly less open space and smaller setbacks from neighbours than are usually required, and it’ll overshadow the southern property by 35 per cent instead of the usual maximum of 25 per cent. 

Before the vote on December 14 the council will clarify whether the potentially overshadowed owner still approves of the plan given they’d supported an earlier version.

by DAVID BELL

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