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Norman Waterhouse

Revised draft Planning & Design Code – Heritage, Character and Significant Trees

The State Government recently released a revised version of the Planning & Design Code (Code) for an additional consultation period concluding on 18 December 2020. This represents the final phase of consultation as we move towards implementing the new planning regime under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 across all metropolitan and major urban Councils in early 2021.

The revised Code seeks to address a number of key areas identified as being deficient under the original draft released for consultation in February. Amongst these are more detailed and location specific amendments to Historic Area Statements and Character Area Statements and recognition of Significant Trees in a manner that better reflects the policies in current Development Plans.

Heritage & Character

Contributory items recognised as ‘Representative Buildings’

Following the last consultation period, the publicly expressed desire to recognise existing contributory items, which had been absent from the initial draft Code, has been accepted with these places to become Representative Buildings. Representative Buildings will be identified within the South Australian Property and Planning Atlas (SAPPA), although at this point in time the revised Code does not describe any individual Representative Buildings. The Code does, however, provide Historic Area Statements (within the Historic Area Overlay) and Character Area Statements (within the Character Area Overlay) that seek to describe the value and character of the relevant area that is also displayed by the Representative Buildings.

Demolition control – reasonableness test “replaces” economic test in Historic Area Overlay

Under the revised Code, demolition control applies within the area covered by the following overlays:

  • State Heritage Places Overlay
  • State Heritage Area Overlay
  • Local Heritage Place Overlay
  • Historic Area Overlay

The revised Code seeks to “replace” the earlier proposed so called economic test for demolition control in the Historic Area Overlay with a test couched in terms of ‘reasonableness’. The revised provision is as follows:

Building or structures, or features thereof, which demonstrate the historic characteristics as expressed in the Historic Area Statement are not demolished, unless:

  • The front elevation of the building has been substantially altered and cannot be reasonably restored in a manner consistent with the building’s original style; or
  • The structural integrity or safe condition of the original building is beyond reasonable repair.

(emphasis added)

The language change would appear to be largely cosmetic, as a determination as to whether a building can be reasonably restored or is beyond reasonable repair will ultimately involve economic considerations.

Established Neighbourhood Zone

The revised Code introduces a new residential zone, in the form of an Established Neighbourhood Zone, that will sit under the Overlays. It will recognise areas that are not experiencing significant change and where significant change is discouraged.

More information on the changes to the Historic Area and related Overlays is contained within the State Planning Commission brochure Protecting Heritage and Character in the Planning and Design Code, which is available here.

Significant & Regulated Trees

There were concerns raised in the initial Code consultation that the proposed Regulated Tree Overlay diluted the importance of Significant Tree policies as they currently exist in many Development Plans. The revised Code includes greater recognition of Significant Trees under a new Regulated and Significant Tree Overlay, with individual significant trees for select Council areas further identified in Part 10 of the revised Code.

New considerations for biodiversity, remnant vegetation, and visual impact are factored into a revised test for retention of Significant Trees, in addition to those factors contained within the test for the retention of Regulated Trees. Consideration of all reasonable alternatives and remedial options is further incorporated into the test for removal of a significant tree. These represent important changes that bring the policy into greater alignment with existing Development Plans.

Also included within the revised Code is a new Urban Tree Canopy Overlay that seeks to address the potential for reduction in tree planting and cover which was an issue identified during the first round of consultation. The suggested benefits of including this Overlay are described in terms of a desire to address urban heat effects and mitigate the impacts of climate change across metropolitan areas.

The consultation period for the revised Code will remain open until December 18. Submissions can be made here.

For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article please contact Gavin Leydon on +61 8 8210 1225 or


1 December 2020



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