Appropriate and inappropriate Heritage Renovation

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This page is a work in progress...
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  • See also page: Heritage Threats
  • "Heritage isn't something you can buy or build - the best we can do is recognise if, love it, live with it, and hopefully - pass it on" Penny Pike [1]

Harbour Federation Heritage

Now that 293 heritage properties in the Rocks NSW are to go under the hammer (under the state government’s decision to sell historic harbourside public housing properties — netting the state government an expected half a billion dollars) it becomes appropriate to publicise acceptable development standards for heritage properties.
Keeping the prized harbour view from 24 Arthur Street, Lavender Bay
Keeping the prized harbour view from 24 Arthur Street, Lavender Bay

National Trust Media Statement – Millers Point

27 March, 2014

The National Trust is seeking an immediate halt to Government Property NSW’s call “to register your interest in purchasing a Millers Point Property” which is being promoted on the Family and Community Services Website.
  • “The announced proposal to sell 293 properties in Millers Point has been taken without any consultation with the National Trust. This is despite the entire area being listed on the National Trust Register in 1978 as an Urban Conservation Area and the Trust having listed 127 individual properties in Millers Point on its Register for forty years,” said Trust Chief Executive Officer, Brian Scarsbrick.
  • “The sale decision also appears to have been taken without any prior consultation with the NSW Heritage Division despite Millers Point being listed on the State Heritage Register as a Conservation Area in 1999 and as a Precinct with high social significance in 2003. Additionally 109 places in Millers Point are listed on the State Heritage Register and these places include more than 400 individual dwellings,” said Mr Scarsbrick.[2]

How to find out if a property is heritage-listed

From: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/Heritage/listings/benefitowners.htm
In NSW there are two types of statutory heritage listing. A property is a heritage item if it is:
  • listed in the heritage schedule to the local council's Local Environmental Plan (LEP);
  • listed on the State Heritage Register, a register of places and items of particular importance to the people of NSW.
There are also many non-statutory heritage lists, such as
  • the National Trust Register and the
  • Royal Australian Institute of Architects' Register of 20th Century Buildings.
Although these registers do not provide legal protection, they help to alert the community to the potential heritage value of places.
  • To find out if a property is heritage-listed, search the NSW State Heritage Inventory. Alternatively, you can check with your local council to find out if a property is identified in the Local Environmental Plan.
  • The National Trust external image Icon_External_Link.png(and this wiki) maintains on its website a list of heritage properties available for purchase.

Before you start a renovation, do your homework

Colonial Classic: Built in 1834, this Regency-style house at 29 Lower Fort Street, Millers Point, is being offered for the first time in more than a century.
Colonial Classic: Built in 1834, this Regency-style house at 29 Lower Fort Street, Millers Point, is being offered for the first time in more than a century.


Research your home’s architectural history.

Renovating Heritage Homes

If you’re undertaking a major restoration of your property, it’s a good idea to call in a reputable conservation or heritage architect for advice.
Print-friendly Version
from: renovate.com.au

If your home is heritage listed, this means it has historical significance to the area it is situated in.
  • If you want to alter or renovate it in any way, there are certain rules governing what you can and can’t do.
    11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli
    11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli
  • This is to keep any changes in line with the original appearance and design of the house, to preserve its heritage status.

Before undertaking renovations, you will need to seek approval from your local council or the heritage council.
The heritage council operates under four values;
  • historical,
  • aesthetic,
  • social, and
  • technical/research.

  • These values not only determine whether a property is heritage listed or not, but they will also determine the type of renovations allowed to take place.
  • Consider these values and how they apply to your home before approaching council for approval for a renovation that may not coincide with the values.

1. Assessment Criteria

Each value has its own assessment criteria, and this is best applied on a case-by-case basis, as each property is unique.
  • Usually all aspects of a property will be taken into consideration, as the quality of the heritage value will comprise all its parts.
  • The most important aspect is that the design of the renovation is in keeping with the significance of the place in which it is situated. The term used to describe this is ‘adaptive reuse’.

A statement of heritage significance in relation to the property should have been developed and issued upon heritage listing.
  • This will be the basis for the conservation management plan, which will form the guidelines for the renovation.
  • If this statement was not issued with the heritage listing it is a good idea to obtain or develop one before seeking council approval for renovations.
  • The heritage council or local council heritage advisor can help with the preparation of the statement.

2. Conservation Policy

The next step is a conservation policy, which outlines the significance of the heritage property, in terms of its value historically, in relation to the ability for renovations to take place around this significance.
Coffered ceiling and sunrise feature window retained at 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli
Coffered ceiling and sunrise feature window retained at 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli


  • It’s a good idea to include an outlook in terms of maintenance or reuse.

The outlook forms a statement, and with the conservation policy these come together to form a management plan.
  • A more successful policy and plan would outline how the renovations would enhance the conservation process, and provide opportunity to increase the value of a heritage asset.
  • This is more likely to be approved than a plan that seeks to merely work around the limitations of heritage listing, or is not in keeping with the significance of the property.
  • The heritage council will not approve renovations unless it has approved a management plan.

3. Statement of Heritage Impact

Stylish new kitchen at 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli
Stylish new kitchen at 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli

Finally, a statement of heritage impact is needed to tie together the management plan with the proposal for renovations.
  • This will outline how the proposal fits the management plan and has observed the conservation policy.

Developing all these statements, policies, plans and proposals will save time and money when trying to obtain approval to renovate a heritage listed property.
  • These documents seek to demonstrate the owner’s ability to understand the value and significance of the heritage status, as well as show their commitment to conserving this status. [4]

Debunking the myths about heritage listing

From: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/Heritage/listings/benefitowners.htm
It can be easy to point the finger at heritage listing when problems arise, but the benefits can far outweigh any perceived negatives.
  • Listing places no legal restriction on the sale or leasing of properties.
  • Heritage buildings are best cared for when they are lived in and loved. This means they must be useable.
    Houses may need new bathrooms and kitchens;
    Ceiling cornices and ceiling rose, wooden floors and fireplace retained at 49 East Crescent Street, McMahons Point
    Ceiling cornices and ceiling rose, wooden floors and fireplace retained at 49 East Crescent Street, McMahons Point

    commercial buildings may need new services and fire protection.

Listing does not exclude changes or additions or new buildings on the site provided that these do not detract from the heritage significance of the listed items. This is consistent with what most owners want for their heritage properties.
  • It is also consistent with advice from real estate agents that well looked after heritage properties are the easiest to sell and bring the highest prices.
  • Listing does not exclude the adaptive reuse of a heritage item for another use.
    Sometimes this is a sensible way of ensuring the use of a heritage item. For example, the conversion of a warehouse to residential use or the adaptation of a house to offices.
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Not a great work: Kitchen renovation with period timber style preserved at 24 Arthur Street Lavender Bay NSW 2060

49 East Crescent Street McMahons PointModern white kitchen unsympathetic to Architect designed c1888 Victorian masterpiece

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Sympathetic timber kitchen at
11 Holbrook Avenue Kirribilli NSW 2061

Very sympathetic if not even original bathroom at 113 Brook Street Coogee NSW 2034

Other than normal maintenance it is not expected that owners take any special care of a heritage property. Only in situations where an owner is deliberately allowing a property to deteriorate would prosecution action be pursued.
  • Maintenance of heritage items and gardens does not require formal approval.
  • Some owners open their heritage properties to the public on a regular or occasional basis and usually on an entry fee basis either for themselves or charity.
  • However, as with all private property, heritage listing does not allow the general public the right to visit your property without your express permission.

Heritage listing: a positive for owners
Have you noticed headings like these in the property section of your local newspaper lately: 'Full of character', 'Loads of charm', 'Remembering Yesteryear'?
  • Chances are, these headlines are referring to an historic house, an elderly terrace or a charming cottage. They may even refer to a heritage-listed property. There is growing evidence to support the view that heritage listing has a positive impact on property values, and real estate advertisements are starting to reflect this.

The main reason why people purchase heritage buildings is because they like them.
Stylish timber renovated entertainment area with period massed windows at 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli
Stylish timber renovated entertainment area with period massed windows at 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli

And they like them for all sorts of reasons.
  • It may be because of their character, or well established gardens.
  • They may have wonderful settings or pose the challenge of renovation, which so many people relish.

Owning a heritage-listed property brings other advantages:
  • Heritage listing provides certainty for owners, neighbours and intending purchasers. This is important when people are looking for a particular environment within which to live and work. It explains why certain suburbs, towns, villages and rural properties are sought after.
  • Protection of an item also requires the local council to consider the effect of any proposed development in the area surrounding heritage items or conservation areas. This is positive as it ensures an appropriate context for heritage items.
  • It confirms a heritage status that is a source of pride for many people. This status can be very useful for commercial operators in their advertising.


The assessment process leading to listing often unearths new information on the history and style of the item.
  • Through flexibility clauses in local environmental plans, owners of heritage items can request councils to agree to land use changes, site coverage and car parking bonuses unavailable to other owners.
  • Listing gives owners access to the free heritage advisory services provided by many councils. Currently 97 councils in the state have such services.

Listing provides potential savings through special heritage valuations and concessions.
New infinty pool on Sydney harbour 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli, adding plenty of value to the renovation!
New infinty pool on Sydney harbour 11 Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli, adding plenty of value to the renovation!


  • If the property is listed in a Local or Regional Environmental Plan (individually or in a conservation area) you can request a "heritage restricted valuation" for land tax and local rate purposes from the Valuer-General.
  • If your property is on the State Heritage Register under the Heritage Act, you automatically receive a heritage valuation for both local rates and land tax purposes.
    Heritage restricted valuations are designed to ensure that valuations of property are made on an existing development basis rather than on any presumption of future development.
  • Listing enables access to heritage grants and loans through both the Heritage Division and local councils. Listing is generally a requirement for Heritage Council funding.
  • Listing on the State Heritage Register also enables owners to enter into heritage agreements, which can attract land tax, stamp duty and local rate concessions.
  • Listing on the State Heritage Register makes the property eligible for consideration under the Commonwealth's Annual Cultural Heritage Grants Program, which is open to both private owners and community groups.
  • Heritage listing enhances applications to other bodies where the building or site might be eligible for funding.

Restoring heritage houses

By Alex Brooks from: http://www.renovationplanning.com.au/stories/Restoring_Heritage_Houses-0000000045.html
There is a dark side to Sydney’s charming Victorian terraces and grand Federation homes: the all-gone-wrong renovation.
Paddington and Glebe still contain Victorian terraces that once had cast iron lace but now have timber balustrades, or exposed brick where there was once solid plaster.
  • The National Estate-listed suburb of Haberfield has its share of Federation houses with aluminium sliding windows instead of original timber and coloured glass windows.
    Aluminium windows enclose upper balcony at 49 East Crescent Street, McMahons Point
    Aluminium windows enclose upper balcony at 49 East Crescent Street, McMahons Point

Raine & Horne Haberfield principal Michael Tringali says Federation houses in the inner west suburb that have been renovated unsympathetically tend to fetch up to $300,000 less than houses that have original features in tact.
  • “If I have two houses in the same street on the same size block of land and one has been unsympathetically renovated then it will be 25 to 30 per cent less than the one with original features,” he says.

Ironically, it is people who spent money “improving” their house with poorly chosen materials like aluminium windows that end up with a lower value property than the neighbour who did not spend a cent.

National Trust Conservation Director Jacqui Goddard says most renovators “stuff up” their houses with the best of intentions.
  • “Really, the best way to ruin a house is to try to make it fit the fashion,” she says. “People can’t resist tinkering with their houses, and more often than not they don’t get it quite right.”
    Carefully renovated lounge at 24 Arthur Street, Lavender Bay, retaining cornice, timber surrounds and fireplace surround.
    Carefully renovated lounge at 24 Arthur Street, Lavender Bay, retaining cornice, timber surrounds and fireplace surround.

To Restore OR NOT To Restore?

So how do you make sure that those feature walls or bi-fold doors you install today don’t become the aluminium windows, pebblecrete or concrete balustrades of the future?
  • With Sydney in a grip of renovation frenzy, mortgage-laden home owners should think twice about how they improve an older-style property so they don’t degrade its value in the long term.
Clive Lucas, Stapleton & Partners director Ian Stapleton, one of Sydney’s most experienced heritage architects and authors, says the safest way to maintain the value of a property is to restore it.
  • “These days restoration is not mandatory or needed – it’s just one option that can produce an attractive result and I would say it’s the conservative option when it comes to value,” he says.
Many council areas in Sydney now have heritage controls to ensure ostentatious and overly large renovations are not allowed in conservation areas, but that doesn’t always prevent unsympathetic renovation.
Victorian verandah frieze, timber floorboards, among heritage features maintained at 24 Arthur Street, Lavender Bay
Victorian verandah frieze, timber floorboards, among heritage features maintained at 24 Arthur Street, Lavender Bay

  • People can still choose materials that ruin the look of a house or mar the original design by knocking out walls or adding a storey.
  • “These days, the done thing is to restore the façade and do something quite modern out the back,” Stapleton says.
  • “You don’t need to keep the original kitchens or bathrooms, it’s quite appropriate to treat those rooms as areas that are constantly renewed.”
Tringali says the most sought after older-style properties are those that marry the beauty and rarity of period decorative details with modern open plan living areas, a kitchen with stainless steel appliances and two modern bathrooms.


Case Studies


1. Architect designed c1888 Victorian masterpiece

Cymbeline, 49 East Crescent Street McMahons Point

Defined by its sheer size, unparalleled extravagance and flawless attention to detail, 'Cymbeline' c1888 blends original Victorian details with contemporary finesse to create a versatile freestanding home with iconic harbour views from a landmark corner position.
  • Elegant lounge has marble gas fireplace, statement lighting
  • Casual/formal dining plus a sunroom and garden courtyard
  • Wonderfully private outdoor entertainer has built-in barbecue
  • Gourmet granite gas kitchen has Miele appliances and butlers pantry
  • Three bedrooms have ensuites, one self-contained with lounge
  • Palatial master has ensuite, walk-in, balcony and living retreat

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49 East Crescent Street McMahons Point NSW 2060
Luxurious style has not erased period features like cornices, timber flooring, and ceiling roses. Lighting retains Art Nouveau style appropriate to period.

2. 'Hebburn' - a grand Federation home on 591 sq m

One of Coogee's finest Federation homes, 'Hebburn' was built in 1912 in Queen Anne style with Art Nouveau detail and has been held by the same family for over 65 years. This home proudly showcases the grand proportions and beautiful architectural features of its era. Standing proud on a rare 591sq m parcel of land. This magnificent residence with enormous garden and ocean glimpses is just one block back from the beach and a leisurely stroll to the cosmopolitan heart of Coogee village.
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113 Brook Street Coogee NSW 2034
This beautiful house has many rare and magnificent period features, such as ornate ceilings, stained glass transom windows which still open above lounge room windows, and beautiful marble fireplace with Art Nouveau contrasting tiles.

3. Millers Point at The Rocks. 23 Lower Fort St, Dawes Point.

From: The Daily Telegraph
THE first six Millers Point public housing properties will be listed for sale tomorrow — giving buyers a chance to own a jewel in Sydney’s harbourside crown.
  • The properties are the first of 293 to go under the hammer under the state government’s decision to sell historic harbourside public housing properties — netting the state government an expected half a billion dollars.
  • Family and Community services minister Gabrielle Upton said the revenue would go back into the public housing system, in order to cut the massive 58,000-strong waiting list.Each of the six properties released for sale is heritage listed, and is expected to fetch upwards of $2 million.
    The view from the first public housing properties to be listed for sale at Millers Point
    The view from the first public housing properties to be listed for sale at Millers Point
First 6 public housing properties being sold by the state government at Millers Point at
First 6 public housing properties being sold by the state government at Millers Point at

  • Each of the six properties released for sale is heritage listed, and is expected to fetch upwards of $2 million.

Public housing at Millers Point. The first six properties go on the market tomorrow.
Public housing at Millers Point. The first six properties go on the market tomorrow.
Inside the first public housing properties for sale at Millers Point. Period renovation would retain many of the original features illustrated here: panelled VIctorian doors, timber floorboards, and working fireplaces.
Inside the first public housing properties for sale at Millers Point. Period renovation would retain many of the original features illustrated here: panelled VIctorian doors, timber floorboards, and working fireplaces.


4. New, sympathetic to Federation Style

at 80 Windmill Street MILLERS POINT
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Rare contemporary terrace in historic setting
Built new yet complementing the streetscape, this architect designed terrace enjoys northern views featuring the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It presents the opportunity to acquire a rare contemporary home in one of the city's most historic harbourside enclaves.

- Stunning, high finish interiors unfold over multiple levels
- Central atrium courtyard filters natural light throughout
- Entertainers' kitchen with glass-fronted heritage sandstone
- Generous sun drenched bedrooms, each with a private ensuite
- Spacious open plan living opens to bi-fold atrium courtyard

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80 Windmill Street Millers Point


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5. Unsympathetic extension of Federation home

The Dalmeny / Enter Projects
From the architect. At 7m tall and 9.5m wide, this addition to a federation period style home took only months to complete.
  • The abundant natural light that shines through its wide glass entrance enhances the urban chic vibe from its bright white and green interior.
  • The Dalmeny is made entirely with natural materials; a shack meet tech-science hybrid solution to the generic suburban environment.
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Architects: Enter Projects
Location: Sydney NSW, Australia
Photographs: Brett Boardman
Design Director : Patrick Keane

  • The obvious question is "who would buy this house?". (Apart from the current owner, who obviously liked it).
  • Followed by "will the value of the house be appropriately increased by this extension, which is so unsympathetic to period style?"
  • We don't expect this was a heritage-defined project, but but but.... it is not appropriate for the architecture of the period, so would not add to the period appeal of the house.
  • Haberfield heritage was conserved largely through the pioneering work of Vincent Crow, and no extension like this would now be approved in the Haberfield historic precincts.

6. Conservation of Haberfield NSW

Vincent Crow, Activist Saviour of Haberfield's Federation style
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Haberfield sits south of Iron Cove, which is part of Sydney Harbour. Haberfield was dubbed "the garden suburb" in the early 20th century and retains its well-kept parks, tree-lined streets and fine Federation-era houses with immaculate gardens. The entire suburb is heritage-listed.
Uploaded on Jul 24, 2009
Vince Crow and his Second Book about Haberfield in Haberfield, Sydney,NSW-Australia

Vincent Crow's books are part of a continuing series on tours of Haberfield and his first book is designed to enable the reader to walk through the streets of the Victorian Dobroyd Estate and Stanton's first Haberfield Estate. This well presented book is filled with older photographs from private collections which reveal how Haberfield once was and could be used as a guide in restoring aspects of Haberfield's original character. Author:Vincent Crow
  • This copiously illustrated history of the Sydney suburb of Haberfield emphasises its 'Federation' character, its 'garden suburb' aspect, and the reflection of nationalism in the street names and house ornamentation. Discusses community organisations, public buildings and changes that have occurred since the 1950s.
  • Vincent Crow's Books are described on the library page.

Haberfield Heritage Conservation Area

There are many reasons why Haberfield encapsulates heritage values at both a state and national level. It is more than the picturesque aesthetics of its streets, shops and single-storey houses, which, while predominantly in the Arts & Crafts and California Bungalow styles, cover the whole range of twentieth century architecture. Haberfield is a research repository of the Federation era, architectural details, house layouts, utility provision, garden design and plant material, and the early planning of public infrastructure.
71 Ramsay Street, Haberfield
71 Ramsay Street, Haberfield

  • Haberfield also has national social significance as a place where, from the mid-1970s, residents exerted considerable opposition to the destruction of these same picturesque houses, and is an early example of community statutory management: the Haberfield Development Control Plan is regarded as a leader in this field, with many conservation area management documents emulating its model.
  • The vision of the real estate entrepreneur and town planning advocate Richard Stanton involved infrastructure provision, plus covenant controls that laid the foundations for local government statutes governing suburban subdivisions – side setbacks to enable access to natural light and ensure privacy, minimum lot sizes and front building lines, separation of land uses and specification of materials.[5]

About 1500 houses were constructed in this and adjoining areas to designs by architects J Spencer Stansfeld and D Wormald, to Federation or Bungalow styles.
11 Rogers Avenue Haberfield
11 Rogers Avenue Haberfield

  • Haberfield espoused the philosophy of the Garden Suburb with its gardens containing distinctive planting, fences, gates and curving tiled paths. Houses in Haberfield were typically 'detached' double-brick dwellings situated on their own block of land measuring 50' x 150' (15 m x 45 m).
  • No two houses were alike, although there were many common themes throughout the suburb. The roofs were either slate or Marseilles tile. All had front verandahs. Decorative features typically used in this area include leadlight windows depicting Australian flora and fauna, Art Nouveau timber detailing and tuckpointed brickwork.[15]
Houses listed under the NSW Heritage Act:
  • Bunyas, 5 Rogers Avenue, Haberfield
  • Derrylyn, 16 Deakin Avenue, Haberfield
  • Yasmar, 185 Parramatta Road, Haberfield[6]


Why is Haberfield special?
Haberfield is a special place and designated a heritage conservation area for a number of reasons:
19 Stanton Road Haberfield Spring 2012
19 Stanton Road Haberfield Spring 2012

1. The federation suburb
Haberfield was established as an estate in 1901, the year of Australia's Federation. It was built following the overseas Garden Estate movement, which was a reaction to closer, 'unsanitary' settlements of the earlier suburbs. When establishing the estate, Richard Stanton used the slogan "Slum-less. Lane-less. Pub-less." This indicated that he was designing a 'genteel', residential suburb of freestanding brick houses that did not need back lanes because every house was sewered.

2. The architecture
Each house in Haberfield was an architect-designed 'detached' double-brick house i.e. no terraces, on its own block of land of typically, 50' x 150' (15 m x 45 m). More than 700 of the houses were designed by the same architect, J. Spencer-Stansfield. No two houses are alike, although there are many common themes throughout the suburb. The roofs were either slate or the distinctive orange, unglazed Marseilles tiles. All had front verandahs although some have since been converted into extra rooms. Many feature ornate timber details, leadlight windows and distinctive tile patterns on verandahs and in bathrooms.

3. The streets
56 O'Connor Strret Haberfield Spring 2012
56 O'Connor Strret Haberfield Spring 2012
The first few streets in Haberfield were given names of the members of the first Federal Cabinet, viz. Barton, Kingston, Forrest, Turner, Deakin, and Dickson. The whole suburb was developed by the 1920's.

4. Status
Haberfield was the first suburb in Ashfield recognised as a Heritage Conservation Area. This means that all new buildings, or external alterations to existing buildings, must be in keeping with the character of the suburb. It has an active community based organisation, The Haberfield Association, which is active in protecting and promoting the heritage qualities of the suburb.

5. Some other reasons why Haberfield is special:
  • The community strength. See current projects by the Haberfield Association.
  • The ability of the community to band together for the good of Haberfield. See recent projects

There is a specific Development Control Plan Part for Haberfield that responds to the unique qualities of the garden suburb and aims to protect its special qualities.[7]

The Haberfield Association

is presently involved with some current projects which deal with various activities and issues in Haberfield. It has also successfully completed many recent projects.

"Heritage isn't something you can buy or build - the best we can do is recognise if, love it, live with it, and hopefully - pass it on" Penny Pike - Ashfield council's heritage advisor.
  1. ^
  2. ^ http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/nsw/MediaStatementMillersPoint
  3. ^ http://www.homelife.com.au/homes/country+homes/historical+home+renovation,5179
  4. ^ http://www.renovate.com.au/docs/index.cfm?page=viewDoc&record=950&cat=CCBD7A45-1422-130F-33E5289ED8F88EB0
  5. ^ https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCwQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fepress.lib.uts.edu.au%2Fjournals%2Findex.php%2Fsydney_journal%2Farticle%2Fdownload%2F797%2F795&ei=Iw3nU4SJGNjt8AWr1YG4Dw&usg=AFQjCNH7W0_e70hq6cusCAHYQ2TgMSnwUw&sig2=F6yo0cdCVp4Vz_S93E2rIg
  6. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haberfield,_New_South_Wales
  7. ^ http://www.ashfield.nsw.gov.au/page/haberfield1.html