Bick & Steele: Expert heritage lawyers


In Australia, important heritage places can be protected under Commonwealth and State legislation.

Commonwealth legislation

The key Commonwealth legislation for protecting heritage places is the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conversation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).  The EPBC Act protects "Matters of National Environmental Significance" including declared "World Heritage Properties" and "National Heritage Places" by providing that development which is likely to have a significant impact on such places be properly assessed and approved before it is commenced.

The Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (ATSIHP Act) applies to important indigenous heritage objects and places and authorises the Minister for the Environment to make a declaration protecting objects or places from a "threat of injury or desecration".

NSW legislation

In NSW, important heritage places are protected under the Heritage Act 1977, which provides for such places to be listed on the State Heritage Register (SHR) and for the making of interim or emergency heritage orders.

A listing on the SHR or the making of an interim emergency order provides a measure of protection for heritage places from development which may affect that place by requiring that the development by authorised by the Heritage Council.

Heritage Floor Space - Sydney CBD

The City of Sydney Council has established a "heritage floor space scheme" which is intended to provide an "incentive for the conservation and ongoing maintenance of heritage items in central Sydney".

The legislative framework for the scheme is set out in clauses 6.10 and 6.11 of the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 (SLEP). Under the scheme:

  1. certain development is eligible to take advantage of "bonus floor space" provided that a prescribed amount of heritage floor space is obtained for the development; and

  2. heritage floor space can be awarded to the owners of heritage buildings in Central Sydney for conserving those buildings and then sold to developers thereby offsetting the costs of the conservation works.

In recent years there has been under supply of heritage floor space available to the transferred to developers whose projects include "bonus floor space". This has led to the creation of an "alternative heritage floor space scheme": see clause 6.11A of the SLEP.

Under the alternative heritage floor space scheme, developers who can demonstrate that they have been unable to procure heritage floor space for their developments can, with the agreement of Council, still make use of bonus floor space provided they carry out or fund suitable heritage conservation works in Central Sydney.

How we can help

Based in Sydney, we assist clients across NSW to resolve complex heritage law matters. At Bick & Steele, we can help you by:

  • advising you on the Commonwealth and NSW heritage legislation applicable to a particular heritage item or place;

  • advising you as to your rights to carry out development which may affect a protected heritage item or place and assisting you to obtain approval to exercise those rights;

  • advising on how to protect an important heritage item or place threatened by proposed development; and

  • advising and representing you in relation to the acquisition or disposition of heritage floor space under the SLEP.

Our experience

Examples of projects with respect to which our Directors have demonstrated their experience advising on these matters can be found here.

Contact us

To see how we can help you, please contact us.