Buying a heritage property

When many people buy a heritage property they want to know what changes they can make.

What is listed?

A heritage item listing covers the property as a whole including interiors, exteriors and setting. A conservation area listing covers the building exteriors and setting.

What can I change?

The heritage listing does not dictate what you can or cannot change. Instead, listing triggers a process for assessing change. This is by lodging a development application or minor works application for Council's assessment under the heritage controls. Historic buildings can be changed through this careful process that seeks to maintain the heritage significance of the place. The controls and approval processes are described at Development controls and approvals.   

As each property will have differing features and its own unique history, this careful approval process allows changes to be individually assessed by Council on their merit.

In general, the goal for changes to historic properties is to keep and maintain the original or old features of the place and that new works are sympathetic to and do not overwhelm the old. This maintains the authenticity of listed places that make them distinct. The significant original or old features will differ for each property.

Further works advice

Ku-ring-gai Council does not offer a heritage advisory service. However, if you wish to know the key issues associated with the development of a heritage item or within a heritage conservation area please apply for a ' pre-development application consultation'

Council's feedback will assist you in addressing issues with your proposal prior to lodging an application. The pre-DA service is considered useful because you are only given one opportunity to amend your proposal during the development application assessment process. Using the pre-DA service can save you time, money and alleviate uncertainty.

For greater certainty about whether planned works are acceptable, you can:

  1. Arrange a pre-development application meeting with Council as described further below and at: Development controls and approvals.

  2. Alternatively, you can contact a heritage architect or heritage consultant to give you preliminary advice on planned works. Public authorities like councils cannot recommend private consultants. While not an endorsement, Heritage NSW maintains a directory of heritage consultants you may contact at: Heritage consultants directory.

What are the rules?

The controls for development of a heritage item or development within a heritage conservation area can be found in Ku-ring-gai's Local Environmental Plan and Development Control Plan. These seek to conserve the heritage significance of heritage places. 

Gaining approval for changes

If you are uncertain which approval you require please talk to Council’s duty planner. The three types of approval are:

  1. Development application.
  2. Minor works approval.
  3. Exempt development.
Take away message

In summary, if you want to buy a heritage property and you want to make change:

  • Review Council's detailed controls in the development control plan.
  • Get heritage advice form a heritage professional.
  • Understand the type of approval you need.
  • If lodging a development application it is strongly recommended you undertake pre-development application consultation.


Contact the Heritage Planning team on 9424 0000 or at