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11.30  Characterizing Heritage: Everyday Control of Heritage as a Land Use Management Tool for Urban Planners. A Case Study of the South Australian Planning System

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9:00, Monday 6 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

Our urban landscape is marked with the footprints of people, past, and present. The buildings around us, the stones beneath us, and the atmosphere that they create are the setting for our contemporary narratives. As a society, we know and value these stories by passing them on through heritage listings, through formal and informal place-making activities, and by recognizing their role in contributing to urban and other cultural identities of the present and future. Heritage, in some sense, becomes a point at which we can unite ourselves before moving forward. Urban planners are those who are tasked with looking forward, to create an ideal future, or at least one that improves upon the past. However, the past is an element that is not easily wiped away; it presents itself in a way that demands attention through either conservation or potentially willful destruction. The intersection of urban planning and heritage management is thus a tricky temporal convergence of the past, present and future. 

In Australia, heritage designation and protection, especially on the local level, is primarily overseen by planners and local government authorities. Thus, different mechanisms have been adopted within planning policy to accommodate “heritage” within the urban landscape. Character zoning and policies are one such example of these measures: a means of providing visual uniformity, consistency and certainty for the future urban form. The recognition of these zones, in one way, provides a prescribed sense of control over the present and the future. 

This paper will examine how the South Australian planning system incorporates the past into its future landscapes. It will initially scrutinize various levels of heritage and planning policy, to consider how the concepts of heritage and character are utilized formally and informally to influence the stories our landscape tells. While a multi-scaled approach to heritage (consisting of local, state, and national significance) is meant to facilitate the flow of different stories, contemporary heritage governance creates an unnatural hierarchy that allows for the dominance of certain narratives and values regarding our landscape. The paper will then utilize qualitative data, collected from planners and residents at a local government level, to illustrate how the use of “character” and “heritage” within urban planning practice allows for the generous protection of some peoples’ stories in local government planning, and the limited preservation of others. In highlighting this discrepancy, we can recognize the way in which policy can potentially cause unintentional social and cultural exclusion. In this sense, planning for and with heritage, is a constant reassessment of “the better future.” But just as we often ask, “whose past?”; we should ask, “for what future?”

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