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No heritage grants for Norwood high street businesses

An eastern suburbs mayor’s push to give council grants to encourage the maintenance and upgrade of commercial heritage properties has been rejected.

Oct 16, 2023, updated Oct 16, 2023

Norwood Payneham & St Peters Council Mayor Robert Bria’s motion to extend the council’s heritage grant scheme to include commercial properties was knocked back by councillors last week.

Commercial properties were excluded from the council’s heritage grant scheme when it ran from 2006 to 2014.

“We were looking at so many residential properties for listing that we considered at the time that the focus should be on residential properties,” Bria said.

But he believed that a revised scheme could be a chance to restore the main street shops that define Norwood.

“Norwood, Payneham, St. Peters retail areas are really largely defined by main streets, and some of those main street shops go back to the late 1800s and early 1900s,” he said.

“So an opportunity to look at bringing those properties back to their former glory could be worth considering.”

The previous scheme awarded $300,000 in grants to residents to pay for up to 50 per cent of the costs of restoration works on properties, such as installing new verandas, gutters and stonework.

Former Norwood Residency Association president Ian Radbone said the scheme made sense.

“The benefits of heritage buildings accrue to the community as a whole, so there’s a logical argument that the community as a whole should help pay for the cost of that heritage, particularly for any renovations and so on,” he said.

“The question is whether the amounts of money that the council can provide will make a meaningful difference.”

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Former councillor Faye Patterson said that the previous scheme was discontinued due to being unable to make a meaningful impact to heritage property owners’ situation.

“My recollection is that council looked at it and didn’t feel that it made a meaningful impact, because how much can you afford to give someone?” she said.

There was an underlying tension between the commercial nature of many of the businesses that occupy the heritage buildings of Norwood’s main streets, and the need to protect the buildings’ heritage value.

“They are looking for a main street site, not a heritage building,” Patterson said, adding that she doubted a council grant would incentivise businesses to restore heritage-listed properties if it conflicted with their financial interests.

Former local MP Greg Crafter said that previous council cash grants were minor, but property owners must be given incentives to maintain heritage properties.

“They’re often expensive to maintain and rundown after a period of years, and it’s sorry for them to be demolished,” he said.

Aside from grants, Crafter said that the council could provide incentives through other means such as reducing rates and compensation for associated developments.

“I think the community would welcome a broader range of supports,” he said.

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