Residents call for the protection of Dr Kent’s Paddock as its owner withdraws an application to go to court

The SA Housing Authority has withdrawn an application to reverse the State Heritage listing of Dr Kent’s Paddock in the Environment, Resources and Development Court, as residents of the Kent Town community call for the state government to reinvest in the site.

Feb 09, 2024, updated Feb 14, 2024
Public housing at Dr Kent's Paddock, Kent Town. Photo: Brett Hartwig/InDaily

Public housing at Dr Kent's Paddock, Kent Town. Photo: Brett Hartwig/InDaily

The two parties to the case were set to attend a conference in mid-February, with the case to be listed in court if a prior agreement was not reached.

But late this morning, the SA Housing Authority told InDaily it had withdrawn its application.

Before the decision, InDaily spoke to one resident, Dr Fiona Carroll, who has lived in the Dr Kent’s Paddock housing complex in Kent Town since 1994 and said that she and other residents feared that the government planned to redevelop the site.

In a letter addressed to Premier Peter Malinauskas in March 2023, Dr Carroll requested the government reinvest resources in the public housing site and address the internal and external maintenance of houses, upgrade of houses and maintenance of the common grassed area, which has Kent Town’s only tree canopy.

She said that issues had emerged in the past five years following the takeover of the site by the SA Housing Authority, as short-term residents with serious social problems had been housed at Dr Kent’s Paddock.

“Issues of safety primarily relate to anti-social and sometimes violent and other unlawful behaviours engaged in by some residents,” Carroll wrote.

“The sense of community and ‘neighbourliness’ that once existed has fractured, to a point of disintegration. Most of us living in the town houses have raised the height of our back gates and keep them padlocked.”

In another email written to Dunstan MP Steven Marshall in August 2023, Carroll wrote that “[t]enants here have heard through various networks, over time, that the ‘real reasons’ for the government’s opposition to Dr Kent’s Paddock receiving the protection of Heritage Listing include their intention to demolish and redevelop the place to include a ten-storey block of flats on Rundle Street (at least in part) and to make some of the land available to Prince Alfred College for a carpark, and improved ‘access roads’ of some description.”

Dr Kent’s Paddock was designed by acclaimed South Australian architect Newell Platten for the South Australian Housing Trust and built in two stages between 1978-1979 and 1983.

The complex has 114 individual dwellings and is made up of two- and three-storey townhouses, flats and a 1912 former John Martin’s warehouse converted into studios.

Dr Kent’s Paddock was nominated for the State Heritage Register by former Kent Town Residents’ Association president Dr David Baker in 2020.

Speaking previously to InDaily, Baker said that he wants to give residents “a say in what happens in their life”.

“Everyone would agree that the idea of knocking down or eliminating social housing would cause such a problem… I’m on the outside looking in, I have my own house so I don’t have the same fears that people living there rightly do.”

David Baker from Kent Town Residents Association in front of the former John Martin’s warehouse now converted into studios at Dr Kent’s Paddock. Photo: Brett Hartwig/InDaily

The site was provisionally listed on the Register on December 8, 2022, with the South Australian Heritage Council describing stage one of the housing complex on Capper Street and Rundle Street as “demonstrating an important evolution in social housing history in Australia”.

The provisional listing of Dr Kent’s Paddock received 37 submissions in favour of its inclusion and one against.

Among the 38 submissions received before the public consultation closing date in April, one described the site’s valued association with the suburb of Kent Town’s namesake, Dr Benjamin Arthur Kent.

Another described Dr Kent’s Paddock as “a masterful example of urban design and social housing exemplifying Newell’s humanist approach”.

“This project was influential around Australia and locally provided a positive precedent for the development of Community Housing Projects and private medium density developments.

“The importance of Dr Kent’s Paddock was recognised, receiving the Australian Institute of Architects (SA Chapter) 25 Year Enduring Architecture Award in 2007 which is awarded to one project annually but only if there is a project considered worthy.”

The submission against the listing was prepared by Botten Levinson Lawyers on behalf of the SA Housing Authority and claimed the site “does not demonstrate any aspect of history”, that it “is not a unique housing development” and that “it sits unremarkably in the massive body of work that the authority has undertaken”.

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In May 2023, InDaily reported that the SA Housing Authority had asked Environment Minister Susan Close to exercise her powers under the Heritage Act 1993 to remove Dr Kent’s Paddock as a provisional listing as a matter of “public interest”.

Minister Close refused this request after “extensive consultation” and the site was entered into the State Heritage Register at a meeting of the South Australian Heritage Council on 19 October, 2023, which found “it demonstrates important aspects of the evolution or pattern of the State’s history” and “it has a special association with the life or work of a person or organisation or an event of historical importance”.

The original plan of the unique housing community.

Dr Carrol said that throughout the ordeal, she and other residents have felt a sense of dismay and disempowerment.

“I have lived here, in one of the two-storey townhouses, since 1994,” she said.

“At that time I was the single parent of my three young children, I had full-time professional paid employment within the South Australian Health Commission as a social worker

“When I was given the keys to my property I was told ‘It’s a lovely little unit’ and ‘It’s your home for life’. I, along with other people who have lived here for many years, have treated it accordingly, spending thousands of dollars and hours on its improvement and upkeep, inside and out.”

In a statement, the SA Housing Authority said that “[o]ur ongoing priority is to ensure amenity and accessibility for current and future residents of Dr Kent’s Paddock, noting we have an increasing number of tenants with health and disability challenges who require newer or modified homes.”

“Under heritage legislation, parties only have two months to seek a review of a confirmed listing and the Authority made an application within the timeframe. This provided additional time to consider the implications of the listing and, following this, the application has been withdrawn.

“The SA Housing Authority plays its part in protecting our state’s heritage through its ownership and management of many heritage-listed properties, including the first ever public housing property built in 1937.

“We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand and upgrade public housing.”


Dr Kent’s Paddock communal open space/garden c.1980. Source: SAHT Annual Report 1980.

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