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Heritage advisers will take on development under office amalgamation

THE body responsible for providing heritage advice to the State Government will be folded into the Department of Planning in a move critics fear could seriously undermine protection of heritage buildings and sites in NSW reports Wendy Frew Urban Affairs Editor February 19, 2008.

Heritage Office staff will be integrated into the Department of Planning's development assessment and policy teams, with heritage experts placed in teams assessing development proposals.

The Heritage Office supports the Heritage Council of NSW, which will continue to function as a statutory body advising the Minister of Planning, Frank Sartor.

A Planning Department spokesman said the change would "elevate consideration of heritage matters into the heart of the department's core activities".

But the merger will exacerbate a conflict between protection of heritage and the planning process, said the Opposition's heritage spokesman, Brad Hazzard.

"This isn't heritage - it is heresy. We are throwing out the expertise developed in a close-knit unit and assimilating it, in the pejorative sense, into planning," Mr Hazzard said.

The department spokesman said a stand-alone unit would service the Heritage Council, including overseeing proposed state heritage listings. The spokesman said existing heritage staff would continue to undertake heritage work and there would be no forced or voluntary redundancies.

He said also Mr Sartor had taken advantage of provisions under the Heritage Act to appoint a panel of three people to advise him on a recommendation by the Heritage Council for listing on the state heritage register.

The changes follow the December appointment of Gabrielle Kibble as chairwoman of the Heritage Council. Ms Kibble is the former head of NSW Urban Affairs and Planning, and administrator of Liverpool City Council.

She was responsible for a Heritage Act review, which has been handed to Mr Sartor. He told the Herald last week it had not yet gone to cabinet.