I normally like to think of myself as quite a positive person, but lately I’ve been feeling so despondent about heritage legislation and urban planning in Brisbane. I’ve always known that you can’t save everything and I accept that a city needs some development, but more and more I feel like the balance is vastly out of whack and that heritage protection is becoming an oxymoron. I’m not naive enough to be surprised, I know making money will always win out over everything else in our society and my years working for the government mean I know the machinations behind decisions and can see that sometimes compromises need to be struck, but I’m still sick of seeing houses lost.
One thing that makes me particularly angry is that the council goes to the trouble of having designated “Dwelling House Character” areas, which according to the Brisbane City Plan 2014, should protect the houses within them from demolition or removal, but then the council approves development applications to do just that. Glamis Lodge is a case in point. But then I’m not even talking about saving especially old, large, beautiful or architecturally important houses, just your everyday houses that together make up Brisbane’s architectural history. For some reason at the moment I have lost the ability to just shrug things off, which previously I could do to varying success with a “oh well, you win some, you lose some” mentality. Now I am getting so angry and upset every time I read about another place lost or threatened, that I have stopped even reading those types of articles or stories in my news feed. I was so angry about Glamis Lodge being demolished that I actually couldn’t get to sleep that night for thinking about it.
In my opinion, the primary cause which needs to be addressed to reduce the loss of residential buildings in Brisbane is the subdivision of lots. Subdivision is nothing new, it’s been going on since European settlement in Australia, but as lot sizes get smaller and smaller, I keep wondering where it will end. Whenever I see a house for sale on a large lot, I immediately think, well there goes another one. Actually, it doesn’t even have to be a large lot. The average lot size in my suburb is around 600m2, which I don’t consider large by any standard, yet under certain conditions they can be, and are being, halved in size and built on. But people are also buying these new places on tiny lots, so obviously not everyone agrees with me or even worries about these things. The current council seems focused on encouraging this subdivision, infill development and increased density of housing within an escalating number of suburbs. Yes, minimising the urban sprawl helps reduce our environmental impact and has other positive aspects, but at what cost? While I can obviously also see economically why they would do this (on the most basic level, more houses = more rates), and I understand we need more housing for our rising population, I just wish it could be done without the huge impact on the character of our existing suburbs. With the minimum lot size for housing in many suburbs getting smaller and smaller, I also worry that the open space and large backyards that make our city special will eventually be lost forever.
Does anyone else feel the same way?