Heritage woes

Heritage listing for buildings is a touchy subject.
The protections and restrictions associated with such listings can be so unpopular that authorities often do their investigations of buildings in strict secrecy in order to avoid precipitating demolitions or renovations from anxious landowners.
Heritage listings are often viewed as an onerous burden on property owners and businesses rather than a tool that protects something precious for future generations.
But when they are done well they can sustain a character of a place while the modern world marches on.
Mt Torrens has a heritage precinct and the activities of its community association to capitalise on that precinct is a good example of a town that embraces its history.
Hahndorf is another town steeped in early settler history but residents and traders have had an uneasy relationship with heritage protections over the years.
Now Uraidla is stirring over a plan to knock down an old stone “outbuilding” behind the local pub. According to the East Torrens Historical Society, that “outbuilding” is the last blacksmith’s shop left standing in the district and it has enormous significance.
Unfortunately, it is not protected because about 20 years ago local traders objected to a heritage precinct being established in the town that would have encompassed the shop. The Uraidla Hotel is currently closed while the owners, the Fassina Group, plan major renovations.
Those renovations included plans to knock down the old stone building but the company had no idea the structure had any historic significance because nothing was flagged by planning regulations.
Now there is an impasse because the hotel owners want to run a business but the community wants to keep a building it believes is part of the collective character of the area and therefore transcends individual ownership.
The Fassina Group is no stranger to heritage buildings.
The company has gone to great pains to turn the historic Barker Hotel in Mt Barker into a contemporary business that protects the original structure.
Perhaps Uraidla could learn from the people of Mylor who fought to save the old bootmaker’s cottage in their town.
That unlisted building was derelict and was nearly bulldozed by the local council.
However, a group of residents made the cottage a town project and worked together to fundraise and win government grants to restore the structure.
If Uraidla wants to keep its blacksmith’s shop, its residents might have to roll up their sleeves and work with the hotel owners to create something special.