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Close call on heritage protection dust-up at Kent Town


Dr Kent’s Paddock in Kent Town has won State Heritage Listing despite its public housing trust owner fighting the protection order on the inner-city site that is home to more than 100 residents.

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A hard-fought battle from local residents and heritage supporters to cement an interim SA Heritage Council order on the 114 homes and communal garden built in 1978-79 has been backed by Environment Minister Susan Close.

Close was asked by the South Australian Housing Trust (SAHT) to exercise her powers under the Heritage Act 1993 and decide if the listing was in the public interest as it moved to block the order on Dr Kent’s Paddock Housing Complex made in December last year.

The Minister has decided in favour of the SA Heritage Council decision and the heritage listing of the site is now confirmed.

“Based on extensive consultation, she was satisfied with the original decision to maintain the complex’s provisional listing,” a government spokesperson said.

“A heritage assessment of Dr Kent’s Paddock recognised it as an important example of the evolution of social housing in South Australia, away from broad acre developments, as well as the design innovation of renowned architect Newell Platten.”

A key supporter of the listing and Rundle Street Community member Dr David Baker welcomed the news, saying the housing was on a prime, inner-city site on Capper Street and Rundle Street and the dispute over its listing had meant tenants were unsure of their future.

“Any government wants to be on the right side of heritage,” Baker said.

“Perhaps there is now a bit more confidence that the government won’t intervene to make changes (to Dr Kent’s Paddock) based on the history.”

It was Baker who initiated the listing process, and he said some people had lived up to 40 years in the housing complex made up of two-storey townhouses, flats and a 1912 former John Martin’s warehouse converted into studios.

Dr Kent's Paddock

David Baker at Dr Kent’s Paddock. Photo: Brett Hartwig

However, the fight may not yet be over. The government spokesperson said the SAHT has a right to appeal the heritage council’s decision to list the complex via the Environment, Resources and Development Court.

“Whether or not they choose to exercise this right is currently being considered by the SAHT Board,” he said.

“The SAHT manages many properties that are subject to heritage listings and will continue to take all appropriate measures to comply with the requirements of these listings.

“The SAHT has no current plans to develop the site.”

In May this year, one resident at the housing site described how she felt devastated about the authority winning its bid to defer the state listing.

“I moved here in 1994 …. I feel devastated, it’s not just a home to me, it was a home to my three adult children, it’s a home to my grandchildren,” the resident, who made a submission supporting the listing but did not wish to be named, said.

The initial listing was made after an extensive review by the South Australian Heritage Council – and the SAHT employed Bottin Levinson lawyers to make its case against the move.

SAHT’s submission against the listing 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”.

Baker said the SA Heritage Council described the number of 39 submissions over the attempt to remove the listing as a “record” and its owner wrote the only submission against the listing.

In making the provisional listing, the South Australian Heritage Council described stage one of the housing complex as demonstrating an important evolution in social housing history in South Australia.

Its statement of heritage significance also referenced that it was built by the South Australian Housing Trust in 1978-79 and designed by acclaimed SA architect Newell Platten, demonstrating the trust’s “transition from provider of homes for workers to become the primary provider of social housing in SA”.

The communal gardens include a historic pepper tree while large sections of the land known as Dr Kent’s Paddock are part of Prince Alfred College’s recreation grounds.

This listing now confirms that there are 20 state and local heritage-listed places in Rundle Street, Kent Town, Baker said.

The group now plans to establish a Friends of Dr Kent’s Paddock network.

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