Andrew Woodhouse is a local Potts Point resident who is the Director of heritage consultancy Heritage Solutions.
He also runs the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society and writes a weekly historical update about the area for Richardson and Wrench’s website.
You’re a familiar face around our neighbourhood, Andrew, how long have you lived in the area?
I’ve been a local resident of Potts Point for over twenty years. I enjoy every moment of living here.
That’s a long time. How has the suburb changed?
It certainly has changed in twenty years and has become more responsive to local needs. There are an increased number of cafes, florists and laundromats, all providing important local services. The demographic has also changed with more families with young children moving in, all a good thing.
I met you through your work as a heritage consultant. But can you explain for us, what does a heritage consultant actually do?
As a heritage consultant I advise clients on the heritage significance of their home or property, and the implications that any changes, like a development application (DA), would have on it. Usually a report is required by Council because the property is heritage listed, or in a conservation area, but it may just be an older property.
My role is to ease the process by providing reports to clients that are submitted to the council with their DA. It’s forensic, and it is important. A heritage report is usually 30 to 40 pages, and gives a complete history of the site as well as the proposal for the site. I also appear as an expert witness in the NSW Land and Environment Court.
How did you become a heritage consultant?
I had studied law, and worked for the National Trust for a few years. Then after completing two post graduate degrees I began my own consultancy. When I started 20 years ago it was a new profession, and there were just 6 of us in NSW.
I’m a public paladin for heritage, I’m a champion. I think it’s very important. My job
also combines my heritage, legal and historical interests.
It’s not just about protecting things for the sake of it, it’s about preserving the parts for the future that are important. History is different from heritage – a building can have an interesting history, but then there is also the heritage in the tangible building. There is still room for alteration, providing the heritage is kept.
You’ve also fought a few battles for our local area. Can you tell us a bit about your work as president of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society?
I found that after I set up my own business, people in the community were phoning me to help with heritage problems in the area. It made me realise how important heritage is to the community, and how pivotal heritage consultants are.
It all started 18 years ago, when a DA in Macleay Street went in and several people approached me because they wanted to stop it, but the deadlines were shut. So I set up the Heritage Conservation Society, and we found a regulation that meant we could launch an intervention. I didn’t want it to interfere with my professional work, but the next day the Wentworth Courier called, and we ended up making the front page.
The Heritage Conservation Society is about advocating to governments at all levels to recognise and promote the retention of heritage in the area.
I try to avoid doing any reports through my consultancy for clients in the City of Sydney to avoid any conflict of interest.
What do you count as the Society’s major achievements?
The defeat of the initial DA for St John’s Anglican church, Darlinghurst is definitely one, as well as the recognition of the heritage significance of Rushcutters Bay Park. We’re currently looking at the Macleay Street council upgrade.
What’s the greatest misconception people have about what you do?
Heritage is not about how old something is, it’s about how significant something is.
I went to the UK to give a talk and they initially scoffed at us. Sure, we don’t have Roman ruins, or Gothic cathedrals. But what we do have is our Indigenous history, as the oldest living civilisation, plus our heritage post 1788. They couldn’t believe we had heritage listed the Opera House, which was only built in 1974.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I champion our heritage because its richness adds value and provides our area with a unique character. Heritage is what we want to keep for the future from any era. Without it we would be poorer.
What is the best thing about Potts Point?
Potts Point is Australia’s first suburb, established in the early 1830s.
It is one of a few villages in Sydney with a broad cross-section of people including some wealthy and not so wealthy inhabitants. It is this juxtaposition which provides its vibrancy and which creates a living matrix of interest for both locals and visitors.
Macleay Street, our main artery, with its Parisian ambience, is chic. Its boulevard of trees arch and kiss in the middle of the street. It is more European than any other Sydney area. Victoria Street with its wonderful heritage terraces is particularly lovely.
We live in an area with almost everything we need for healthy indoor and outdoor living. The pocket parks are especially cute.
What are some of your favourite buildings in the suburb?
Elizabeth Bay House is a fine Regency mansion. Kingsclere is a noble Edwardian brick high-rise and one of the first in Sydney. The Grid by Tina Engelen, overlooking Heritage-listed Rushcutters Bay Park, is a masterclass of modern design which is especially innovative and environmentally sensitive.
What are your favourite haunts around the area?
Zinc Cafe for breakfast and Cafe La Fontaine for luncheon.