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Frequently Asked Questions

The Heritage Council and Registration

What is the role of the Heritage Council of WA?

The Heritage Council of Western Australia is the State Government’s advisory body on heritage matters. It is vested with functions and powers under the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990. The Heritage Council is charged with the compilation of the State’s Register of Heritage Places.

The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage is the Department that supports the Heritage Council and the Minister for Heritage.

What is the State Register?

The State Register is a statutory list of places that help tell the story of Western Australia’s history and development. Entry in the Register is reserved for places the Heritage Council has assessed as being of State cultural heritage significance. The Register’s primary focus is on places from British settlement onwards and includes places to which both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians retain a connection. The Register acknowledges the value and importance of a place, and helps promote its conservation into the future. There are currently 1,370 places in the State Register.

Who decides what should be entered in the State Register?

The Heritage Council of WA’s role is to determine the State significance of a place. The Minister for Heritage makes the final decision on whether a place is entered in the State Register.

Heritage significance and the boundary of Guildford Historic Town

What is the heritage significance of Guildford Historic Town?

Guildford Historic Town (Guildford) is an area rich in history and heritage. In its highly authentic built fabric, Guildford illustrates at least five key periods in the State’s history, with simple Georgian buildings from the foundation of the Colony, brick public buildings of the Convict era, imposing and opulent buildings of the Gold Boom period and fine examples of residential and civic buildings of the Federation and Inter-War periods, all of which together form a cohesive precinct.

As one of three towns established in 1829 in the Swan River Colony, Guildford was central to the agricultural and horticultural development of the Colony as the first (and only) inland port in Western Australia, providing an essential transport node, firstly by river and then by rail, linking the Colony’s seaport to the hinterland. Together the places within the precinct help tell the story of the development of the State.

There are 28 places within Guildford already entered in the State Register on an individual basis.

What is a heritage precinct?

A heritage precinct is a place where the relationship between the buildings, plantings, spaces and other features create a special sense of place, which together tell a particular story.

Why has this boundary been proposed for entry in the Register?

Guildford is unique in the metropolitan area for retaining a strong sense of being a distinct town, separate from the surrounding suburbs, as a result of its encirclement by the openly wooded, undeveloped riverine floodplain along the banks of the Swan and Helena Rivers. This forms a logical boundary for the historic precinct.

What do primary, secondary and intrusive mean on the zones of significance map?

A zones of significance map is a general guide which indicates the importance of different elements within the precinct. That is, elements marked as primary make a substantial contribution to the identified State values of the place (the five key historic periods for example), while those that are marked as secondary make less of a contribution (e.g. elements which date from the post-WWII period). Those areas identified as intrusive make little or no contribution to the State values, and could be considered to detract from the precinct’s streetscape value.

These designations will be used to guide Development officers, and the Heritage Council, when advice is provided on the impact of any proposed development within the precinct.

How does Aboriginal Heritage fit in to the proposed registration of Guildford Historic Town?

The draft heritage assessment for Guildford Historic Town acknowledges the significance of the place to the Whadjuk people, both past and present.

Within the boundary of Guildford there are a number of Aboriginal sites recognised under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. The proposal to enter the whole of the town in the State Register will not impact on the status or administration of these Aboriginal sites. However, if a proposed development has the potential to impact any of these sites, it should be referred in the normal course of practice to the Registrar of Aboriginal Sites for advice and potentially to the Aboriginal Cultural Material Committee. In addition, it will be referred to the Heritage Council for advice on the impact of the changes on the State values of the precinct as a whole.

Benefits of Registration

What does entry in the State Register mean for Guildford?

Entry in the Register will recognise and celebrate the significant heritage values of Guildford and will offer protection under the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990, ensuring any major changes proposed for the place are in keeping with its cultural heritage significance.

What are the benefits of registration?

With its rich history, Guildford is already promoted as a heritage precinct. Entry in the Register will likely further enhance the area’s profile as a tourist destination.

Studies have shown that registration has a generally positive effect on property values, particularly in precincts. This is largely because it provides greater certainty for owners, and for people wanting to buy into the area.

Private owners of State Registered places are able to apply for grants of up to $100,000 to help with conservation planning or work through the Heritage Council’s annual Heritage Grants Program.  Places on the State Register can also be nominated for the Western Australian Heritage Awards.

Why enter Guildford in the State Register if the place is already protected by the City of Swan’s Local Planning Scheme?

Entry in the State Register acknowledges the importance of the place to Western Australia as a whole and enables the Heritage Council to be included in decisions about maintaining its cultural heritage values now and in the future.

Developing registered places

Can I still make changes to my property if Guildford is entered in the State Register?

Yes. The entry of a precinct in the State Register does not prevent an owner from making changes to their individual property. Owners will continue to apply to the City of Swan for approval for any development proposal as required under the Local Planning Scheme. The City will refer proposals to the Heritage Council for advice on the heritage aspects of the proposal in light of Guildford’s State values. 

As Guildford Historic Town would be included in the Register for its values as a precinct, the Heritage Council’s advice about properties which are not already individually registered, will relate to the impact works will have on the overall values of the area, as opposed to the impact on individual elements, details or building interiors. Referrals to the Heritage Council are usually handled within the City’s normal time frame, so as not to delay decisions on development applications.

What does the proposed registration NOT do?

The Heritage Council’s remit is quite specific and relates to the provision of advice to ensure State heritage values are not adversely impacted.

Issues that fall outside the scope of the Heritage Act, such as parking, traffic, planning and land use, will continue to be dealt with by the City of Swan.

State Registration does not mean a place or precinct cannot be developed or adapted to meet contemporary needs. It does mean that any proposed development or changes have to be sensitive to the identified heritage values of the place.

Other general information

Does registration affect ownership/public access?

No. Registration does not in any way affect ownership or allow the public to access your property.

What is the role of the City of Swan?

The Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage, on behalf of the Heritage Council, has responsibility for engaging with stakeholders as part of the assessment process. As a key stakeholder, the Department has been liaising closely with the City of Swan, which is also providing support and assistance where appropriate.

What happens next?

The period for comments has now closed. The Heritage Council will soon consider whether to recommend registration to the Minister for Heritage.

Further Information / Contact Us

If you have further questions, or would like information about the proposed registration, please contact us at

Find out more about Guildford Historic Town.

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