Giant shed to enhance heritage-listed railway cottage?


“Alice Springs will have a new, modern and fresh looking building within the CBD, adding to the sought after ‘vibrancy’.”
Alice Springs will get “a HUGE industrial shed behind No 12 Railway Terrace, one of the four heritage-listed Railway Cottages” on this street.
These are the two very different views of  a development proposal that will come before the Development Consent Authority on December 12. The applicant is seeking to build a shed for light industrial use at the rear of the block. The block is zoned CB – Central Business. “Light industrial use” is not prohibited in the CB zone but requires approval by the DCA.
Above: Architect’s drawing of the shed as seen from the Stuart Highway. The heritage-listed outdoor dunny will still peak over the fence, from under the verandah roof.
The shed will be almost seven metres high at the rear, abutting (with a gap of 400mm) the fence that faces the Stuart Highway. Its roofline occupies the entire width of the block. It has been “designed to be minimally eye catching, but if spotted and observed, to be visually appealing”, according to the application.
The front of the shed is about six metres high. Although the applicant claims that the shed will be “hidden by screening vegetation”, the architect’s drawings (at right) make it clear that it will be clearly visible beyond the cottage, when facing it from the front, rising to one and a half metres above the peak of the cottage’s pitched roof. There will be a clear view to the full height of the shed approaching the block from the south. The view will be screened by existing tall trees approaching it from the north.
Viewed from the Stuart Highway, the shed will tower over the existing fence. At present this fence is capped by bougainvillea and more will be added, according to the application. Beyond the fence the pitched roof of the old backyard toilet (also heritage listed) can be seen. This will “remain as is and will have protection provided by the proposed ‘verandah’ portion of the structure “, says the application.

The applicant, Gregory Taylor, says the design of the shed has been modified and its height reduced “to satisfy the Heritage Department”. He also says “the NT Heritage Department” has given its approval for  “the proposed shed to go ahead”. He refers to documentation attached to the proposal but unfortunately this is not available for viewing among the application materials available on the government’s planning notices website.
Above: No 12 Railway Terrace a few days ago. The full height of the proposed shed will be clearly visible from this angle.
Heritage conservation architect Domenico Pecorari, who owns another of the heritage-listed cottages on Railway Terrace, says that “in a town that has already lost too much of its character” the proposal should not be allowed to proceed: “The Railway Cottages are all that has survived to mark the coming of the railway in 1929 and the role that the railhead played in the development of Alice Springs.
“A building of such size and scale will seriously impact upon and diminish the heritage values of the listed place, as well as having a detrimental visual effect upon the public space that is the Stuart Highway. There is little hope of screen planting to soften the visual blow there.
“No-one would accept the erection of a ranger’s maintenance shed amongst the historic buildings at the Telegraph Station, would they?  This case is no different.
“If this is allowed to go ahead, what kind of an image will we be sending to our interstate and international visitors when they see how poorly we treat our heritage places?  Is this the kind of precedent we want to set for future developers?”
At right: The existing boundary fence along the Stuart Highway. The shed will be over four times its height, says Mr Pecorari.
Mr Pecorari says the lack of a Conservation Management Plan for the Railway Cottages should not be allowed to pave the way for approval of this proposal.  The guidelines that are applicable to the  Alice Springs Heritage Precinct between Bath and Hartley Street are surely relevant, he argues, and they would not permit such a proposal.  He also says the proposal does not reflect “the public’s expectation of the type of development that may be permitted within a heritage listed area”.
There could also be a case for arguing that light industry is incompatible with the residential uses of the Railway Terrace cottages. The primary purpose of the CB zoning, according to the Town Plan, is “to provide for a diversity of activities” but with “a commitment to the separation of incompatible activities”.
The deadline for public comment on the proposed development is this Friday, November 30, 4pm. The relevant documents can be found here.


  1. The proposed shed will overshadow a rare and valuable remnant of our town’s history. We need to work hard to ensure that Alice retains the small pockets of appeal it has left, not destroy them. I stongly oppose this development.

  2. We wish to oppose the construction of this shed not only on aesthetic grounds but from the practical point that good town planning aims to revitalise all CBD areas by encouraging communal and, dare we say, residential development intertwined with the “business” heart to give vitality and pulse to our town.
    We have a light industrial area, this is where shed type construction belongs.

  3. I tried to lodge a complaint as a rate payer and long time resident but when I had completed it and pressed the submit button – I discovered I was “not authorised”
    I cannot believe that any common sense is being shown in this proposal
    Is this the view we want for people visiting and travelling through Alice Springs. A bloody great shed..? Keep sheds out of the Central Business District.

  4. It appears to me that he’s not knocking any heritage listed structures down.
    I think that the proposed building looks great, about time we have another good looking modern building in the CBD.

  5. I and many others I have had the discussion with fail to see the issue as “Rate Payers”. I believe the proposed structure to be ascetically pleasing, when you drive down the highway there is nothing but dilapidated and quite frankly ugly dated buildings.
    To “Cheryl North”: Anyway you travel into Alice Springs there is a shed / industrial area, these areas provide the town with jobs and growth. I couldn’t have put it better; a bloody great shed! You can’t tell me that you don’t see worse sights around town; everyone talks about “rare and valuable remnant of our town’s history”. How can you comment like this and not ask the property owner of heritage house – #16 Railway Terrace to clean their frankly disgusting yard up?
    All the buildings on the opposite side of the highway are … tilt ups; SHEDS!
    I fail to see how the building does not fall into its zoning law; when lining the highway is a giant red roster and a golden M.
    When you decide to do something positive for the community and give back to the town with jobs and money through a project, I hope you are not met with such horrible community spirit.
    Clearly the owner has taken into account the property’s heritage with preserving the current structure with plants blocking the majority of the proposed building. I can’t begin to imagine the cost in the planning, permits and approvals.
    I would say there rates are a great deal more than mine and most!

  6. Re. Anne, The untidy yard at #16 is not the subject being reviewed by the Development Consent Authority and compared to the huge shed being proposed is likely to be short-lived. Talk about shoot the messenger and questionable community spirit! I suspect your comment reveals more about you than the home-owner at #16 who is entitled to object to this proposed development. And the shed proponent purchased their land and railway cottage in the full knowledge that the site was heritage listed and therefore likely to demand more from their occupation than generating jobs and money.

  7. To Anne and Tom. I’d like to draw your attention to the importance of preserving the “setting” of heritage places (as opposed to just saving the buildings alone), an issue that is dealt with in the “Burra Charter”, the document that sets a standard of practice for the conservation and management of places of cultural (heritage) significance.
    As a more practical, local “guide” on acceptable development, you could also refer to the Conservation Management Plan for the Alice Springs Heritage Precinct, south of Stott Terrace, in which such industrial scale shed developments are strictly discouraged.
    Our town has enough examples of inconsiderate neighbouring developments that impact poorly upon our heritage buildings, such as the Old Stuart Gaol and the Old Courthouse, to think that we ought to have learnt by now. We do not need another mistake to be made with this particular proposed development.


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