What is a Heritage Overlay?

BARNES — MATINA

Heritage Overlays: What You Need to Know

Navigating the intricate web of heritage overlays can be a daunting task, especially with the varying responsibilities of state and local government entities. Local councils and State bodies like Heritage Victoria and the Heritage Council of Victoria each have distinct roles in preserving and managing heritage sites, from locally significant places to state heritage properties. Understanding the nuances of what constitutes a heritage overlay, how places are listed, and the processes involved can be pivotal in appreciating and safeguarding our cultural legacy. In this detailed guide, we will unravel the complexities surrounding heritage overlays, shedding light on what you need to know to grasp their significance and implications.

Understanding Heritage Overlays

The Role of Local Councils

Local councils play a crucial role in the management and protection of heritage overlays. They are tasked with identifying and cataloging locally significant heritage places within their jurisdictions. Once a place is recognized for its heritage value, it is listed in the local planning scheme’s heritage overlay, ensuring its protection under the Planning and Environment Act 1987. Councils are responsible for making recommendations about what to include in the heritage overlay and for making decisions about changes to places already listed. This involves a careful assessment of the heritage value of properties and sites, which is often done in collaboration with community members and local historical societies. When changes or developments affecting heritage-listed properties are proposed, it is the councils that issue the necessary planning permits, ensuring that the integrity and significance of heritage sites are maintained for future generations.

Heritage Victoria’s Responsibilities

Heritage Victoria is a state government body with the responsibility of overseeing the most significant historic sites in Victoria. This includes places listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, historical archaeological sites, and shipwrecks. Their mandate extends from making recommendations for listings on the Victorian Heritage Register to deciding on alterations to those places. Heritage Victoria operates under the Heritage Act 2017 and is tasked with enforcing its provisions. Additionally, they manage the Victorian Heritage Inventory, making decisions about changes to places on the Inventory and controlling access to shipwrecks. Another key role of Heritage Victoria is the distribution of grants to aid in the preservation of eligible heritage sites. Contrary to what some might assume, Heritage Victoria does not own or directly manage heritage properties, but it plays a pivotal role in protecting the heritage that defines Victoria.

The Heritage Council of Victoria Explained

The Heritage Council of Victoria serves as an independent statutory authority separate from Heritage Victoria, with a distinct set of responsibilities. One of its primary functions is to determine which places are included in the Victorian Heritage Register—a list of sites that hold exceptional historical, architectural, or cultural significance for the state. In addition to this, the Heritage Council acts as the review body for decisions made by Heritage Victoria concerning permits and consents. Decisions made by Heritage Victoria can be appealed to the Heritage Council, ensuring a system of checks and balances in the management of the state’s heritage. The Council’s role is critical in upholding the heritage standards within Victoria and ensuring that the significance of heritage places is preserved and recognized in the face of development and change.

More Info…

To find more on how Heritage overlays impact you, you can find further information in our Heritage Overlay Advice article.


Feeling unsure of the complexities of heritage overlays? If you own a heritage-listed property or are considering purchasing one, you may be unsure of the next steps to take. Whether it’s understanding your responsibilities, figuring out the ins and outs of permits, or simply seeking guidance on how to best maintain and preserve your piece of history, explore our heritage project services to see if we can help you.

Don’t navigate this journey alone. We are passionate about heritage conservation and possesses the detailed knowledge necessary to support you through every stage of the process. By contacting us, you’ll gain a trusted partner who can provide clarity and direction.

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