Bus depot battle could be over

The battle to preserve an historic bus depot in Canberra could soon be over with public heritage listing submissions closing next month

Bus depot battle could be over
Bus depot battle could be over

By David Goeldner | July 29, 2010

The supporters of the old Kingston bus depot in Canberra will soon know if a decade-long fight for heritage listing has succeeded.

The Canberra icon has been given provisional heritage listing after nearly a decade of knock-backs.

ACT Chief Minister John Stanhope says the listing will be made permanent if no legitimate objections are raised during the public consultation period, which ends on 18 August.

He says provisional listing acknowledges the historical significance of the site, which dates back to the 1940s.

The Retired ACT Transport Employees Club has been behind the battle to preserve the old depot, having tried and failed to secure heritage listing in 2002, and then knocked back again late in 2009.

But the ACT Heritage Council appears to have had a sudden ‘change of mind’ in recent months.

Without the recent provisional approval to preserve the site, RATEC’s Jean Carnall fears the building was to be pulled down.

"It’s a part of our history, it represents where Canberra started," she says.

"And it’s still a good building, very stable."

Stanhope supports Carnall’s assessment of the structure.

He says in making the provisional heritage listing decision, the Heritage Council noted the significance of the building's fully-welded rigid steel portal frames.

Stanhope says the Council also noted its historic value to early transport workers and their families, and its significance in the early and continuing development of Canberra.

Australian Institute of Architects ACT chapter chair Graham Trickett says the long fight over the best part of a decade could soon be over.

Trickett has been a long-time supporter of gaining heritage status for the old depot, and provided RATEC’s case for its listing.

"There’s a lot of social history attached to the site," Trickett says.

The Kingston depot closed in 1992 when a newer bus facility was built nearby.

Trickett says the Kingston depot started a new life in the early 1990s as the ‘Old Bus Depot Market’, a focal point for Sunday morning arts and crafts.

"There’s no doubt the old Kingston bus depot meets heritage listing criteria," Trickett says.

"And there’s no argument that this is the site from where modern Canberra was built."

As far as Trickett is aware, the old Kingston bus depot is a public building not in the hands of private ownership – or in Canberra-terms – privately leased.

That means there is unlikely to be a private developer ‘standing in the way’ of final heritage approval.

He believes listing should pass smoothly through the provisional phase.

"But it’s not a done deal."

* Photo supplied by Retired ACT Transport Employees Club

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