ST GEORGE UNDER SIEGE 1: ‘DEVELOPERS WELCOME’

This post relates to a previous one regarding a Federation house that was for sale at 26 Dunmore Street Nth Bexley, for more details read here. As I feared at the time, the property was eyed off by developers in the hotly contested southern suburb of Bexley, and snapped up at auction for the princely sum of $1,446,000. As it turns out this was land value only, as soon afterwards the “fence of doom” went up and neighbours got their final glimpse of this beautiful Federation diamond in the rough that could have been saved, should have been saved, but was instead briskly turned to rubble.

The owner has advised council he will be subdividing the property and building three modern dwellings on the site at a proposed cost of $850,000 plus $10,000 demolition. Residents in the historic street are now banding together to try and stop inappropriate development taking shape on this block, hoping the new buildings will be more sympathetic to the current streetscape they value so dearly. As I reported in my previous post another owner tore down a similarly neglected Federation home on a corner block several years ago and after negotiation agreed to shape his new home in a style emulating that of a Federation house. Will the new developer be just as sympathetic, considering he proposes to build not one but three townhouses and has obviously bought the block to turn a profit?

That remains to be seen. What we do know is that the original house should have been protected from redevelopment in the first place, for a number of reasons.

First and foremostly it was a heritage building, a beautiful example of a Federation purpose built corner block, and it showed off many stunning period features that are now simply lost.

Secondly, it is located smack bang in the middle of a heritage precinct; its demolition detracts from the heritage value of the streetscape just as propping up three modern townhouses in its place would cheapen the entire surrounds. Whether Rockdale council has officially listed it or not as a heritage precinct is irrelevant, it is a heritage precinct, and certainly one of the best in the area and in fact southern Sydney. Rockdale council, which governs an area containing many fine heritage buildings, that also bond together to form some important heritage streetscapes, does not have any defined heritage precincts in their portfolio, meaning any street in any neighbourhood including the wonderfully embellished Dunmore Street Nth Bexley, is open for business to developers.

And don’t they just come rushing, especially when an unloved old building on a corner block like this, overgrown garden, probably a deceased estate, comes up for grabs. It doesn’t take much to look and see pure dollar value on this kind of investment; buy one, build three, triple your bottom line without too much effort exerted. And why wouldn’t they, more often than not they aren’t connected or affiliated to the particular area in question, they don’t walk around the streets and peruse the heritage quality of the neighbourhood or do the necessary groundwork to find out if their investment decision will have a negative impact on the area in which they have just bought – that’s the council’s job… And because they either refuse or can’t be bothered doing the research and making the decisions that will keep our heritage assets from falling, then it remains open season for developers, and houses like this will fall time and time again, only to be replaced with cheaply built office-like boxes overcrowded onto tiny blocks that do nothing at all to better the area they represent in any way, but return maximum profit to the said developer, who by now, is probably driving his brand new Merc AMG home to his concrete Mcmansion in a leafy suburb far, far away.

Meanwhile residents of Dunmore Street Nth, Bexley, are left to scratch their heads and gather together with placards saying “Developers not welcome here” wondering when did their beautiful heritage street that they have invested hard earned savings into start to go so horribly wrong. Unfortunately for the residents, who rightly claim some sort of ‘ownership’ to their street and their community are slightly off the mark this time – Developers ARE welcome here, they have been welcomed by council, they have been welcomed by the state government, in fact they are more than welcome, they are encouraged to build these sorts of over-sized monstrosities with heritage destruction as a by-product. The councils, the state government, they don’t really care about your heritage houses, your heritage shopfronts, your suburbs and your precincts – these are only in the way of more development. If they did, unlike in Rockdale Council’s case, they would have allocated neighbourhoods like Dunmore Street Nth Bexley a dedicated heritage precinct many years ago. But they didn’t, and so, as always, developers are welcome.

26 Dunmore Street

A Federation Diamond in The Rough stood here.

DSC03669

Of solid construction and intricate detailing, this should never have been allowed to be knocked down for profiteering.

At least in the case of 26 Dunmore Street Nth Bexley, residents should have been given a chance to be informed about the demolition prior and as a result make submissions to the proposals. Under planning laws to be introduced soon by Premier Barry O’Farrell and (Bad) Planning Minister Brad Hazzard, even this simple right would be wiped away from neighbours. The first thing they would know or see would be the dreaded “fence of doom” go up by which stage, as we know,  it is all too late. This is what we have to look forward to in this state once these reforms are pushed through… it makes no difference if the house is an ugly shack or a Federation diamond, if there is no heritage listing, it is fair game. And the fact that private certifiers are on the increase means council will have even less input and developers will have an easier and quicker path to get their foot in the door, or, perhaps more to the point, knock the door over.

The services of a  private certifier were indeed utilised in the decision to allow demolition of this house. Almost within the blink of an eye the house was sold at auction and bulldozed without residents input. Remembering the response I received from council when I questioned the possibility of demolition immediately after the sale, it read “Any development application lodged to either demolish the building or undertake alterations and additions to the building would consider what impact such has on the nearby heritage items, with specific matters for consideration included in both Rockdale Local Environmental Plan 2011 and Rockdale Development Control Plan 2011…” In this case I don’t believe the private certifier has duly considered the impact of demolition on the nearby heritage items… Have they consulted with residents at any point? If not I believe residents would have a right to deem the legality of the demolition highly questionable.

Such is the future of planning in NSW under the state government’s exempt and complying development code, and White Paper reforms which are still being pushed through despite strong disapproval state-wide from many stakeholders. Welcome to the brave new world of planning in NSW, where heritage is seen as nothing more than something that ‘gets in the way’ of new development, and developers are clearly ‘welcome’ at every corner.

Dunmore Street demolition

This is what remains. Very few trees were spared on the block too.

Forest Road

Just sold around the corner on Forest Road. Will this house share the same fate?

Just sold on the corner of Dunmore St Nth and Forest Rd. Another fine example of a Federation corner block.

Just sold on the corner of Dunmore St Nth and Forest Rd. Another fine example of a Federation corner block.

Inheritance Society has written to Rockdale Council with a submission against any new modern-looking development on site, while questioning how demolition was allowed when it so clearly impacted nearby heritage items, and also requested Rockdale Council to consider Dunmore Street and surrounds as its first official heritage listed precinct.

Title image by Chris Lane, The Leader.

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5 responses to “ST GEORGE UNDER SIEGE 1: ‘DEVELOPERS WELCOME’”

  1. Dorothy warwick says :

    It seems that developers are welcome anywhere in Sydney, no matter which LGA you live in. It’s happening everywhere!
    I happened to have a meeting with a young lady from England yesterday regarding an historic house I am involved in which was previously used as a home for State Wards. This young woman is a visual artist and projects programmer who is also a Churchill Fellow of 2013 from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (which I only mention to show that she has some credibility) and she is absolutely horrified at what she is seeing happen here to our heritage items. In England they are very much more aware of items and their history, from the lowly small cottage to the grand, stately home, to the old shop frontage, and they have the Heritage organisations that actually have teeth and are pro-active in protecting their history.
    It is sad to see that our so-called heritage organisations do not have the power to step in and help save our built heritage.
    The NSW Heritage Office appears to be sliding into oblivion – and even if they do make recommendations, they are over- ruled e.g. the Lennox Bridge at Parramatta – with the Minister stating that he/she cannot over-rule the Heritage Council, which makes you wonder what sort of system we have if the Minister for Heritage is also toothless?
    As your heading states: ‘Developers Welcome’

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Yes absolutely. Europe in general has a far better awareness and security of heritage assets. Here the listings are inadequate, and even if a property is listed it doesn’t mean it will be spared.
      What we have here in Victorian architecture and 20th century would rival anything in Europe, and our Art Deco is some of the best in the world. What is happening across our cities is horrific.
      Dunmore Street is one of those special streets that has somehow managed to retain much of an early 20th century streetscape in all its glory, until now… How that house was allowed to be demolished for profit making I will never know. It is truly shameful.

  2. inheritanceorg says :

    Rockdale Council approved the design of the new developments on Dunmore Street North, against residents’ wishes, many of whom attended the meeting. According to campaigner Mick Freedman “Last year the council’s heritage advisor told me that she was preparing a list of streets that should be protected by Development Control Plans so as to keep the character of the street intact and at the same time allowing new development to go ahead. I don’t know what has happened to that report but at this rate by the time it gets to council there won’t be a street left in Rockdale that has not been spoilt by inappropriate developments like this one in Dunmore St Bexley.”
    Truly a shame and in fact a disgrace that the current group of councillors cannot act on behalf of ratepaying residents and on the side of heritage in what is an important documented local streetscape, instead turning even this last vestige into a playground for developers. Once streets like this are ruined there is nothing…

  3. Dorothy Warwick says :

    If there is anything left to fight for by the next council/state elections it looks like we will all have to stand and try and turn the development tide! 🙂
    If only it was that simple……………………

  4. Anne Field says :

    Andrew ,

    National trust Luncheon is May 14 not May 7

    My reply to June re Kyle Bay

    Anne

    0409361090

    Regards

    Anne Field

    http://annefield.net.au

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