Having endured in recent times an allegedly corrupt mayor, excessive developer-biased rezoning and a rapid changing of the character of their suburbs, Sutherland Shire residents now face the very real prospect of losing their oldest building, thanks to an errant council who seem determined to dig up, sell off and knock down as much as they possibly can during their time in the sun…
Sutherland Shire Council seems intent on pushing through its draft LEP, which will not only raise the building densities of many of the beachside suburbs, but also seeks to remove its oldest house from the heritage list. The worker’s cottage, at 5 Evelyn Street North, known as ‘Gunyah’, dates from c.1870 and formed part of the vast Thomas Holt Sutherland Estate. It is in fact the only remaining physical link to the estate and widely recognised as the oldest house standing in the Shire.
All this hasn’t stopped council from seeking to de-list the building, claiming restoration costs as being prohibitive. But there are a few fishy smells coming from Sutherland Shire’s reckless decision making… remembering council actually owns the site, and has let the building slip into disrepair over a period of more than a decade through total lack of maintenance.
And also remembering that the entire draft LEP springs from the troubled tenure of former mayor Kent Johns, who resigned both his mayorship and pre-selection for the state seat of Miranda in disgrace after allegations of corruption following his famous last-minute Mayoral minute, these are all reasons for concern. He remains on council, and many of his Liberal colleagues are still running the show, such as Cr Kevin Schreiber.
And the fact that this decision contradicts advice from not only council staff, but also the State Government independent review panel means councillors intend acting without any given mandate, neither from the public, nor state government, nor even their own council officers. This simply defies logic.
By de-listing the house they stand to now make a massive profit by on-selling the land as a greenfield development site. Perhaps rezoning is on the cards, as has occurred directly across the road where townhouse-units are now being built. The property minus the cottage would be worth a pretty penny (reportedly up to $1.8 million), considering its proximity to the shoreline and desirability of location.
Cr Kevin Schreiber, a Liberal councilor who served as deputy mayor 2012-13 next to Johns, told Fairfax “As much as we like to keep our heritage sites, … the cost far outweighs the benefit to the community.” But we can take what he says with a little grain of salt. Schreiber himself was referred to ICAC for questionable development approvals and political donations back in 2008, along with three other Liberal councillors including our friend Kent Johns.
Schreiber and Johns denied the claims, which related to 30 non-compliant approvals within two years, but all the councillors were de-listed from the Liberal party at the time and forced to register as Indepedents. That makes three times since 2002 by my reckoning Kent Johns has been involved in ICAC referrals, and yet this character remains a B ward councillor in the Shire still making planning decisions. Is there any wonder the LEP has turned out like it has?
Current deputy mayor Tom Croucher, another member of the Liberal dream team, claims the council can’t afford restoration. “The council has no funds to restore it. I ask it be removed from the heritage list,” he said. Simple as that…
Okay let’s assume that to be true. That they can’t afford it. It may well be… So what gives them the right to de-list the building as a heritage item? Just because they can’t afford to fix it? It makes no sense to me at all, am I missing something here? If you or I own a heritage-listed house, and we decide we can’t afford to renovate it, does it then get de-listed, and sold to the highest bidder as a development site? Is that how it works? I really don’t think so. I could be wrong, but I didn’t think it worked that way. If it did there wouldn’t be many heritage listed homes left.
The clear and logical solution for Sutherland Shire Council is, if they really can’t afford to renovate the cottage – this asset to the people of the area, this visual link to early European settlement – then don’t. Sell it as a heritage listed item for somebody else to renovate, or lease it as a museum for people to enjoy. Don’t destroy the very local heritage you are meant to protect just to turn a bigger land sale profit, that is not the right thing to do. It may sound clichéd but once it is gone, it is gone for good, there is no bringing it back. And buildings of this vintage, in this locale, with heritage links to our founding forefathers, are already few and far between.
I implore people, residents and non-residents alike, to contact Sutherland Council, and ask that they not go ahead with de-listing and demolishing this important cultural asset as it would be an irreversible loss to a community so closely tied with the early European settlement and growth of Australia.
Email Sutherland council firstname.lastname@example.org
The safety fence has already gone up around the house, this is not a false alarm.
Well, time flies and we’ve already notched up two years within the blogosphere here on these pages of Inheritance…
It seems just about ripe for a format change too, as it becomes increasingly difficult to keep up with the state of heritage loss currently being enacted all around us… time constraints, life getting in the way, etc. etc. and more openly it’s getting a little monotonous writing the same old story that generally reads something like this: “beautiful building neglected, beautiful building acquired by developer, developer knocks down beautiful building, ugly big building rises where beautiful building once stood…”
I had thought we would be learning collective lessons by now and while I believe the general public may be cottoning on ever so slowly, single-minded politicians and the development lobby still hold the trump cards and aren’t afraid to use them to keep the current wave of urban renewal riding off strongly into the sunset. Meanwhile residents are held to ransom and left to watch in horror as wonderful heritage assets are systematically stripped from their neighbourhoods wherever the wrecking ball of developers decides it wants to swing.
So now we will take a more general overview of current heritage issues, in order to cover more ground more succinctly and keep updating while still maintaining the original focus of publicizing heritage neglect and destruction that keeps people like me in business and gives us something to do with all our otherwise misguided energies…
Heritage Brief August 2014
Art Deco waste in Chatswood
Another day, another demolition… This time it will be a beautiful art deco block of units at 745 Pacific Highway, Chatswood which sold in late 2013 for a reported $3.5 million and will be replaced by, you guessed it, another modern block of shop-top apartments reaching five stories in height and no doubt maximising real estate value of the highway frontage by leaning right over the footpath and every border of the property.
A shame to see the beautiful stylised brickwork of this building and symmetrical forms sacrificed for more faceless monolithic residential stock. No building that replaces it will ever have the same level of workmanship or quality of design that this art deco wonder had, that much I can guarantee. So it’s overdevelopment 1: heritage nil.
If anyone is local and handy with a screwdriver I would suggest going over and salvaging this beautiful set of art deco doors from the jaws of the bulldozers. The owners obviously don’t care and shame on council for not making removal of doors and fittings part of the deal.
Ramsgate shops lost
Not much was left of this charming row of Federation shops along Rocky Point Road in Ramsgate. A real estate agent in a shopfront to one side had originally opposed the DA (surprisingly), and for some time their little corner of the site was left standing. Now they too have decided it was a better option to get out, leaving nothing behind of the heritage architecture but a gaping hole in the ground soon to be filled with more units that actually rise above what the local DCP allows for by a massive two stories. With Rockdale council controlling one side of Rocky Point Rd. and Kogarah Council the other, it seems both parties have engaged in a race to decide who can ruin their side of the street the quickest. (For more info read here). Overdevelopment 2: heritage nil.
Princes Hwy, Highway to Hell
Further along at Princes Highway Rockdale, the story emerged of an elderly couple who decided they didn’t want to sell their family home of 60 years, when a massive eight storey development took shape next door. Instead of bowing to the pressure by developers, Barry and Betty Dickson decided to stay put, and after several months of jack hammering and earth moving going on just over the fence, health effects are starting to take their toll on the resolute couple… perhaps they regret not moving after all.
But then again, “you show me where there’s a house on a corner block with room to park five vehicles close to the hospital and with a shed” said Barry to Fairfax reporters. Let’s hope he can continue to live the way he wants to, without too much bad karma from the ruthless encroachment of land grabbing all around. Overdevelopment 3: heritage nil.
Nearby on the corner of the rapidly changing Gray St, an old converted Federation doctor’s surgery is about to make way for ever more units. This street is also home to the yet to be opened new Emergency Department of St. George Hospital, and every house opposite (currently old cottages) is on the chopping block. Quite an interesting planning strategy, putting a new ambulance thoroughfare on one side and multiple blocks of units on the other, considering the street is already gridlocked during peak hours. I hope nobody I know will be waiting for an ambulance once this is completed, it may be a nervouse wait… Overdevelopment 4: heritage nil.
Kogarah is gone…
Expect to see much more desecration around Kogarah. At the council meeting of July 29, the motion to send the new ‘Kogarah Housing Strategy 2031’ to the NSW Department of Planning to go on exhibition, was won by 10 votes to 1. One councillor, Lachlan Mclean, who prides himself on not supporting overdevelopment, made these comments against the motion:
The proposal is an extreme overdevelopment of North Ward and I refer to 3 key examples that will anger residents and ultimately detract from our lifestyle:
1) The change to allow buildings of up to 11 storeys or 33 metres in peaceful residential streets such as Palmerston Street, Victor Street, Victoria Street and Stanley Street.
2) The change to allow buildings of 39 metres on Railway Parade backing onto Bellevue Street and the Kogarah South Heritage Conservation Area.
3) The change to allow buildings of 21 metres or up to 7 levels on the Princes Highway backing on to John Street in Kogarah Bay and Wyuna Street in Beverley Park.
…Some will say, let the proposal go to the Department and then let the residents have their say. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that so many North Ward residents will be outraged by these changes and I don’t want to put them through the stress of having to justify why 11, 12 or 13 storeys shouldn’t happen next door to them.
…This proposal doesn’t strike the right balance and won’t provide residents with a better lifestyle. It is all very well to speak about the needs of future generations, but there is no evidence that the necessary infrastructure will be in place to support these changes – our roads will be gridlocked and will struggle to cope with future population growth.
Wise words indeed from the North Ward councillor. Yet his thoughts are clearly in the minority on this council. Kogarah, unfortunately, like many other suburbs, has NO chance of a sensible planning strategy now. Well done Lachlan for rejecting the draft. Shame on you, Kogarah Council, for burying your ratepayers in high rise, many of whom, wouldn’t even see it coming.
Sports Club calls last drinks
South Hurstville Sports Club has become the latest casualty in the shrinking world of bowling clubs closing its doors after 57 years of service. The struggling club called for last drinks on Saturday June 28 as they move to amalgamate with nearby Peakhurst Bowling Club. The classic Art Deco building is owned by the Catholic Education Office, and we strongly hope the owners will be able to repurpose the wonderful architecture, however no plans have been announced for the site. I will be personally contacting the Catholic Education Office to suggest this.
This news comes on the back of the St George Bowling Club at Rockdale being completely demolished by council after arsonists caused damage to the roof structure. This was a superb piece of architecture on a prime ‘development site’ and it appears Rockdale council have done nothing to save it. (For more info read here).
It never ceases to astonish me that every time a club like this closes, more isn’t done to protect the site from private development. The local population are losing amenity, a place to congregate, a place to mingle, to socialise, and to gather… When that former social space becomes a closed door development, the whole community loses out, especially the elderly.
Kyle Bay’s future outlook
Nearby at picturesque Kyle Bay, residents are fighting to keep their leafy bay ‘leafy’, after a hushed rezoning push-through and development has been proposed for the 24,000 square metre Kyle Williams estate. The privately-owned bushland site that currently occupies much of the expensive hillside is much loved by locals who fear the loss of natural amenity. Indeed this is one of the last natural areas of remaining bushland so close to the mouth of Georges River.
The land was bequeathed by Caroline Milne Williams who ran a respite home for convalescing children until her death in 1939. Currently the heritage-listed Legacy House continues that tradition on site, however the Greek church-affiliated Estia Foundation is proposing a massive and potentially uncapped expansion via the rezoning. More than 200 objections have been sent to council.
For those who water down concerns of residents stating they only want to hold on to their million dollar views, well, wouldn’t you? If you invested into a house and suburb with a certain natural outlook, and all of a sudden that outlook is threatened, and the prospect of watching new development rise up becomes a reality, then why wouldn’t you complain… Amenity of the estate is not the issue here, it is suitability of the site. Overdevelopment 5: heritage nil.
Gosford council recently looked at a motion to rename Brisbane Water and the Broadwater ‘Mariners Cove’, however the motion was defeated after observers including our own NSW Heritage Network scrutinized the renaming in connection to the Central Coast Mariners football club, of which Gosford City Council is an official major partner. And rightfully so – if renaming of geographic sites starts here, where will it end – ‘Bluetongue Bay’ or ‘The Coffee Club Ranges’…?
In Eden, the case of Hotel Australasia has gone before the Land and Environmental Court recently as a Section 34 mediation, as the developer Great Southern Developments tries to sell the merits of a third supermarket in a town that doesn’t really need it, on the site of the historic and characteristic local pub. The result as it now stands will see the hotel completely demolished.
The developer had indicated they would spare the 1951 front skin of the building while seeking financial compensation of $460,000 for lost rental space as a result of retaining the facade, but council decided this was too much to pay, leaving concerned residents and local heritage with nowhere to stand. Hotel Australasia has long been described as the ‘heart and soul’ of Eden, now the township will have to survive without it.
This is what happens when mediocre councils shy away from heritage listing in the first instance – you lose old pubs and so forth, you get big developments cropping up, parking and congestion issues to boot, and supermarkets nobody needs. Not the best outcome for a town like Eden. (For more info read here).
And the saga of Avoca Beach Theatre continues… It has been reported that council is seeking donations from the cinema owner under a Voluntary Planning Agreement (or VPA) to allow for a redevelopment of the cinema that, again, none of the locals seem to want or need. These costs will cover refurbishment of adjoining Hunter Park, and resurfacing of a nearby carpark (without providing extra parking spaces). It should be noted that the redevelopment will not include any onsite parking for theatre-goers or staff… None. It should also be noted that the redevelopment also includes luxury apartments that will directly overlook the park.
And so it appears that the owner may well be able to do whatever they want, provided they throw generous amounts of money in the general direction of council. Ahhh democracy, it’s a wonderful thing… (For more info read here). (For an interesting video link click here).
If you have any local issues to cover, please email email@example.com with the subject Heritage Brief.