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In Marrickville NSW on “To demolish building 8, 9...” at 182-186 Livingstone Road Marrickville NSW 2204:

Scott James MacArthur commented

Dear Sir
The Marrickville Heritage Society is appalled by the proposal to demolish the 3 heritage listed Victorian villas on the former Marrickville Hospital site. The proposal is completely at odds with previous committements from Council given to the Society and the community about the fate of these buildings.The previous Masterplan, supported by a Conservation Management Plan, identified these buildings as being of HIGH heritage significance, and they were to be retained and adaptively re-used. In fact, CMP Policy 6.7.5, specifically requires that these buildings are retained.

It appears that since these documents were prepared, and endorsed by Council on behalf of the community, two devious bureaucratic manouevres have been propounded by Council to facilitate the demolition of the villas. Firstly, the Masterplan is being changed to require the demolition of the 3 villas to guarantee the commercial viability of the whole project. Secondly, the individual heritage listing of the villas under the LEP has been removed, and they are now part of the group of heritage items within the Marrickville hospital listing. The heritage Impact Statement that accompanies the application for the demolition of the villas can now make the risible claim that the demolition is supportable as it only "represents partial demolition of the overall listed heritage item" and " is required [by the new Masterplan] to generate sufficient revenue to ensure that the conservation of the retained Hospital buildings (Buildings 1 and 4)".

It is extraordinary that Council has requested consent for demolition when this new Masterplan has not yet been endorsed by Council, and is indeed still out for public comment. The Society notes that the new Masterplan still requires that the management of the heritage items within the site "is to be generally in accordance with the CMP". Demolition of the three villas, in contravention of Policy 6.7.5, is demonstrably not in accordance with the CMP.

The Society notes that it is poor planning practice to approve demolition of any building, and particularly a heritage building, without a committment from the proponent as to the repalcement development being included in the same application. This prevents speculative demolition, and the all to common situation of a poor quality replacement being offered once the demolition is effected. The HIS helpfully offers that any replacement building on the site "is expected to be of a high quality design". The Society believes that Council must commit to the design and construction of the new development prior to any further demolition on the site.There are also scenarios where these building could be demolished, under the guise of achieving viability of the new development, and that development not proceeding. If for any reason the Civic Centre development did not proceed (Council's financial situation deteriorates or a forced Council merger makes the Civic Centre redundant), then the community has lost these heritage buildings for no return. More ominously, should Council obtain consent for the removal of all of the existing building stock on the Livingstone Road side of the site, it could be lucratively disposed of to a commercial developer, completely unencumbered by pesky buildings and heritage listings.

Finally, the Society is angered that these important applications for demolition of the buildings on the site, and the changes to the Masterplan have been released for comment during the Christmas holiday period. This is a typical tactic of any organisation trying to minimise awareness and criticism of a controversial proposal, and surely shows that Council has something to hide.

The Society calls on Council to retain the three Victorian villas in accordance with the Conservation Management Plan and existing Masterplan, and reject this application for their demolition.

Scott MacArthur,
Marrickville Heritage Society

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