In Sydney, we are currently mired in an era of rush-to-build. It is a given that arguments for better public transport and more social and affordable housing in Sydney are not disputed. And yes, the issues are complex. But the problem is the abject willingness of government to abandon their own heritage principles and conservation areas and displace long-standing communities in order to ‘cut through’. Such a Hausmann-esque approach demonstrates an unwillingness to work around and seek solutions to the preservation of items valued by the community.

The problem is the abject willingness of government to abandon their own heritage principles and conservation areas and displace long-standing communities in order to ‘cut through’.

The irony is that the implementation of the NSW Heritage Act 1977 is being celebrated this year. Doubtless the legislation has achieved much in the past 40 years but one is left with the uncomfortable feeling that the fox is in charge of the hen-house. Whilst the NSW Heritage Council labours mightily, other government agencies appear hell-bent on undoing their efforts, either overtly or covertly.

The Glebe Society’s Heritage Subcommittee has watched these hostile developments as the year in review unfolded. We strongly objected to the proposal by WestConnex for a ‘contained portal’ which would have impacted inter alia the heritage-listed sandstone retaining wall along Parramatta Rd. We were relieved that this concept was eventually abandoned. The Subcommittee is waiting to assess the heritage impacts of finalised plans for the WestConnex M4-M5 Link. On a far smaller scale and despite our appeals, it appears that RMS will proceed with its plans to install a massive electronic traffic sign on Parramatta Rd near the corner of Ross St.

In relation to Blacket’s Bidura (1857), the Heritage Subcommittee’s focus remains to ensure that the history, fabric, curtilage and integrity of the original building, in its setting, is maintained and respected. The Land & Environment Court’s rejection of the Stage I plans (building envelope) for the redevelopment of the rear of the Bidura site centred on concerns regarding the overshadowing of the heritage-listed building. The Heritage Subcommittee contributed to the Glebe Society’s submission to the Heritage Council supporting the listing on the State Heritage Register of Bidura and its ballroom.

The graceful lines of the Victorian Regency house Edmund Blacket designed for his family at 357 Glebe Point Rd are a gracious remnant of The Glebe of 150 years ago. (image: Peter Thorogood)

Also with long gestations, are the final outcomes of our discussions with Council regarding the damage to the Edmund Barton plaque and its remediation or replacement, the restoration and installation of the soldier memorial at the Tramsheds and the installation of a plaque to identify and contextualise the Lone Pine (Pinus halepensis) which is planted adjacent to the Diggers’ Memorial in Foley Park. On a related matter, the Glebe Society has sought assurances that the Lone Pine sapling which we donated to the University of Sydney will not be disturbed by the proposed new museum to be built on the old tennis courts.

The Heritage Subcommittee has continued to arrange, during the WWI Centenary years, the Remembrance (Armistice) Day service at the Diggers Memorial. Given the noise of increased traffic on Glebe Point Rd, we may need to move part of the service to a quieter location further into Foley Park, although the wreath-laying will still take place at the Memorial.

Subcommittee members have been active in contributing to the Bulletin with valuable articles on building histories, aspects of decorative arts and social history. Subcommittee members continue to respond to heritage and history related enquiries which come in via the Glebe Society website.

At his invitation, we provided input on a number of heritage-related issues to Neil Macindoe, the Glebe Society’s Planning Convenor. Subcommittee members have also been able to flag heritage concerns where unauthorised or inappropriate work in our conservation areas has been identified.

The Subcommittee continued its reflections on ways in which it might contribute to the Society’s 50th year celebrations, pending the finalisation of overall plans by the Management Committee.

Liz Simpson-Booker stepped down as Heritage Convenor in April 2017. Ted McKeown has taken up the cudgels. Both wish to thank the members of the Heritage Subcommittee who have made significant contributions to achieving our objectives of providing advocacy, information and insights into Glebe’s past.

By Liz Simpson-Booker (former convenor) and Ted McKeown (current convenor), Heritage Subcommittee