The City Council is continuing its assessment of the Development Application for Bellevue – the Heritage listed cottage situated in Blackwattle Park at Glebe Point. The DA is for the ‘Use of existing building known as Bellevue Cottage for a licensed restaurant for 152 patrons and café for 96 patrons with hours of operation between 6am and 10pm, 7 days per week.’

Bellevue – looking neglected – in late 2017 (image: V. Simpson-Young)

The Glebe Society has a lengthy history of fighting to preserve this historic building. Built in 1896, it is one of the few surviving examples of late Victorian dwellings that characterised Jarrett’s Point on the Blackwattle Bay foreshore. Members of the Society mobilised to prevent its illegal demolition in the mid 1970s. Leichhardt Council purchased the foreshore parkland, including Bellevue, at the end of 1981, but it fell into disrepair after a number of Development Applications were refused. It was not until 2006 that the City budgeted $1.2 million for its restoration and then approved its use as a café in 2010.

The café was a popular venue for locals but was not a commercial success and closed its doors in 2017. Believing that some of the restrictions placed on its operations limited its commercial viability, the Glebe Society wrote to the Council in October supporting an extension of its operating hours. It seems that some residents regarded this as the Society giving a ‘green light’ to the DA which was not advertised until December.

The Society made a formal response to the DA in January which addressed the residents’ concerns. In particular, the Society demanded that issues of parking, noise, hours of operation, and landscaping be addressed before approval was granted. Far from giving a ‘green light’ to the DA, the Society put on record its apprehensions about the possibility of unfavourable outcomes.

In 2006, following community consultation, a Program of Management was established for the East Glebe Foreshore and approved by the Council. The Program regulated the use of community land along the foreshore and specifically listed guidelines for the future use of Bellevue. Among the possible uses listed were for a café and/or restaurant, subject to plans to minimise vehicle traffic and parking in local streets by promoting pedestrian and water access, and to minimise noise experienced by local residents, especially at night. The Society will watch closely to ensure the Council follows its own guidelines.

The Society believes that the preservation and maintenance of Bellevue, and its value as a community amenity, is most likely to be achieved if the building has a permanent tenant. The Society does not favour any particular tenant but understands that if the lease limits the possibility of a successful commercial venture, the building could become an empty shell with the dangers that poses to its preservation.