By Allan Hogan, Acting Editor, Bulletin 10/2022, December 2022
John Howard would not be happy. The white picket fence at the front of Bidura on Glebe Point Rd is in serious need of repair. For months, passers-by have noticed more gaps between the palings and a leaning tilt unsuccessfully restrained by strategically placed posts.
Bidura was built in 1860 by Edmund Blacket, the architect of Sydney University and St Andrews Cathedral, and is listed on the State Heritage Register. The State Government sold it and the building behind it, known as the Metropolitan Remand Centre (MRC), to a property developer in 2014. The State Heritage listing protects the 1860 building from demolition and requires the owner to maintain and preserve it. The developer, Vision Land, has submitted plans to the City Council to demolish the MRC and replace it with an apartment block. Those plans have been highly controversial and the subject of submissions by the Glebe Society. The Council is expected to make a decision about the latest DA in mid-December.
In the meantime, the picket fence resembles the teeth of a street brawler who has had a few fights too many. Contacted by the Bulletin, Vision Land said ‘The structure of the fence is beyond repair, and as such we have been looking to contract out the works to replace it. Unfortunately, we have been unable to commence works previously as we had not yet received development consent for the site from City of Sydney.’
But Vision Land says there’s ‘a pathway forward wherein we can commence works for Bidura House prior to receiving development consent for the full site. We are currently preparing documentation for Bidura House works and hope to go to tender in February next year subject to being able to source qualified contractors.’
Perhaps more serious than the fence is what’s happening to the building itself. A close examination of the eaves suggests that there might be some water leakage in the roof. There’s clearly a hole in the soffit (that’s the technical term) and why this has occurred is a mystery. Is it rot? It seems unlikely that anyone would have punched a hole there, but at least it’s a convenient entry for the local fauna.
The NSW Heritage Act gives powers to the Heritage Council to make orders about maintenance for heritage listed buildings. The Glebe Society contacted the Heritage Council to ask if it intended to make such an order for Bidura. At the time of going to press there had been no reply.