Progress and its threat to Maitland’s heritage is nothing new in a past scattered with ruins.
The tyranny of time on some of the city’s great dames has led to casualties complicated by a growing population.
Those neglected buildings could be at greater risk of demolition should the private members bill, Environment Planning and Assessment Amendment (Demolition Orders) 2012, introduced to state parliament on May 24, be enshrined in law.
The bill would allow councils to demolish buildings that had been left to go to ruin.
Debate was deferred by the government to a future date, making this a nervous time for heritage enthusiasts.
National Trust conservation manager Graham Quint said Maitland had 17 buildings that should be considered for State Heritage Register protection as a safeguard to any future laws.
“One of the problems is the lists aren’t complete; there are buildings that should be on the list but aren’t,” he said.
“There are only 1750 buildings on the state government register and an estimated 10,000 places that should be.”
Central Maitland properties featured prominently on Mr Quint’s list as well as buildings from the old government town of East Maitland.
Including these structures on the register would make available government funds for their upkeep and the higher level of protection would require state government consultation to alter or, in the worst case, demolish such buildings.
Demolition of historic buildings by councils is not without precedence.
National Trust properties co-ordinator of Brough House and Grossmann House Alan Todd said any power councils possessed had to be used responsibly.
“The ‘60s were a bad time for heritage in Maitland heaps of it got knocked down,” he said.
Most notable he said was adjacent the old girls school, Grossmann, on Church Street.
Sauchie Castle was built in the vein of grand Scottish mansions by countryman Dr John Fraser, complete with a traditional folly.
“Any changes that make it easier to knock down our heritage is a bad move,” Mr Todd said.
MCC heritage officer Claire James said keeping structures in use in a vibrant city was a priority.
“Without doubt there are going to be conflicts in a growing city and it is going to be necessary to see how a development could be best done to minimise the impacts on our heritage,” she said.
“We’re conscious of promoting good processes of assessment and it is good to be always thinking about the current levels of protection certain listings provide as part of that.”
* See the weekend edition of the Mercury for more.