Maitland Heritage Guardians take on council over Ledsam Street demolition application

DEMOLITION: Chris Richards (front) with concerned local residents from left Chris Tischler, Kay Bond and Ros Singleton. PICTURE: Simone De Peak.
DEMOLITION: Chris Richards (front) with concerned local residents from left Chris Tischler, Kay Bond and Ros Singleton. PICTURE: Simone De Peak.

Maitland City Council is on a “demolition derby”, giving consent for historically significant buildings to be bulldozed, making way for “Colourbond condominiums” according to heritage conservationist Chris Richards.

Mr Richards lashed out at council this week after learning that a property in a city conservation zone is earmarked for demolition to make way for town houses.

No. 5 Ledsam Street, Maitland is the latest bone of contention for Mr Richards and his newly formed group Maitland Heritage Guardians, formed last month as an overarching body to protects and promote Maitland’s historic assets.

“Enough is enough,” Mr Richards said. “If council insists on destroying our heritage then it’s game on. There will be a heritage war. The community is sick to death of council making decisions that don’t affect them but affect everyone who lives in these locations.”

He said if the trend continues Maitland Heritage Guardians will run a candidate at the next Local Government election.

Maitland Mayor Loretta Baker said the public has a right to put in a submission on any development application. “And points are raised, considered and included in the business papers,” she said.

“They also have the right to run for local government if they wish.”

The Ledsam Street development application is not on next week’s council agenda.

She said the development application is not finalised and will come before council at a later date. “Council officers have to follow the Local Government Act when making recommendations to council and take heritage matters into consideration and the DA will be assessed with all these considerations in mind,” the mayor said.

No. 5 Ledsam Street, located in the historic Regent and Bonar streets precinct, was built around the turn of the century and has been vacant for about one year. Mr Richards is unsure who owns the property.

Maitland’s City Wide Development Control Plan 2011 states that the Regent Street conservation precinct should avoid re-subdivision of allotments, dual-occupancy developments unless able to be accommodated within existing building structure and second storey additions which are visually prominent from the street frontage or other public viewing places.

“Council has to work within certain government heritage guidelines and it is not doing this.This is the fourth or fifth time there has been an application before council for such a demolition and in each report officers state that the buildings are in a shocking state and have to be pulled down. I have inspected these properties and as a long term property developer and house renovator, there is nothing to say these homes can’t be restored back to their former glory,” Mr Richards said.

“The other grave concerns is that both a controversial Church Street property, which was recently demolished, and the Ledsam Street property have been purchased by developers knowing they are in a conservation zone and knowing the ramifications of what is involved. This is starting to set a dangerous precedent,” Mr Richards said.

He claimed none of council’s staff are qualified in heritage conservation matters, nor does council take on any outside consultants to assess over and above what developers put to them.

“Residents must be terrified that they have come into a nice area in a conservation zone thinking their environment is safe and then the elected councillors show they have no interest in the stress and problems and financial disability their decisions have on these people with the possibility of anti social behaviour and a depreciation in property values.

“We’re fast losing our crown of the Heritage Centre of NSW and fast becoming known as the demolition capital of NSW.

“This will be the first test of this new council as to whether they are with us or against us. The line is drawn in the sand and we will be ferocious in our stance on this and not let other people dictate how we should live.”