Maitland Heritage Guardians have vowed to continue the fight to save an historic cottage at Woodville, despite a Port Stephens Council decision to demolish the slab cottage.
Chris Richards, a founder of the heritage group, and some members of the Port Stephens community have slammed the council's decision to pull down Pomfrett's Cottage and allow the contruction of a new single-storey dwelling on the site.
Pomfrett's Cottage is believed to be one of the earliest cottages to be built in the region, dating back nearly 200 years.
In voting against the recommendation, Cr Giacomo Arnott said that the Paterson Road property had significant "value to the local community" and plans to demolish the structure had resulted in a lot of angst in the community.
"This is heritage vandalism on a grand scale. The heritage report notes that this dwelling is a rare example of a vernacular cottage of the 19th century in the local area. It is clear that the cottage is in bad shape, but by all accounts it's been in the same shape for many years, if not decades.
"I have received emails opposing its destruction, including from the Woodville School of Arts management committee."
Speaking on behalf of the School of Arts, Elisabeth Smark said that she regarded the council decision "as a humiliating failure on the part of all the parties involved - all of us".
"Most remarkable in this saga is council's incredible conjuring of a property it had long declared an 'archaeological site', to rise astonishingly through the dust as a 'legal dwelling' place for the purposes of allowing this DA."
Lending her voice in support of the development application, Cr Jaimie Abbott that the cottage had not been heritage listed and the proposed replacement dwelling was sympathetic in design to the surrounding area.
"The cottage is on private land, it has been empty since 1975 and back then it was considered uninhabitable. Why have we heard nothing from the community for 45 years until now? And since the matter was brought up to council in February I have not received a single correspondence or email," Cr Abbot said.
"The building is structurally unsound and on a lean, it is infested with white ants, it's falling down and dangerous. And to rebuild is not cost effective."
Cr John Nell said that the applicant had been through each council process and had run out of options to save or restore the building.
"We have no choice but to allow the owners to go ahead and build their new cottage," he said.
Mr Richards, who has also examined the cottage from the outside in detail, said he was appalled that councillors had voted to demolish a heritage significant building that "was probably built between 1811 and 1835".
He believes that the property is in a restorable condition, describing the house as a "priceless piece of heritage" not only in Port Stephens but across NSW.
"By agreeing to this decision, the councilors are not doing their job for the community at large. It seems this council is pro-development on anything," Mr Richards said.
He said the community would continue to pursue whatever avenue possible to stop its demolition and will apply for an interim heritage order in a bid to save the building.