Community campaigners in Sydney's west have lost a legal fight to protect a heritage-listed villa from being demolished as part of the NSW government's $500 million construction of a new Powerhouse Museum at Parramatta.
The Land and Environment Court ruled against the North Parramatta Residents Action Group which had been fighting to protect Willow Grove, an Italianate villa built in the 1870s.
The government plans to dismantle and rebuild Willow Grove in another part of Parramatta to pave the way for the biggest museum in NSW on the banks of the Parramatta River - in addition to the existing museum at Ultimo which will be expanded and refurbished.
The residents had challenged the planning approval on the basis that the environmental assessment failed to meet essential requirements designed to protect Parramatta's heritage.
In his judgment Justice Tim Moore noticed that there was no obligation for the government to investigate alternative sites for the Powerhouse Parramatta and that the proposed extension of the "Civic Link", a green pedestrianised public space, through the site made removal of Willow Grove necessary.
Justice Moore concluded that the government's environmental impact statement complied with relevant requirements and so the residents' legal challenge to it "must fail".
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union has imposed a green ban on demolition regardless of the court decision.
Suzette Meade, a local leading the fight to protect the site, said the legal proceedings were always the resident action group's "Plan B".
"Plan A has always been the passion and the power of the community and unions working together," Ms Meade said after the decision.
"The people of Parramatta shouldn't have to choose our heritage or cultural funding. We deserve to have both, and the community will continue to fight for this."
Greens MP David Shoebridge said he would be reading through the 130-page judgment to see if there were any grounds for appeal.
NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin said the government was "absolutely determined" Parramatta should have a world class museum.
"The community is overwhelmingly with us," Mr Harwin told 2GB on Wednesday.
"When council sold us that site it was derelict."
Australian Associated Press