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The Fight To Save Allambie From Demolition

Feb 29, 2024

The fate of one of the Hawkesbury’s iconic properties will be determined shortly, when the NSW Planning Panel hands down its recommendation on whether to allow the heritage-listed Allambie House in Kurrajong Heights to be demolished.

Transport for NSW, which owns the property, has submitted a development application (DA) to demolish the property so it has the scope to widen Bells Line of Road, yet at present it has no plans to currently do so. Neither Hawkesbury City Council or local residents support the plans. Some 26 submissions have been received by the Planning Panel objecting to the DA. 

Both HCC and residents have argued that the listed property has significant heritage importance and that TfNSW has failed in their duty to maintain the property. They also question TfNSW’s motivation for wanting to retain the land, questioning the likelihood of any future widening of the road.

The heritage value of Allambie, built in 1926 and listed in 1989 and recognised in two separate heritage studies in 1984 and 1987, remains a point of contention. The property has been a central part of Kurrajong Heights’ guest house accommodation, attracting visitors for decades. The committee envisions a return to private ownership and restoration of Allambie to its pre-war state, complete with its iconic 10-foot verandas and picket fencing.

“Overwhelming support in the community up here is to have Allambie returned to us and restored to its original condition as it forms the centrepiece of our village,” Kurrajong Heights Heritage Committee member, Jeremy Braithwaite, said.

“TfNSW needs to get the message that there will never be an expressway through Kurrajong Heights, or Bilpin or Bell.They need to return all the land they have got along Bells Line of Road to the community so we can recreate the community we used to have up here,” he said.

“The proposed development has not adequately demonstrated that the proposed demolition of the heritage item would conserve the environmental heritage of the Hawkesbury, the settings of the surrounding heritage-listed buildings or the heritage significance of the site in accordance with Clause 5.10 of the Hawkesbury LEP 2012. Moreover, it is considered that the issues raised in the submission reaffirm that the proposal would not be in the public interest and consequently, the assessment is concluded that the subject application be recommended for refusal,” HCC said in its submission.

Allambie is the latest heritage-listed property in the Hawkesbury to be affected by planned or future infrastructure projects. Heritage considerations of Durham Bowes at Hobartville were ignored last month when TfNSW confirmed the route for the new bridge crossing at Richmond. This will significantly widen the road onto the boundary of Durham Bowes and cut through the historical area. Likewise, heritage concerns were ignored when the Windsor Bridge was demolished and Australia’s oldest public square, Thompson Square, was irrevocably altered from its historical state when the new Windsor bridge was built in 2020.

The Kurrajong Heights Heritage Committee said that over the years, the Department has squandered public funds on multiple studies attempting to justify a major upgrade to Bells Line of Road. These have ranged from the Bells Line Expressway in 2006, to the Strategic Corridor Plan in 2010 and the Motorway to the Kurrajong Heights Bowling Club in 2018. Each study has heightened stress for locals fearing property devaluation due to potential road intersection.

However, all these studies fell flat for a consistent reason – traffic volumes on Bells Line have remained static at around 3,500 vehicles daily for over two decades. With a population of fewer than 1,000 people along its route, Bells Line struggles to compete with the Great Western Highway, serving 79,000, making any major upgrade financially unviable.

The Kurrajong Heights Heritage Committee argues that there is no valid reason for TfNSW to retain historic Allambie or other properties along Bells Line of Road. Despite this, the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) attempted to submit a demolition application for Allambie in 2006 (DA0956/06), citing the property as beyond restoration and lacking historical value. This application was later withdrawn and replaced by DA0173/22, once again proposing the demolition of the heritage-listed Allambie. The withdrawal of the original DA served to release TfNSW from any commitment to restore Allambie as had been originally proposed to HCC and this was documented in HCC’s submission to the Planning Panel.

Contrary to TfNSW’s claims, the Kurrajong Heights Heritage Committee, and Council’s Heritage Architect, Christo Aitken, have asserted that Allambie is restorable and holds historical significance, as acknowledged by the Heritage Regulation 2012. The committee has also emphasised TfNSW’s consistent failure to maintain the property.

As part of their fight against the demolition, the Kurrajong Heights Heritage Committee has submitted a comprehensive case to the HCC. The submission includes a review of Allambie’s current land value at $498,000 and estimates a potential restored value between $1.6 to $1.8 million, as suggested by local real estate agents.

 

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