ALMOST every window has been broken and it’s been branded a “disgrace.”
The former St John’s orphanage in Mundy St has fallen into disrepair since the Sisters of Mercy closed the facility in 1978.
Now councillors have come down hard on current owner, John Ferrara’s latest attempts to develop a 15-lot residential subdivision on surrounding land.
They’ve demanded a schedule of conservation works for the 1912 building, designed by renowned Goulburn architect, EC Manfred.
This must be furnished “to their satisfaction” before any approval is granted.
“I’m very concerned that if we don’t stand strong on St John’s, it (the work) will never get done,” Cr Margaret O’Neill told Wednesday’s council meeting.
“It’s a disgrace and it’s ready for someone to put a match to it. Trees have been cut down and left. We need to be strong on this and say ‘if you’re not doing up St John’s, then see you later.’” The DA, lodged by the Goulburn Airport owner’s consultants, includes a 15-lot housing subdivision on the 2.4 hectare property’s southern side, off Combermere St.
It involves construction of an internal cul-de-sac and external restoration of the old orphanage.
Mr Ferrara had pledged a total $250,000 to the latter, covering roof, downpipe and guttering repairs, window replacement and external painting. Included in this amount was a $150,000 bank guarantee for further repairs to the main building and landscaping to be completed before a subdivision certificate was issued.
On Wednesday, Mr Ferrara’s consultants sought some flexibility on the latter consent condition, arguing that a works schedule had not yet been prepared and approved by a qualified heritage architect and Council.
Another consultant, Justin Kell of LandTeam, addressed councillors during open forum, saying the subdivision was an “excellent result for the site.”
‘We had to carefully balance the developer’s needs and Council’s interests,” he said.
“It is ideally suited for infill development if done sympathetically, which I think it is. It ensures restoration of the site, which we all know has been sadly neglected.”
Cr Andrew Banfield believed the $80,000 committed to initial repairs, “wouldn’t go far” on such a large building.
Deputy Mayor Bob Kirk was also treading cautiously. He said there was a lack of information about the works schedule. Cr Kirk successfully argued that councillors should see this first before consent was issued.
“It is conservation and protection because without protection, it could happen again and revert to its current condition,” he told the meeting.
“I have no problem with the development but I do with the condition of the buildings and here is a chance to link the two together.”
He successfully overturned planners’ recommendation that staff issue deferred commencement consent, following submission of a phase one site contamination report confirming that the area was suitable for residential development.
Instead, councillors unanimously moved that deferred commencement be issued following lodgement of the contamination report and the schedule of conservation works, the latter of which had to be to “Council’s satisfaction.”
The motion gave councillors more control over the outcome.
The DA attracted two submissions, one of which raised concerns about the “large amount of unclean fill which (had) been brought on to the site over many years.
“A condition of any approval should be that the fill should be tested and in situ for contaminants,” the submitter wrote.
He also argued it should be removed.
The Goulburn Heritage Group strongly objected to the plan, arguing that any development should include adaptive reuse of the old orphanage.
Member David Penalver wrote that it was obvious the intention was to “carve off building blocks for a ready market” and leave the “magnificent old orphanage to gradual destruction and demolition by neglect.”
“This is a miserable and quite unacceptable proposition, unworthy of a city proud of its built heritage past,” Mr Penalver stated.
Council’s heritage adviser had input into housing design surrounding the property.
These design guidelines would be registered against each title, planners said.
Any future plans to use the old building for residential development and subdivision would be the subject of another DA, Mr Kell told Council in a letter.
It’s the second proposal Council has considered for the site. In 2012, developer Peter Madew lodged a DA for a retirement village around the orphanage, which also included plans to restore the main building. Mr Ferrara told the Post earlier this year he wasn’t going ahead with this project.