Huskisson community members say plans to demolish the Holy Trinity Church are “savage”.
A development application (DA) has been lodged with Shoalhaven City Council to demolish the church, hall and shed at 17 Hawke Street, Huskisson.
The Save Husky Church group began last month, in an effort to stop the sale and development of the site, due to its historical and social significance to the town.
The group has garnered more than 800 signatures to save the church and has lodged an application with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to have the site heritage listed.
Member of the group Tim Peach said the OEH was aware of the application to demolish the church and was looking into the issue.
“Obviously, we think plans to demolish the church are absolutely savage,” he said.
“The community has backed our position and that’s evident by the number of signatures our petition has.”
The DA was lodged by Stephen Bartlett, and proposes to demolish the church due to asbestos in its gables and eaves, hall, internal walls and ceilings, and the presence of lead-based paint throughout the internal and external surfaces of the hall.
The church was deconsecrated some years ago after the community outgrew the building. The Anglican Church plans to sell the building to pay for new premises at Vincentia.
According to the DA, a range of uses for the site will be considered and could include tourist accommodation, food and beverage, retail, residential and parking.
A Heritage Management Summary was also prepared as part of the DA, and acknowledges the church building may be of “potential heritage significance”.
Obviously, we think plans to demolish the church are absolutely savage.Save Husky Church member Tim Peach
The church was designed in the 1930s by well-known Shoalhaven architect, and former mayor Cyril Blacket, who also designed the Nowra School of Arts, which is one of the reasons Save Husky Church wants the site to remain as is.
However, the Heritage Management Summary states the church was “developed against a very tight budget, one reason for its lack of architectural distinction”.
The church was considered for listing during the most recent Shoalhaven City Heritage Study process but passed over in favour of two other small timber churches in Milton and Sussex Inlet.
The Heritage Management Strategy, agreed with council’s findings stating the church “does not meet the threshold for inclusion for any of the statutory heritage assessment criteria”.
Save Husky Church disagrees, stating the Milton and Sussex Inlet churches are of completely different design.
“The Milton church is not timber [like Huskisson]. It is an 1860s sandstone building - different timeframe, different socio-economic community, different kind of building,” member Shirley Fitzgerald said.
“[The Sussex Inlet Church] is a wooden Gothic Carpenter style building which does share some characteristics with the Huskisson Holy Trinity Church, but it does not have the same architectural pedigree and streetscape impact.”
Several grave sites are also located on the church site, which is of concern to Save Husky Church. However, the DA states the known sites would be fenced as part of any potential demolition and would not be disturbed.
The Heritage Management Summary included a ‘preferred strategy’, which details the Anglican Church’s reasons for selling the church.
“Such a strategy would enable this large property to be developed to its optimum potential given its close proximity to the commercial centre of the township,” the heritage summary reads.
However, Ms Fitzgerald said this “had nothing to do with heritage significance”.
One of the recommendations detailed by the Heritage Management Summary stated the church building could be relocated.
“The church building could be relocated within the site and adapted for a new use, if this was feasible and if a viable adaptive re-use could be identified that did not impact to an unacceptable degree on its architectural character. If such an option does not prove to be feasible, demolition is an acceptable outcome.”
The attached cover letter contradicted this idea, stating “the former church can not be taken away without demolition as it is too tall and the passage will be interrupted by power lines”.
Ms Fitzgerald said there were several options for “adaptive reuse”.
“The logical outcome of the report therefore is to conclude that demolition is not acceptable,” she said.