Council rescission motion fails to stop Hotham House heritage move

An application for a permanent heritage order for Hotham House will go ahead after the failure of a rescission motion at the Sutherland Shire Council meeting on Monday night.

Liberals Tom Croucher and Carol Provan, along with deputy mayor Steve Simpson (independent) sided with Labor councillors, who have led moves to stop the house in Hotham Road, Kirrawee, being demolished for the redevelopment of President Private Hospital.

Macquarie Health Group's deputy chief executive David Wenkart spoke of the need to demolish the house while shire historians Pauline Curby, Bruce Watt and Kim Hatherley appealed for its preservation.

Mr Wenkart had earlier provided councillors with a new heritage study, which challenged the findings of the council report.

Macquarie Health Group engaged GBA Heritage to peer review the report by council consultant Architectural Projects.

GBA said there was a lack of evidence to support many of the claims, and the property did not qualify for heritage listing.

The GBA report said the stated connection between the house and the early 20th century poultry farming sector was "the mainstay" in the reasons advanced for preserving the house.

"Unfortunately, this recommendation is flawed...", the GBA report said.

GBA said the poultry farming operation, including growing feed, occupied a very large land area on both sides of Hotham Road, stretching to the north beyond the nearby railway corridor and to the west at least as far as Bidurgal Lane.

"The current house is located on a very small portion of land towards the south western corner of those extensive property holdings.

"All of the land actually used for the poultry farm was subdivided off and sold for residential development in the early post WW2."

Mr Wenkart said the proposed redevelopment of the hospital would include 154 private rooms with en-suites, an increase of 109 beds on the existing premises.

The upgrade would also include a new, level and compliant hospital entrance, refurbishment of the operating theatre complex including the addition of a new theatre, improved rehabilitation services and a new gym.

Mr Wenkart said, due to the site topography, it was not possible to achieve central, level and compliant access without redeveloping the old house.

Mr Wenkart said it the claim that the r

President of Sutherland Shire Historical Society Bruce Watt said alternative heritage reports, such as that produced by Macquarie Hospital, "can be used to overrule due processes, heritage and public interest when faced with an inconvenient truth".

"I appeal to councillors to consider why we have heritage protection?" he said.

"Saving the Rocks area in the 1960s and 70s was controversial at the time.

"But historic tourism draws more visitors to Sydney than office blocks.

"The shire has a unique history, which it could more fully exploit. I urge council to develop a strategic vision that identifies, explains and markets our unique features."

Mr Watt said Hotham House was a direct link to the shire's pre-war history when farming, poultry, orchards, dairies, piggeries and floristry dominated this idyllic country area.

"Knocking down a significant heritage item that was synonymous with this period for a car park can be seen as an act of cultural vandalism,' he said.

[Mr Wenkart said this was a personally offensive and incorrect statement, and the area occupied by Hotham House would be replaced by patient wards, not a car park.]

Mr Watt said residents took pride in their area being named "shire", which was old English term meaning a rural area.

"In 1993 we agitated successfully for a special act of parliament that allowed us to continue to use this term. Residents love the nostalgic reference to our rural beginnings. Hotham House exemplifies this association with our past."