The three major NSW Government owned Bridge Street, Sydney sandstone buildings – the Lands Department, Department of Education and the Chief Secretary’s Buildings are proposed for sale/lease by the government prompting expressions of deep concern by the public to the National Trust.
The three buildings were listed on the National Trust Register in the 1970s and on the State Heritage Register in 1999. As a group and individually they have the highest heritage significance. For example, the Lands Department Building “is one of the most influential and major public buildings ever established during the mid nineteenth century in Australia's colonial history.”
While the National Trust supports the concept of “adaptive re-use” to keep buildings intact and to fund their ongoing maintenance, any development proposal for these three buildings must be sympathetic. These are landmark buildings seen “in the round” with important ornamentation on their rooftops. Like the Queen Victoria Building any development would have to respect the scale of these buildings and their extraordinary exteriors, interiors and rooftops.
The Trust has expressed deep concern about proposals in the new draft state planning legislation that would transfer planning approval powers for State Heritage Register listed buildings from the Heritage Council of NSW to the Director-General of the Department of Planning & Infrastructure.
The treatment of these buildings is likely to be the first major test of the new planning/heritage regime. There must be careful consideration given to development proposals to ensure that they properly protect these historic gems.
The Trust will carefully monitor any proposed developments.