Passionate Minto locals have saved the town’s oldest church from the very organisation charged with protecting it.
Built in 1897, the St James Anglican Church was originally located on the corner of Minto Road and Cumberland Road until it was dismantled brick-by-brick and relocated to its current Kent Street home 99 years ago.
The deteriorated state of the historic church had become such a concern for its owner, the Anglican Church Property Trust Diocese of Sydney, it believed demolition was the best option.
Tearing the building down would also save the church a significant amount of money with restoration works estimated to cost $160,000 compared to a $20,000 demolition bill.
Council deferred its decision in February after several locals protested the plans.
However, last night all but one councillor – Rey Manoto – decided to reject the proposal.
Former parishioner and Minto resident Laurie Porter was one of the main opponents of the demolition plans she described as “cruel and insensitive”.
Mrs Porter said the church could be repaired and blamed its current state on a “decade of neglect” on behalf of the diocese.
“This area can’t afford to needlessly lose any more of it’s history,” she said.
Joan Cootes, another vocal local determined to save the church, said the diocese had “neglected its duty” in terms of maintaining the church.
“Minto has lost so many historic buildings and I don’t want to see this added to the list,” she said.
A representative for the church confirmed the diocese would not take donations from parishioners to help restore the church, which “disappointed” Cr Karen Hunt.
“It’s clear to me that neglect has brought the church to this point but engineers have stated it is not beyond repair,” she said.
“I’m disappointed to hear parishioners … were told money they raised would not be used for that (restoration) purpose.”
Cr Margaret Chivers said the pleas from those determined to save the church were too hard to ignore.
“When parishioners spoke (about the church) they spoke as if it was a loved one,” she said.
“I won’t be able to vote to demolish it.”
Cr Meg Oates said she couldn’t understand why the diocese wouldn’t work with locals to restore the “significant community landmark”.
“I can’t understand why they (the diocese) are being so stubborn and determined,” she said.
“There are group of people who are prepared to try and fix it but they won’t let them.”
Mrs Porter said she was thankful of the councillors for listening to the concerned members of the community.