Appalling, crazy, unsupported – these are just some of the words residents are using to describe the Sydney Anglican Diocese’s decision to allow Camden’s St John’s Anglican Church to sell part of its grounds.
The Diocese made the decision earlier this month so that the church staff could fund their plan to build a new, modern worship centre to cater for Camden’s growing population.
St John’s staff plan to sell the unused stretch of land along Menangle Road, Camden which links the historic church building and the vacant rectory.
Camden Resident Actions’ Group (CRAG) president Glenda Davis said she was “frankly appalled” by the notion to sell.
“The whole St John’s precinct is an iconic part of Australian history,” she said.
“It would destroy Camden as we know it, we feel, if the church grounds were in any way developed.”
At this stage the church has no buyers lined up and no solid sale plans, but it has the support of the Diocese to put the land on the market.
In a CRAG letter to the Diocese, Mrs Davis wrote “the iconic status of St John’s, and the strong attachment in the general community to the church and its precinct, is a tribute to the inspired visionary planners and designers who conceived of Camden Township”.
Mrs Davis felt many people failed to grasp St John’s grounds’ “importance in Australian European history”.
“I think the parishioners, reverends and wardens in support of the sale don’t appreciate what they’re dealing with and need to educate themselves on the importance and significance of the site,” she said.
She mentioned the 2004 Conservation Management Plan of the site, compiled by current NSW National Trust president Dr Clive Lucas – a vocal objector to the sale – as a valuable resource.
The plan includes a policy to “preserve the topography and landscape of the place including all original fabric and as established in the 19th and early 20th centuries up to when the church was essentially complete”.
Fellow CRAG member and St John’s parishioner Helen Cowell is also “dead against” the sale and feels the matter is setting one organisation against the other.
“I believe in the church but I believe in what CRAG is trying to do as well, to protect the integrity of the old town,” she said. “I don’t think there is a need to build another worship site, there are other places where larger services could be held if need be.”
Mrs Cowell is a nearby resident and is concerned about parking and traffic troubles should any development be built on the site.
“I encourage everyone to keep writing letters so the momentum around this sale does not drop off,” she said.