Council scraps heritage committee

Campbelltown now has fewer voices advocating for the protection of historically significant buildings and sites throughout the district.

Campbelltown Council this week voted to scrap its heritage protection sub-committee in a decision which divided councillors and infuriated residents.

The council will replace the existing sub-committee, which was meeting on a quarterly basis after previously meeting monthly, with a permanent expert heritage planner and regular consultation with the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.

Vocal heritage advocate Jacqui Kirkby, owner of the historic Varro Ville House in the centre of the Scenic Hills, spoke against the dissolution of the sub-committee at the meeting.

She told the council she was “sad” to see heritage group come to an end.

“In my experience, the sub-committee has been a proactive source of important advice on heritage concerns,” she said.

“The committee is independent of council and proponents of development.”

Ms Kirkby said she and her husband were grateful to the sub-committee for providing them with an opportunity to act on an “early warning” regarding proposed development around their property in 2007.

She feared such warnings and advice would no longer exist with the committee disbanded.

Acting mayor Meg Oates said the axing of the committee was not a reflection on the work of the committee itself.

She said dissolving the heritage group was in line with the council’s management structure.

“This is not a case of one committee being picked on,” Cr Oates said.

“All previous sub-committees were dissolved when this new council came in

“This is just a formality. We will still have an ongoing relationship with the Campbelltown and Airds Historical Society.”

Cr Bob Thompson spoke against the dissolution of the sub-committee.

“They have worked hard and achieved a lot,” he said.

Cr Ben Moroney agreed with Cr Thompson and said the existence of a heritage protection officer and heritage protection sub-committee did not have to be “mutually exclusive”.

Former sub-committee chair Ted Rowell also voiced his opposition to the disbanding.

He said one of the reasons council staff had highlighted as a cause for the group’s dissolution – that the committee often made the same recommendation as council staff, making them effectively redundant – could also logically apply to the councillors themselves.

He asked: “Does the number of recommendations passed in line with council recommendations in this room make this chamber irrelevant?”

However the dissenting voices did not hold the majority in the vote, with eight councillors (all the present Labor councillors and independent Paul Lake) voting for the dissolution of the heritage protection sub-committee and five voting against it.

Ms Kirkby said the council had neglected the sub-committee over the past few years and it was no wonder it had failed to thrive.

“What they’ve done here is hold a gun to the head of a dying horse from which they’ve withheld sustenance for years,” she said.

“The committee had been good but they undermined it.”

Do you think the council made the right call? Send your letters to editor Roma Dickins at rdickins@fairfaxmedia.com.au.