Calls to add land around historic estate to heritage register

The historic Varro Ville Homestead. Picture: Anna Warr
The historic Varro Ville Homestead. Picture: Anna Warr

The Heritage Council of NSW has recommended the land a large portion land in Macarthur’s Scenic Hills, earmarked for a cemetery, be added to the state heritage register.

The Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust’s proposal for the 136,000-plot cemetery, which went on public exhibition yesterday, has been strongly opposed by many people.

Two of those opponents, Jacqui Kirkby and husband Peter Gibbs, live in the historic Varro Ville Homestead – located next to the proposed cemetery. 

In late September the Heritage Council recommended that land surrounding the homestead, owned by the CMCT, should be added to the state heritage register.

The recommendation excluded the 3.16 hectares surrounding the homestead already on the register.

If adopted, developers would have to seek approval from the Heritage Council before any development applications were approved.

In a joint statement, Ms Kirkby and Mr Gibbs questioned whether the trust was genuine about preserving the heritage of the hills.

“If the CMCT was genuine about wanting to protect heritage it wouldn’t be rushing to get its cemetery approved before the Minister even considers the advice,” they said.

“During the listing process, the CMCT objected to a large part of its land being included in the curtilage – the part where it wants to put its buildings. This was an admission that it couldn’t or didn’t want to be bound by heritage considerations.

“Its objection has left the historically significant Bunbury Curran Hill out of the listing and puts at risk the visual and historic link between the hill range and the homestead and other buildings – considered critical by the heritage study supporting the listing.

“Now it’s trying to compromise the rest of the land before the Heritage Council can act.”

A NSW Office of Environment and Heritage spokeswoman said the state heritage register submission had to progress through the “necessary administrative processes” before it was formally considered.

The decision to adopt the recommendation, however, will ultimately rest with Ms Upton.

It is unclear how the cemetery proposal would be impacted if Ms Upton decides to adopt the Heritage Council’s recommendation.

The Advertiser contacted the CMCT for comment.