State Significant Varroville property threatened by cemetery development

The National Trust has lodged a strong objection to a cemetery proposal that would negatively impact on the State Heritage Register Listed 1817 property Varro Ville at Varroville and its 1810 colonial period landscape recommended for State Heritage Register Listing.

Following is the Trust’s submission of Objection

 

 

The National Trust again lodges its strongest objection to this proposal to construct and operate a cemetery directly adjoining historic Varroville. This property dates from its original land grant in 1810 and construction in 1817. The development proposal is within the original land grant which has been recommended for listing on the State Heritage Register as a curtilage extension for the present Varroville State Heritage Register Listing boundary.

The Statement of Environmental Effects (page 56) and the Heritage Impact Statement (page 71) both acknowledge the Listing of Varroville on the National Trust Register but indicate that the extent of the ‘classification’ is unknown, but “thought to include Lot 22.” Contact with the National Trust would have clarified the extent of the National Trust Register Listing boundary (the term ‘classification’ is no longer used in terms of National Trust Register Listings). The Trust Listing includes all of the land, now proposed for re-development, that is, Lot 1 DP 218016, Lots 21 and 22 DP 564065 and Lot B DP 370979, as well as Lot 4 DP 239557 adjoining the Hume Motorway. The National Trust of Australia (NSW) is a former owner of the Varroville Homestead (the subject of the present State Heritage Register Listing) and this property was purchased from the National Trust by the present owners.

As the National Trust recently successfully argued against a cemetery proposal, within a State Heritage Register listed property, Fernhill at Mulgoa, “this development is totally incompatible and in fundamental conflict with, and destructive of the use of, this site as an historic landscape of State Significance.”

 

In March, 2015 the Trust expressed its deep concern to the Secretary of NSW Planning & Environment at the planning processes which appeared to be leading towards facilitating this cemetery development proposal.

This proposal would seriously degrade the important curtilage, dating from 1810, of the property Varroville at Varroville in the Campbelltown Local Government Area and damage a long term proposal, supported by the National Trust, for statutory recognition of the Scenic Hills Environmental Protection Area.

The National Trust had urged the rejection of the Joint Regional Planning Panel advice to the Minister for Planning on this development proposal, which recommended that it be sent to the planning gateway process. The Trust understood that Campbelltown City Council had already written to the Minister for Planning also requesting that the JRPP advice be rejected.

Varroville and its curtilage was listed on the National Trust Register in December, 1976. The cemetery development proposal is within the Trust’s listed curtilage. The immediate Varroville property was listed on the State Heritage Register in 1999, following an earlier Permanent Conservation Order in 1993.

The Statement of Significance for the State Heritage Register Listing commences –

“Varroville is a ‘celebrated early farm estate dating from 1810 with early structures, the 1850s homestead, layout, agricultural (vineyard) terracing and evidence of early access road.’ (Morris and Britton, 2000, 98)” 

“’Varroville is rare as one of the few larger estate landscapes remaining in the Campbelltown area where the form of the original grant and the former agricultural use of the estate and its rural landscape character may be appreciated. (Morris and Britton, 2000, 98)”.

In a March 2016 submission to the Regional Panels Secretariat, the Trust noted its concerns that the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust had bought this land before rezoning and development approval, apparently confident that the rezoning and approval would be forthcoming. This does not augur well for the proper operation of the planning system which should be responsive to the concerns and objections of other local landholders, the local Council, the NSW Heritage Office and the National Trust.

 

The National Trust particularly objects to the wording of the Urbis Heritage Impact Statement Conclusions and Recommendations.

The Macarthur Memorial Park proposal is underpinned by a strong understanding of the heritage values and significance of the place (including natural and scenic values, built form, the cultural landscape, views and vistas, European and Indigenous archaeology etc). This has informed every aspect of the proposal, from the treatment of the landscape, the location and development of different types of memorialisation, tree and shrub plantings (species and siting), siting of roads and infrastructure, siting and architectural design of new buildings, the conservation and adaptive reuse of the outbuildings precinct, WSUD and treatment of the dams, conservation and reinterpretation of significant landscape elements, provision for public art, and regeneration of CPW/ MSW.

The result is a highly considered proposal that not only retains and conserves but also celebrates the heritage aspects of the place. The proposal is supported and is recommended to Campbelltown Council for support, subject to the following recommendations:

  • The former Varroville Estate should be subject to archival recording prior to any demolition or earthworks, in accordance with the CMP policy, Heritage Division guidelines and subject to DA conditions of consent. The archival recording should include (but is not limited to) significant landscape features (dams and remnant trenching) and built elements proposed for demolition (i.e. within the outbuildings precinct). 
  • Heritage interpretation is a critical aspect of the design and the subject proposal provides for extensive interpretation of the significant European and Aboriginal values as an integrated part of site design and planning. The Heritage Interpretation Strategy should be further expanded including development of detailed interpretation briefs, informed by archaeological test excavation, stakeholder consultation and any additional historical research. Delivery of heritage interpretation should be subject to DA conditions of consent. 

In February, 2018 the Board of the National Trust, on the recommendation of the Trust’s expert Built Heritage Conservation, Landscape Conservation and Industrial Heritage Committees, adopted the National Trust Ethical Principles for Heritage and Conservation Professionals. The background to the principles noted –

Recent media reports have questioned the role of professional consultants advocating the demolition or destruction of buildings, landscapes, archaeological relics, trees, places and objects of heritage significance, rather than advocating their protection. For some considerable time, the National Trust has observed and shares these concerns, witnessing consultants seeking to justify, often on quite insubstantial arguments, the demolition and destruction of places and objects which they should be seeking to conserve.

While acknowledging there are contractual obligations to clients, the Trust considers that heritage and conservation professionals have ethical obligations to the heritage item, to their clients, to the public, the profession, and their colleagues. The basis for this view is that conservation of our heritage at all levels is an indelible and indefatigable thread in the fabric of our culture and our society. Our heritage represents what we stand for and what we have sacrificed, even with our lives. As we have seen time and again, societies want and where necessary, demand the return of their cultural assets.

The National Trust sets out a number of principles that it believes are appropriate and encourages heritage professionals to also adopt and follow these principles.

 

NATIONAL TRUST ETHICAL PRINCIPLES

The National Trust encourages heritage professionals:

  1. to give full, appropriate weight to the protection, conservation and enhancement of the heritage of NSW, with preservation of significance as the fundamental objective; 
  2. to acknowledge that the heritage of NSW includes both statutory listings at the local, state, national and international level and non-statutory places listed on key non-statutory lists and that the heritage of NSW also includes any item, place, object, or material evidence that could be considered, in a professional opinion, to be suitable for listing; 
  3. to give full and appropriate weight in Heritage Impact Statements to the protection and conservation of an item, place or object, not just observe minimal statutory requirements; 
  4. to ensure that, where Conservation Management Plans endorsed by an approval authority are in place, policies and recommendations are consistent with the CMP, unless substantial information and assessment, also endorsed by the authority, indicates an update and amendment is justified; 
  5. to make certain that heritage assessments are as accurate as possible with regard to listings and documented history, follow appropriate guidelines and are independent, impartial and unbiased. 
  6. to only make recommendations and provide advice within the scope of their experience and expertise and fulfil an overriding duty to assist the public rather than their client. 
  7. to recognize that “local heritage significance” means that an item has significance to a local area and that it may be rare and of high significance. 
  8. to follow the concept that the identification, conservation, continuing use and presentation of heritage is both in the public interest and a fundamental component of the public interest.

 

Accordingly, the question which needs to be asked is “if Urbis had been contracted and funded by the local community to assess the heritage impact of this proposal, would it have come down with the same conclusions and recommendations.”  The Heritage Impact Statement conclusions and recommendations read as though they are a public relations company’s promotional brochure for the development.

The Heritage Impact Statement commences –

The site is subject to a Conservation Management Plan: Varroville Estate: 166-176 St Andrews Road Varroville, prepared by Urbis (in conjunction with Artefact Heritage and MUSEcape Pty Ltd.) dated October 2015 and prepared on behalf of the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (CMCT). That report found the cultural landscape of the subject site to be of heritage significance at the state level for its historic values and for its rarity.

The Heritage Impact Statement concludes by actively promoting the project with the only conditions relating to interpretation and archival recording prior to demolition.

It does appear that Council’s own planning staff will need to undertake their own Heritage Impact Assessment and indeed should consider commissioning another consultant to undertake an “independent” assessment of the development given the site’s State Heritage Significance.

The National Trust provides the following comments on the development proposal and its impacts on the State Heritage Significance of this property.

 

The cemetery does not meet a need for burial space in the Macarthur and South-West Sydney Regions

The Statement of Environmental Effects ‘The Public Interest’ section (page 70) argues that “the proposal will provide needed burial space for the South West of Sydney.  The Statement’s ‘Strategic Planning Context’ (page 44) argues “The proposal directly relates to a recognised shortage of burial space across Metropolitan Sydney, as identified within A Plan for Growing Sydney and publications released by Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW.”

However, the Metropolitan Sydney Cemetery Capacity Report, a survey of available burial space in metropolitan Sydney, released by the NSW Government in November, 2017 has found 300,000 plots available, enough for the next 34 years. In fact, this Survey also noted that the Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW (CCNSW) Metropolitan Sydney Cemetery Capacity Report predicted a shortage of burial space in Sydney by 2051 if no additional space is made available. This is not the “needed burial space” and “recognised shortage” put forward as justification for the development in the Statement of Environmental Effects.

The National Trust supports the considered approach adopted in the Metropolitan Sydney Cemetery Capacity Report that “the NSW Government has initiated preliminary work to consider the criteria for potential locations for additional cemetery space in the metropolitan area.” The conclusions from the Fernhill Estate, Mulgoa decision are that cemeteries should not be sited on historic colonial landscapes which are better conserved for heritage conservation and public recreational purposes.

The Metropolitan Sydney Cemetery Capacity Report also found that the South-West Sydney Region was well served with the number of grave plots available at 95,000 (at 1 Jan 2015). Of the six Sydney Regions only the West Central Region was better served with 145,000 grave plots available.

The Provisions of the Greater Sydney Region Plan and the Western City District Plan

The Heritage Impact Statement refers to the Plan for Growing Sydney developed by the Greater Sydney Commission (page 44 of the Statement). The Plan for Growing Sydney has now been superseded by the release on 18 March 2018 of the Greater Sydney Region Plan – A Metropolis of Three Cities.

The Greater Sydney Commission’s Western City District Plan includes the Varroville site in Campbelltown City Local Government Area and is a guide for implementing A Metropolis of Three Cities – the Greater Sydney Region Plan at a District level.

The Greater Sydney Commission states that this 20-year District Plan is a bridge between regional and local planning. It is intended to inform local environmental plans, community strategic plans and the assessment of planning proposals. The District Plan also helps council to plan and deliver for growth and change, and to align local planning strategies to place-based outcomes. The Commission’s District Plan was finalised in March 2018.

The new Greater Sydney Region Plan lists Objective 6 – Services and infrastructure meet communities’ changing needs and in terms of Accessibility states –

“Cemeteries and crematoria are key social infrastructure that also need to be accessible geographically and economically, and reflective of a diversity of cultures and backgrounds. A growing Greater Sydney requires additional land for burials and cremations with associated facilities such as reception space and car parking.”

The two Strategies for achieving Accessibility are –

Strategy 6.1

Deliver social infrastructure that reflects the needs of the community now and in the future.

Strategy 6.2

Optimise the use of available public land for social infrastructure.

The related government initiative for implementing these strategies is –

Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW 2017 Metropolitan Sydney Cemetery Capacity Report

The National Trust has referred to this Report earlier in this submission and its finding that the South-West Sydney Region was well served with the number of grave plots available.

The Western City District Plan which must now be taken into account in the assessment of planning proposals has Planning Priority W3 – Providing services and social infrastructure to meet people’s changing needs. The Plan notes –

Cemeteries and crematoria are key social infrastructure that also need to be accessible geographically and economically, and reflective of a diversity of cultures and backgrounds. A growing Greater Sydney requires additional land for burials and cremations with associated facilities such as reception space and car parking.

However, the new Greater Sydney Region Plan also has Objective 13 – Environmental heritage is identified, conserved and enhanced.  The Plan then states –

“Conserving, interpreting and celebrating Greater Sydney’s heritage values leads to a better understanding of history and respect for the experiences of diverse communities. Heritage identification, management and interpretation are required so that heritage places and stories can be experienced by current and future generations.

Environmental heritage is protected for its social, aesthetic, economic, historic and environmental values. Environmental heritage is defined as the places, buildings, works, relics, moveable objects and precincts of State or local heritage significance. It includes natural and built heritage, Aboriginal places and objects, and cultural heritage such as stories, traditions and events inherited from the past.

While the strongest protection for heritage is its value to the community, it is also protected under the Heritage Act 1977, National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and local environmental plans. The statutory framework requires identification of the values of environmental heritage, and context specific design and development that conserves heritage significance. This includes the tangible and intangible values that make places special to past, present and future generations.

The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is developing a new legal framework to improve the protection, management and celebration of Aboriginal cultural heritage that will include an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.

Areas of natural heritage are found in wilderness areas and managed landscapes across Greater Sydney. These are often sites of important biodiversity and cultural value and many are significant to Aboriginal people.

Sympathetic built form controls and adaptive reuse of heritage are important ways to manage the conservation of heritage significance. Respectfully combining history and heritage with modern design achieves an urban environment that demonstrates shared values and contributes to a sense of place and identity. This is particularly important for transitional areas and places experiencing significant urban renewal, where it is necessary to take account of the cumulative impacts of development on heritage values. 

Improved public access and connection to heritage through innovative interpretation is also required. A well-connected city (refer to Objective 14), creating great places (Objective 12) and developing the Greater Sydney Green Grid (Objective 32) will improve the connectivity and accessibility of the region’s heritage.

Understanding the significance and community values of heritage early in the planning process provides the greatest opportunity for conservation and management. This provides an opportunity to address cumulative impacts on heritage using a strategic approach. Protection and management of heritage is a community responsibility undertaken by a broad range of stakeholders including Aboriginal people, State and local governments, businesses and communities.”

Strategy 13.1 for Objective 13 states –

Identify, conserve and enhance environmental heritage by:

  • engaging with the community early in the planning process to understand heritage values and how they contribute to the significance of the place
  • applying adaptive re-use and interpreting heritage to foster distinctive local places
  • managing and monitoring the cumulative impact of development on the heritage values and character of places.

In terms of the proposed cemetery development on this State Heritage Significant place, the National Trust would contend that the community has clearly articulated the heritage values of this property and how they contribute to its significance and that the development proposed would destroy the distinctiveness of this local place and its rare heritage.

The Western City District Plan has Planning Priority W16 – Protecting and enhancing scenic and cultural landscapes with its corresponding Objectives 18 – Scenic and cultural landscapes are protected.  Specifically mentioned in the list of scenic landscapes requiring protection is the Scenic Hills between Campbelltown and Camden. This Planning Priority notes –

“Continued protection of the Western City District’s scenic and cultural landscapes is important for the sustainability, liveability and productivity of the District. It can complement the protection of biodiversity and habitat, help manage natural hazards and support tourism. Protecting scenic and cultural landscapes can also help preserve links to Aboriginal cultural heritage.”

Action 76 states –

“Identify and protect ridgelines, scenic and cultural landscapes, specifically the Scenic Hills, Mulgoa Valley and the escarpments of the Blue Mountains.”  Responsibility – Councils, other planning authorities and State agencies.

Action 77 states –

“Enhance and protect views of scenic and cultural landscapes from the public realm.” Responsibility – Councils, other planning authorities and State agencies.

In the Trust’s view, the protection of the Scenic Hills as specific Actions in the District Plan overrides the more general planning priority – “A growing Greater Sydney requires additional land for burials and cremations.”

The cemetery proposal is totally incompatible with the current Scenic Hills E3 zoning objectives set out in the Campbelltown Local Environmental Plan 2015 – “To preserve the rural heritage landscape character of the Scenic Hills.”

The Development Application’s Design Statement identifies seven major new buildings and various shelter buildings. An examination of the various building designs for the Chapel accommodating 500 people (pages 44 & 53), the Administration Office (page 63), the Function Room (page 67), the Gatehouse (page 59), the Café for 80 people (page 71), Ground Staff Facilities (page 75), more than 70 Crypts in length and five crypts in height (page 82) and sixteen Shelters (page 80) confirm that none of these buildings contribute to “preserving the rural heritage landscape character of the Scenic Hills.” On the contrary, these buildings and the newly created landscape around them is totally out of character with the Scenic Hills rural heritage landscape.

 

Proposed Destruction of the Early Colonial Period Remnant Viticultural Trenching

The Conservation Management Plan for the Varroville Estate states that the remnant viticultural ‘terracing’ has high significance.  The Statement of Significance notes –

“Varroville is a ‘celebrated early farm estate dating from 1810 with early structures, the 1850s homestead, layout, agricultural (vineyard) terracing and evidence of early access road.’ (Morris and Britton, 2000, 98)

‘Varroville is rare as one of the few larger estate landscapes remaining in the Campbelltown area where the form of the original grant and the former agricultural use of the estate and its rural landscape character may be appreciated.’ (Morris and Britton, 2000, 98)

Varroville was significant to the horticultural development of New South Wales through the laying out of a productive kitchen garden in 1809 noted for its extensive fruit varieties by the early 1820s and the establishment of a vineyard, said to be second only to that of Gregory Blaxland of Brush Farm, Eastwood. The vineyard terraces are extant and together with the early drive suggest that the present 1858 house occupies the site of the earlier 1810s house. Accounts relating to Charles Sturt’s ownership (1837-39) indicate the property’s continued role in the acclimatisation of plants sourced from as far afield as Calcutta.”

In fact, the remnant Viticultural ‘terracing’ is in fact ‘trenching’ and it is within the proposed State Heritage Register Listing curtilage extension. Despite its stated high significance and the Conservation Management Plan’s requirement for heritage items of identified ‘high significance’ to be ‘retained and conserved’, the development proposes their destruction for the construction of grave sites and associated roadworks.

It should be noted that the area of ‘trenching’ is much more extensive than indicated on Plan L102 (Burial Extent and Types) and even more extensive than indicated in orange (High Significance) on Picture 83 – Site Plan Showing Significant Elements, on page 93 of the Conservation Management Plan.

The destruction of the vineyard trenching, a key element of high state heritage significance totally belies the Heritage Impact Statement’s conclusion “The result is a highly considered proposal that not only retains and conserves but also celebrates the heritage aspects of the place.”

Roads & Car Parking

The sheer scale of the road network and car parking provisions is, in the Trust’s view extraordinary and highly destructive of this early colonial period rural landscape of State Heritage Significance. There is car parking provision for 350 vehicles as well as kerbside parking on all roads. There will be 8.5 kilometres of concrete roadways up to 8 metres wide with provision in the majority of cases for car parking on both side of roadways. Expressed in other terms that equates to more than 50,000 sq metres of concrete roadways.

The new road design has no regard to, and the proposed landscape design obliterates, the historic driveway from the outbuildings to St. Andrews Road.

The Heritage Impact Statement (Conclusion and Recommendations – Page 126) tries to put the argument –

The Macarthur Memorial Park proposal is underpinned by a strong understanding of the heritage values and significance of the place (including natural and scenic values, built form, the cultural landscape, views and vistas, European and Indigenous archaeology etc). This has informed every aspect of the proposal, from the treatment of the landscape, the location and development of different types of memorialisation, tree and shrub plantings (species and siting), siting of roads and infrastructure, siting and architectural design of new buildings, the conservation and adaptive reuse of the outbuildings precinct, WSUD and treatment of the dams, conservation and reinterpretation of significant landscape elements, provision for public art, and regeneration of CPW/ MSW.

The result is a highly considered proposal that not only retains and conserves but also celebrates the heritage aspects of the place.

It is difficult for the National Trust to believe that these statements and claims actually refer to the Varroville early colonial scenic landscape being dissected with 8.5 kilometres of concrete roadways.

It is even more concerning to see the provisions of the Burra Charter being quoted as though they would be supportive of this project –

 

Best Practice Heritage Management

“…the Burra Charter also recognizes that all places and their elements change over time at varying rates. If further states that the amount of change to a place and its use should be guided by the cultural significance of the place and its appropriate interpretation.”

This early colonial landscape is of State Heritage Significance and it is recognised as a vital scenic protection area. Thus a development of the type proposed is totally unsuitable due to the massive change that it involves.

 

Direct Adverse Impacts on the Historic Homestead

A burial zone with headstones is proposed directly west south west of the Homestead along the entrance road to the Homestead and forming the main foreground view of the homestead when viewed from St. Andrews Road. This is especially unsympathetic and will totally destroy the rural character of the vista to the Homestead.

 

Visual Impacts of the Development Proposal and Environmental Constraints

The Campbelltown Local Environmental Plan 2015 Environmental Constraint Map – Sheet ECM_007 indicates that the entire Varroville site (Lot 1 DP 218016, Lots 21 and 22 DP 564065 and Lot B DP 370979) is mapped as Land Constraint – Development on Steep Land (Scenic Hills) and the entire site is also indicated to be “Escarpment Preservation Area”. Lot 1 DP 218016 and the portion of Lot 22 DP 564065 south east of the Varroville Homestead driveway are also indicated as a “No Build Area”.

 

 

Section 7.6 of the Campbelltown Local Environmental Plan 2015 – Scenic protection and escarpment preservation states –

(1)  The objectives of this clause are as follows :

(a)  to recognise and protect the scenic, environmental, cultural and historic qualities of the Scenic Hills and the landscape setting of Campbelltown.

(b)  to protect visual aesthetic amenity and views to and from the Scenic Hills,

(c)  to reinforce the visual dominance of landscape over built form,

(d)  to ensure development on land to which this clause applies is appropriate for the location and is located and designed to minimise its visual prominence in the landscape.

(2)  This clause applies to land identified as “Escarpment Preservation Area” on the Environmental Constraint Map.

(3)  Development consent must not be granted to any development on land to which this clause applies unless the consent authority is satisfied that:

(a)  measures will be taken, including in relation to the location and design of the proposed development, to minimise the visual impact of the development on the natural and visual environment of the land, and

(b)  the external surfaces of any building consist of prescribed materials, and

(c)  the development will incorporate measures to preserve the scenic qualities of, and views to and from, the land, and

(d)  measures will be taken to reduce any potential land use conflict, and

(e)  the development will maintain the existing natural landscape and landform and will not affect the stability of the land.

(4)  In this clause:

external surfaces, in relation to a building, include the external walls of the building and any cladding on the walls, and any doors, door and window frames, columns, roofs, fences and any other surfaces of the buildings visible from the outside of the building.

prescribed materials means materials that are dark-coloured and of low reflective quality or painted or similarly treated with dark-coloured paint of low reflective quality and that blend with the landscape of the site of the building of which they form part.

Section 7.7 of the Campbelltown Local Environmental Plan 2015 – Considerations for development on environmentally constrained land states –

(1)  The objective of this clause is to prevent inappropriate development on land that is subject to environmental constraints.

(2)  This clause applies to land identified as “Development on land in Nurra Reserve”, “Restriction on land for overland flow detention purposes (drainage)” and “No build area” on the Environmental Constraint Map.

(3)  In determining whether to grant development consent to development on the land to which this clause applies, the consent authority must consider the following matters:

(a)  for land in Nurra Reserve, Ambarvale, being Lot 12, DP 700701 and part of Lot 13, DP 700702 identified as “Development on land in Nurra Reserve” on the Environmental Constraint Map—the impact of the development on the preservation of trees and other vegetation on the land,

(b)  for land identified as “Restriction on land for overland flow detention purposes (drainage)” on the Environmental Constraint Map—the impact of the development on the continued use of the land for stormwater detention,

(c)  for land in Wedderburn, identified as “No build area” on the Environmental Constraint Map—the fact that the land is not capable of accommodating development other than fencing,

(d)  for land in Varroville, identified as “No build area” on the Environmental Constraint Map—the fact that the land is not capable of accommodating development other than a lawn cemetery and associated fencing

(National Trust bolding)

 

Section 7.8A of the Campbelltown Local Environmental Plan 2015 – Use of certain land at 166 – 176 St Andrews Road, Varroville states –

(1)  This clause applies to land at 166–176 St Andrews Road, Varroville, being Lot 1, DP 218016, Lot B, DP 370979 and Lot 22, DP 564065.

(2)  Development for the purposes of a cemetery is permitted with development consent, but only if the consent authority is satisfied that:

(a)  the development will complement the landscape and scenic quality of the site, particularly when viewed from surrounding areas including the Campbelltown urban area, “Varro Ville” (homestead group at 196 St Andrews Road, Varroville) and the Hume Highway, and

(b)  the development will not adversely affect the visual or physical qualities of the site, and

(c)  the development will cause minimal effect on the existing landform and landscape, and

(d)  the site will also include a publicly accessible passive recreation space, and

(e)  the development will be carried out in accordance with the conservation management plan titled “Conservation Management Plan, Varroville Estate: 166–176 St Andrews Road, Varroville”, dated October 2015, and the supplementary information relating to the plan provided by letter by Urbis on 22 August 2016, published on the website of the Department of Planning and Environment.

Note.

Clause 7.7 (3) restricts development on part of the land to which this clause applies to development for the purposes of a lawn cemetery.

 

Having regard to the three sections of the Local Environmental Plan set out above, the National Trust makes a number of points

 

  • Clause 7.7 (3) declares Lot 1 DP 218016 and part of Lot 22 DP 564065 a “No Build Area”. The clause then requires that, in determining whether to grant development consent to development on this land, the consent authority must consider the fact that this land is not capable of accommodating development other than a lawn cemetery and associated fencing.On this land the developer proposes major roadworks (concrete roads up to 6 metres in width) totalling 2 kilometres in length. While these roads provide access to the lawn cemetery they also provide access to the other general cemetery areas and ‘intervene’ between Varroville Homestead and its historic outbuildings. The use of these roads for other than lawn cemetery purposes, their overscaled design and their impact on the historic link between Varroville Homestead and its outbuildings are all factors for not permitting the current proposed road system within the ‘No Build Area’.
  • Clause 7.8A states that development of a cemetery will only be permitted if the consent authority is satisfied that the development will complement the landscape and scenic quality of the site and the development will not adversely affect the visual or physical qualities of the site.On the 28 November, 2013 the Heritage Division of the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage provided a detailed comment on the planning proposal for the cemetery, advising Campbelltown City Council of the Division’s refusal to support the proposal. The letter mentioned that the Heritage Division did not believe the ‘proposed concept design for Macarthur Memorial Park will be compatible with the predominantly rural character of the Scenic Hills and the subject land. Formal lawn graves, memorial terraces, car parking, roads, signage, condolence rooms and formal lines of trees are all at odds with the informal character of the subject land’.

    A subsequent Heritage Division submission stated –

    “The Heritage Division believes that additional cemetery usage of the subject land contradicts the aims and objectives of the existing Local Environmental Plan and the existing zoning of the land. The Planning Proposal also appears inconsistent with the findings of the Visual and Landscape Analysis of Campbelltown’s Scenic Hills and East Edge Scenic Protection Lands, Final Report prepared for Campbelltown City Council by Paul Davies P/L and Geoffrey Britton Environmental Design Consultant, dated October 2011.

    The Heritage Division maintains that the landscape and the outbuildings surrounding Varroville Homestead is an exceptionally significant part of heritage of the Varroville Homestead – its remnant estate that explains its creation, siting and where funding originated to build it. Any change of use in this land may substantially change the landscape and identity of the former estate and the ability of site users, visitors and passers-by to comprehend and interpret that history.

    On the basis of the above the Planning Proposal for Macarthur Park is not supported.”

    The National Trust argues, in support of the views put by the Heritage Division and, in the knowledge that most of these lands are proposed to be added to the State Heritage Register Listed Area, the development proposed will NOT complement the landscape and scenic quality of the site and will adversely affect the visual and physical qualities of the site.

  • Clause 7.6 states that development consent must not be granted to any development in the Escarpment Preservation Area unless the consent authority is satisfied that the external surfaces of any building consist of prescribed materials, that is, materials that are dark-coloured and of low reflective quality and blend with the landscape of the site.In the Trust’s view, the majority of the buildings proposed incorporate light-coloured stone walls with considerable areas of glass. The number of buildings proposed and their scale (the building named the ‘chapel’ contains multiple chapels) make it impossible to fulfil the objective of Clause 7.6 – “to recognise and protect the scenic, environmental, cultural and historic qualities of the Scenic Hills and the landscape setting of Campbelltown.”

 

Development Application based on outdated supporting reports

 

The Conservation Management Plan was prepared in October 2015 based on earlier reports, for its assessment Varro Ville House’s significance, including its significant views, such as –

  • Colonial Landscapes of the Cumberland Plain and Camden, NSW, 2000, prepared for the National Trust of Australia (NSW),
  • Historical Context: “Varro Ville”, 1992, Wendy Thorpe, prepared for Orwell and Peter Phillips Architects, revised and updated by Pearson-Smith & Associates Pty Ltd Architects and
  • Revised Conservation Policy ‘Plan’ for “Varro Ville”, St Andrews Road, ‘Varroville’, Pearson-Smith & Associates Pty Ltd Architects May 1999, originally prepared by Orwell & Peter Phillips Architects in May 1992.

Geoffrey Britton and Peter Phillips have since updated these assessments in the study commissioned by the owners of Varro Ville House funded by a grant from the NSW Heritage Council (Curtilage Study Varro Ville, May 2016 by Orwell and Peter Phillips).

This 2016 Curtilage Study was utilised by the NSW Heritage Council to inform and support its recommendation to the NSW Heritage Minister, in late 2017, to list on the State Heritage Register, the major part of the land proposed for the cemetery development.

 

The Development Application does not comply with Policy 9 of the Conservation Management Plan (page 121)

  • “All future decisions and works to the place must be guided by the statement of significance and the identified significant spaces, views, fabric, and building elements identified in this Conservation Management Plan (section 5.4) together with any additional detailed research and assessment.”

As required by Clause 7.8A (2) (e) of the Campbelltown Local Environmental Plan 2015 –

“the development will be carried out in accordance with the conservation management plan titled ‘Conservation Management Plan, Varroville Estate: 166–176 St Andrews Road, Varroville’, dated October 2015, and the supplementary information relating to the plan provided by letter by Urbis on 22 August 2016, published on the website of the Department of Planning and Environment.”

 

Inconsistencies and Contradictions in the Conservation Management Plan

Even within the Conservation Management Plan there are inconsistencies. Point 4.2.7 on page 78 of the Plan states that “[Varroville’s] archaeological remains have the potential to be of state significance”. However, in the Significance Assessment Criterion (e) ‘Research Potential’ (page 20 of the Heritage Data Form) Varroville is only rated at the local level.

Policy 29 of the Conservation Management Plan (page 126) states –

“Those dams identified and assessed by archaeological or other detailed physical investigation to have been formed in the Sturt period are regarded as being of heritage significance and should be retained and conserved where possible, and used for ongoing water management of the subject property.”

The Sturt Dams are within Area 3, as shown in Figure 27 on page 23 of the Conservation Management Plan’s Appendix C – Artefact Heritage – Historical Archaeological Assessment.

However a recommendation (section 7.2, page 35) of the Historical Archaeological Assessment contradicts the policy quoted above –

“An archaeological impact assessment should be prepared for future development applications within Areas 1 and 2. Area 3 does not require approvals and therefore an archaeological impact assessment is not necessary.

 

The National Trust understands that no archaeological impact assessment has been carried out.

 

Conclusion

The National Trust is firmly of the view that major cemetery proposals must not be sited within State Heritage Register listed early colonial agricultural landscapes. The two land uses are totally incompatible and the various provisions in Campbelltown City Council’s Local Environmental Plan would appear to confirm this.

The Trust re-iterates its strong objection to this development proposal and puts the alternative proposal that cemeteries should be included on the list of land uses considered for Western Sydney Parklands Trust’s land bank of ‘operational lands’ (that is lands that can be subdivided and sold, to generate funds to run the Western Sydney Parklands).

Both the Greater Sydney Region Plan and the Western City District Plan do have an objective that a growing Greater Sydney and the Western City District require additional land for burials and cremations. However, the strategy for providing this will be through the Metropolitan Sydney Cemetery Capacity Report, which has confirmed that the South-West Sydney Region is well served, with the number of graves available.

However, the Greater Sydney Region Plan has a specific objective to identify, conserve and enhance environmental heritage. The Western City District Plan has a planning priority and objective for protecting and enhancing scenic and cultural landscapes and the Scenic Hills is specifically highlighted – “identify and protect ridgelines, scenic and cultural landscapes, specifically the Scenic Hills, Mulgoa Valley and the escarpments of the Blue Mountains” It is ironic that the other State Heritage Listed landscape threatened by a cemetery development was in the Mulgoa Valley.

Finally, the Varroville Homestead is State Heritage Register Listed, its original surrounding estate has now been recognised by the Heritage Council for its State Heritage Significance and recommended to the Minister for Heritage for Listing on the State Heritage Register and the Heritage Division has lodged an objection to this development proposal.

A cemetery development on the Varroville Estate is unthinkable and should be rejected outright.