Orange Mayor Reg Kidd has responded to the decision by the Western Regional Planning Panel to allow the demolition of a government-owned heritage building Caldwell House.
“It’s a difficult decision in many ways and I know the community of Orange will be very disappointed by the precedents this ruling seems to set,” Cr Reg Kidd said. “If the property was properly secured against vandalism and theft when it was first vacated we would not be facing demolition today. The way this has been managed by a public authority sets a very poor example for private owners.”
Council staff are currently reviewing the decision.
“I’d encourage residents with an interest in our heritage to do the same,” Cr Kidd said. “When it comes to asbestos, Council has always argued that the safest way for the neighbours of Caldwell House, to deal with this problem is to restore the building. This stacks up financially. The WRPP wouldn’t still be urging the DPIE to keep talking to potential buyers about restoring the building, if they didn’t believe this is a viable way forward.”
“When it comes to dealing with asbestos, it’s frankly curious that DPIE is relying on concerns about groundwater contamination as an argument. Australia’s industry standards around asbestos removal are as tight as they come and I’m sure methods would be in place to deal with whatever ‘groundwater contamination’ means in this context. If groundwater is going to be a factor in future decision-making, there’s nowhere in Orange that won’t be affected.”
“It’s concerning to read in the judgement, that “Health Infrastructure will not accept any post-remediation risk to human health. They need to be talking with their government colleagues at SafeWork NSW who every day manage the process to let people work in buildings where there’s asbestos.”
The story so far
The 1937-vintage, former health office building, which has been vacant for a number of years, has been the subject of a legal dispute between Orange City Council and Health Infrastructure which owns the site.
In July last year, Orange City Council rejected an development application by Health Infrastructure to demolish the building, arguing it could be saved and the unstable asbestos in the building would have to be dealt with whether the building was demolished on not.
At a hearing in February 2021, the Western Regional Planning Panel ruled in favour of the arguments put forward by Orange City Council, and recommended to the NSW Planning
Minister that the building be saved.
In September this year, DPIE on behalf of the minister requested the WRRP reconsider the application to demolish the building. The result of this consideration was announced
Thursday 21 October. The WRPP’s determination can be found here.