On 26 November the Land and Environment Court handed down a judgment on the Vision Land proposal for the redevelopment of the rear of the Bidura site. The proposal included retention and conservation of the area fronting Glebe Point Rd that includes the Blacket house, garden and ballroom, which are Heritage Items. The City Council had been deemed to have refused the application because of the length of time taken to assess it. What the Court heard was an appeal against this deemed refusal. The appeal failed, and the reasons are outlined below, in extracts from the findings, with some explanatory notes.

The distribution of height and FSR in the Concept Application would have an adverse effect on the heritage significance of Bidura House,

Commissioner Tuor recognised the adverse impact of a tall building, visible from Glebe Point Rd, on both the Heritage Item and the Conservation Area Streetscape. The towers should be lowered and set back. Views of any new development from other parts of Glebe Point Rd, not just immediately in front, need to be considered.

[the Concept Application] impacts on solar access to the open space of the properties in Ferry Rd and does not provide adequate separation to the residential flat building at 2A Forsyth St. Consequently, the Concept Application does not satisfy the heritage requirements in cl 5.10 or objective (b) of the height control in cl 4.3 of the LEP, or the requirements for solar access in s4.2.3.1 of the DCP and building separation in 2F of the AGD. The appeal is therefore dismissed and the Concept Application refused.

The commissioner considered that the ‘Brutalist’ Metropolitan Remand Centre (MRC) was not of sufficient merit to be retained.

The significance of the MRC and the Auditorium/Hall does not warrant its retention and that incorporating the Auditorium/Hall into a new development, as suggested by Mr Stapleton, would not be sound conservation practice …

Bidura Auditorium (Source: Jenna Reed Burns, ‘Heritage Assessment Bidura Children’s Court’, February 2016; http://brutalism.online/documents/BiduraChildrensCourtHeritageAssessment.pdf)

Bidura Auditorium (Source: Jenna Reed Burns, ‘Heritage Assessment Bidura Children’s Court’, February 2016; http://brutalism.online/documents/BiduraChildrensCourtHeritageAssessment.pdf)

In a future proposal, development will need to be distributed over the whole Remand Centre site so the impact on neighbours in Ferry Rd and Forsyth St will meet Council controls. Open Space associated with the new building does not have to be located at ground level, but can be on top of lower buildings.

These requirements of the Court could not be met by amendments to the existing plans, but will require new ones to be drawn that satisfy all these concerns. Given the length of time it took for the refused application to reach the Court, it will probably take just as long for any new proposal to appear, even if the applicant does not decide to on-sell the site, which would obviously add to the timeframe. Although sold in December 2014, the entire site was leased back to the NSW Government until 2017, and they will continue to use the site for at least part of the time required for a future application to be developed.