Church says historic buildings to stay
Commercial development plan includes sale of 1903 convent for ‘mixed business’ purposes
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
THE CATHOLIC Church says plans to subdivide and sell four large historic buildings on land currently zoned for ‘mixed business’ at Toodyay’s eastern entrance will not include demolishing the buildings to make way for commercial redevelopment.
The announcement eases the concerns of local residents and parishioners who feared the century-old buildings could be bulldozed and replaced by commercial businesses such as vehicle smash repairs or fuel storage, or turned into backpacker accommodation.
“To get an idea of what a mixed business zone looks like, you need look no further than the strip of businesses on the right along Stirling Terrace from the entrance to the town to the Goomalling Road turn-off,” local resident Mick McKeown (pictured standing left of John Clarke) said.Read More
Church to remain on separate title
He said the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth had applied to the WA Planning Commission for permission to subdivide.
The plan above show the original lots on the left and proposed new subdivision on the right, with existing buildings marked in red. St John the Baptist Church on the far left of the proposed new lots will remain separate on its own new title.
The Archdiocese announcement followed a public meeting last month when local residents said they were “dismayed and anxious” that the proposed subdivision would destroy the site’s heritage value.
The ‘Roman Catholic Church Group’ site includes an 1860s two-storey house known as ‘The Ship’, Sisters of Mercy Convent (1903), Boys’ Boarding School (1921) and Girls Boarding School (1929), all of which are now vacant.
Former school boarders include RAAF Chief of Air Staff Sir Valston Hancock DFC (1907-1998), WA mining magnate Lang Hancock (1909-1992) and National Country Party Senator Sir Thomas Drake-Brockman DFC (1919-1992) who served as Australia’s Air Minister until 1972.
The convent was more recently used until 2016 as a monastery for Franciscan monks.
The site, which extends from Stirling Terrace to the Avon River near the Goomalling-Toodyay Road Bridge, is currently exempt from paying shire rates.
The original land purchase and heritage construction had been financed by local people, Mr McKeown said.
However, the Archdiocese had lodged plans to subdivide and sell the site “in isolation in Perth without consultation with Toodyay parishioners or residents”.
Only the newer St John the Baptist Church would remain a church on a separate title.
The other buildings lacked State heritage protection because the WA Heritage Council had not acted on a 2012 application for them to be listed.
“The St John the Baptist Church is to remain as a functioning church surrounded by what may turn out to be uncongenial and obtrusive uses,” Mr McKeown said.
“Imagine a funeral being held in the church while over the fence the sound of an angle grinder outside the former Boys’ Boarding School competes with the yahoos from partying backpackers on the veranda of the old convent.”
An Archdiocese spokesperson said the site was currently zoned for mixed business because it had been “applied by the Shire of Toodyay of their own volition” in an earlier town planning scheme.
“Permitted uses include exhibition centre, home office and showroom,” the spokesperson said.
“Numerous other uses may be permitted subject to shire approval and these include arts and craft centre, car park, child-care premises, civic use, club premises, community purpose, consulting rooms, emergency services, family day care, funeral parlour, home business, home occupation and residential building.
“Given the significant heritage status of the buildings, any use that is likely to conflict with the fabric or amenity of these buildings is unlikely to be supported by either the shire of Toodyay or the Heritage Council.
“Moreover, the Archdiocese of Perth has a strong interest in ensuring that any use is compatible with the continuing operation of St John the Baptist Church.
“The subdivision design recognises the heritage fabric of all the buildings, and individual ownership will provide for the retention and restoration of the respective buildings.”
In answer to a question by Mr McKeown at last month’s Toodyay Shire Council meeting, Shire CEO Stan Scott said the buildings were on the shire’s heritage list.
The shire planned to introduce a ‘special control area’ for the convent precinct which would enable the council to consider protection of heritage values when assessing any commercial development application in the proposed new subdivision.