100-year-old trees uprooted at heritage site
Heavy earthmoving equipment uproots a 100-year-old tree at Toodyay’s heritage-listed Catholic Precinct which has been subdivided and rezoned for commercial development. Parishioners fear historic former convent and school buildings will be next to go.
By Mick McKeown, Friends of the Toodyay Catholic Precinct
THE TOODYAY Catholic Precinct is one of three historic precincts in the town of Toodyay. The other two are the Gaol Group and the Stirling Terrace Main Street Precinct.
These three places are described in shire policy as having “special qualities which are highly valued by the community and it is important to retain and enhance these qualities as the town develops through time”.
The subdivision works in the Toodyay Catholic Precinct have just commenced with the clearing of several majestic old trees at the rear of the area.Read more
A heavy excavator uproots a giant tree (above) which was part of Toodyay’s historic Catholic Precinct near the town entry.
The trees have been cleared to allow for a new road to access some of the new blocks being created as part of the subdivision.
The Archdiocese of Perth submitted an application for the subdivision to the WA Planning Commission (WAPC) on 13 September 2017 and final approval was granted on 15 June 2018.
Sometime between these two dates, the subdivision application was sent to the Shire of Toodyay for a report into how the application took into account the provisions of Toodyay’s local planning scheme.
A report was provided by the Shire of Toodyay and sent to the WAPC.
Unfortunately, the report was made by staff of the shire under what is known as “delegated authority” which meant that the people of Toodyay, including the councillors, did not know that a subdivision had been proposed and there was no opportunity for public comment.
The practical results of that subdivision approval are now being seen and felt in Toodyay.
On 5 December 2018, the Catholic Precinct was placed in the State Register of Heritage Places as an important historical landmark with a striking architectural presence on the main street of Toodyay.
This register provides the highest level of heritage protection available.
Now the future of the precinct is further at risk because the shire has received a development application (public notice Page 8, June Herald) for the demolition of one of the buildings in the precinct.
This would mean that the destruction that has begun with the felling of the trees may continue with the destruction of one of the buildings.
John Clarke (left) and Mick McKeown in the Garden of Peace with the covered brick walkway behind – both heritage areas face demolition.
The building in the firing line is the covered walkway (see above) from the rear of the church to the convent .
The walkway is a 20-metre-long brick passageway that links the convent to the church next to the Garden of Peace, which also faces demolition.
When the church was opened in 1963, the Beverley Times newspaper reported that a chapel inside the Church was “connected to the Convent by a covered way” and was for the exclusive use of the Sisters of Mercy.
The walkway provided safe and secure access by the Sisters to their chapel at all times and in all weathers.
The State Heritage listing states that in 1963, the walkway was considered innovative and unique.
Nearly 60 years have passed since the walkway was built and the passage of time has not decreased its rarity or uniqueness, rather its importance has been enhanced by its long association with the work of the Sisters of Mercy in Toodyay.
The Archdiocese of Perth has lodged an application to demolish this walkway.
Now is the time for the people of Toodyay to stand up for the future of the historic buildings of which we are so proud.
The demolition of the walkaway and adjacent Garden of Peace should be opposed, so please do this by responding to the advertisement regarding the demolition on this page.
Widespread community opposition will reinfornce the importance that we in Toodyay attach to our history.
The Toodyay Shire Council voted last month in favour of Cr Paula Greenway’s motion that the shire staff must notify council regularly of any changes that affect the Catholic group of buildings.
A widespread community response in this case will also send a signal that this good beginning must be followed by increasing the protection of the precinct by removing the delegated authority and guaranteeing that the elected Council of Toodyay is the appropriate body to determine its future.