30 November 2022

Braidwood residents rally to protect 'much-loved' heritage sheds

| James Coleman
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The sheds behind The Albion, Wallace Street, Braidwood.

The sheds behind The Albion, Wallace Street, Braidwood. Photo: Braidwood Museum.

Residents in cars and tractors surrounded two historic sheds on Braidwood’s main road last month in a desperate attempt to save them from demolition, and it seems to have worked.

The two buildings, one constructed from corrugated iron and the other brick, form part of The Albion pub and hotel site on Wallace Street – a landmark for those passing through the town for 150 years.

“They’re a much-loved streetscape,” Braidwood Historical Society vice-president John Stahel said.

“These places are special to us. We have special stories associated with these very humble structures.”

The sheds housed stable accessories at the back of what was a very grand hotel at the time.

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“Travellers would arrive with their buggies and horses and there’d be stabling for the horses at the back and these two sheds, which were for keeping their valuables – their bridles, lamps and more,” John said.

“This connection to one of Braidwood’s oldest hotels is the reason every other heritage expert before now has looked over them and agreed they hold value.”

The community is fighting tooth and nail for an urgent temporary stay on their demolition order, after the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) signed off on a development application (DA).

The town of Braidwood has been heritage listed since 2006 because of its Georgian-era street design and pastoral views. Accordingly, QPRC previously rejected developer Justin Springfield’s DA for affordable housing on the eastern side of the Wallace Street block.

The Albion Hotel, Braidwood, 1872.

The Albion Hotel was built by Roderick Macdonald & Sons circa 1872 and quickly became the most grand and “favourite hostelry” in town. Photo: Braidwood Museum.

However, Mr Springfield and council staff subsequently advised councillors that QPRC didn’t have the authority to refuse the application because they already had approval from Heritage NSW to remove the sheds.

But John argued Heritage NSW committed an “administrative error” by failing to refer the decision to QPRC in the first place, the usual process for making decisions about local heritage items.

“The long and the short of it all means QPRC is left saying that their hands are tied.”

Three of the 11 councillors voted against the demolition order, noting they had no authority to refuse the application on heritage grounds or “any other matter”.

“Council referred the DA and the subsequent review to Heritage NSW, and both times Heritage NSW advised they had already issued an approval for the subdivision and works, which included removal of the sheds in question,” a spokesperson for QPRC said.

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But following the protest from the Braidwood community, the matter was revisited at a council meeting on 9 November, when council agreed to rescind the demolition order.

John says they’re now waiting on the owner’s next move, “but for the moment, the sheds are saved”.

“This sort of fight is worth pursuing, because at the heart of this is who has control over the heritage values of a small rural community,” he says.

“Indigenous people might say they want to protect a particular rock or waterhole, and someone else might look at it and say it’s just a rock or waterhole. But it’s loaded with significance for those local people. The same applies here.”

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Well done QPRC. The value of these structures is not in a bureaucratic process but in their physical presence and the history of these buildings. I certainly don’t know the history of this DA but i would be wary of any developer building affordable housing, but can’t be bothered with a great heritage item. We seem to have lost any sense of community if construction is the means to which we show we care about our people. Our history is important as well as our future.

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