TEARING down historically important parts of the old Orange base hospital has been described as a “scorched earth” policy by Orange and District Historical Society president Phil Stevenson.
The two areas of concern are the original hospital entrance on Sale Street and the former ambulance station (and then dental service) on the corner of Anson and Prince Streets.
The complex was the first base hospital built in NSW and was opened on November 9, 1933, while the old ambulance station opened in 1932. Both demonstrate planning and design principles of health care during that period.
Mr Stevenson said the community had no idea these heritage sites could be torn down for development.
“They’ll be shocked when they find out they’re thinking of razing it to the ground ... it’s been a big part of our history,” he said.
Former staff member at the old hospital Annette Neville said she was devastated to hear her old workplace could be demolished.
“It’s sad for me, I feel quite emotional,” she said.
“I was always happy working there, it’s not just me, you feel for everyone else.
“I can’t believe it, why would they choose to pull this down?”
Mr Stevenson said the heritage areas could be classified as “adaptive reuse” allowing them to be used for modern purposes.
“They could have community uses, if you’re going to put in high density housing in time then you’ll need some community space,” he said.
“I realise that it’s very tempting when they’re selling a block to have it clear but they could be reassessed.”
Orange deputy mayor and chair of the Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) Jeff Whitton said if the buildings were classified as heritage, it would be more difficult for the owner, Health Infrasturcture, to sell them.
“The challenge for the owner of that land is they need to find a buyer or developer that’s able to do something with that part of land and incorporate those sites into the development,” he said.
Mr Whitton said the historical aspects of the site would be an emotional issue for the community, but council needed to weigh the merits of preserving history and the impact of preserving history.
“It’s a catch 22 situation ... it can be more expensive for the developer [if it is heritage listed],” he said.
An SDC meeting will be held tonight on the heritage issue of the old hospital and other sites across Orange.
Health Infrastructure was contacted for this story but were unavailable for comment.