HISTORIC Caldwell House in Sale Street is again under serious threat of demolition.
The Western Regional Planning Panel last week sided with the owners of the building, the NSW government, which stated the existence of asbestos at the site as the main reason for demolition.
The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) pointed to an independent assessment which stated the friable asbestos in the building could lead to groundwater contamination.
Mayor Reg Kidd said he was disappointed and angry with the decision, which he described as hypocritical.
"It's a difficult decision in many ways and I know the community of Orange will be very disappointed by the precedents this ruling seems to set," Cr Kidd said.
"If the property was properly secured against vandalism and theft when it was first vacated we would not be facing demolition today. The way this has been managed by a public authority sets a very poor example for private owners."
Cr Kidd said council staff will review the decision and he would continue to campaign on the building's behalf.
"I'd encourage residents with an interest in our heritage to do the same," he said.
"When it comes to asbestos, Council has always argued that the safest way for the neighbours of Caldwell House to deal with this problem is to restore the building. This stacks up financially," he said.
In rejection Council's stance, the WRPP did urge the DPIE to consider the potential for the building's restoration if a suitable buyer came forward.
Cr Kidd said he also found it curious the DPIE was relying on concerns about groundwater contamination in its argument to have the building demolished.
"Australia's industry standards around asbestos removal are as tight as they come and I'm sure methods would be in place to deal with whatever 'groundwater contamination' means in this context," he said.
"If groundwater is going to be a factor in future decision-making, there's nowhere in Orange that won't be affected.
"It's concerning to read in the judgement, that "Health Infrastructure will not accept any post-remediation risk to human health". They need to be talking with their government colleagues at SafeWork NSW who every day manage the process to let people work in buildings where there's asbestos."
In July last year, Orange City Council rejected a development application by Health Infrastructure to demolish the building, arguing it could be saved and the unstable asbestos in the building would have to be dealt with whether the building was demolished on not.
Council did give permission for the nurses quarters, on the corner of Sale and Dalton Streets, to be knocked down.
At a hearing in February 2021, the Western Regional Planning Panel ruled in favour of the arguments put forward by Orange City Council, and recommended to the NSW Planning Minister that the building be saved.
In September this year, DPIE on behalf of the minister requested the WRRP reconsider the application to demolish the building.
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