Monday, June 8, 2009

Merewether Surf Pavilion - Development Application No: 08/1741‏

22 January 2009

Development Application No: 08/1741

The General Manager
Newcastle City Council
P.O. Box 489

Dear Ms Hyam,

Development Application No: 08/1741 5 Henderson Parade, Merewether, Lot 100 DP 1130581

Parks and Playgrounds Movement wishes to lodge an objection to the proposed Development Application No: 08/1741 for the demolition of the Merewether Beach Pavilion/Surf House and erection of a three storey building fronting Merewether Beach on public parkland at Merewether.

Our objection is based on the fact that the development would be a gross overdevelopment on this public parkland. The proposed development makes no attempt to respect the heritage values of the site and introduces land uses and activities which have no place on this scarce ocean front parkland.

The Movement is particularly concerned because the Pavilion is an important example of the few surviving inter-war Art Deco public beachfront buildings in NSW and is the last surviving public building from the Merewether local Government Municipality.

The Beach Pavilion is Classified by the National Trust of Australia (NSW); Listed in the Heritage Schedules of exhibited Newcastle Local Environment Plan 2003; and listed as a heritage item in the official Heritage Places Plan of Management for the beachfront - Merewether Baths Precinct. Furthermore it is identified in Newcastle Coastal Management Study and Plan.

The Merewether Beach Pavilion (Surf House) was planned in the year of the Golden Jubilee of Merewether Municipal Council in 1935. It was designed by the leading Architects Pitt and Merewether; and was on land now partly owned by the Newcastle City Council, Merewether Family Estate and Crown Reserve. Mr. E. S. Spooner Minister for Works and Local Government opened the Beach Pavilion, in November 1937. The building cost 7,000 pounds to build and the State Government gave Merewether Municipal Council 3,500 pounds of that amount.

The building has accommodated the Merewether Surf Lifesaving Club, dressing rooms for the bathers, a Café, picnic bench and seats under the colonnades and a caretaker’s residence. It has been used as a soup kitchen by the Army during the war WWII. After the war it became headquarters for the Newcastle Life Saving Association and the venue for community functions and meetings.

The pavilion is elegantly and prominently positioned on the side of a sloping bank above Dr. James Mitchell’s old Burwood Colliery Railway line. The line was later used by the Newcastle Coal and Copper Colliery. It emerges from a tunnel still in existence south of the Surf Pavilion which connects through to Burwood Beach now Glenrock State Conservation Area. Dr. James Mitchell’s Coke Ovens foundations are also adjacent to the railway to the south. The concrete Merewether Ocean Baths were also opened as part of the Merewether Municipality Jubilee Celebrations. The importance of this site as part of a unified precinct cannot be overstressed and it is important that a design for the new building development be chosen that respects and contributes to Newcastle’s beach culture and the heritage of the precinct.

The Local Municipalities in the Newcastle suburban area including Merewether were united in 1938 under the provisions of the Greater Newcastle Act, 1937 and the Beach Pavilion became under the control of the city of Greater Newcastle.

Newcastle City Council organised two public meetings in 1998, for planning to develop a Management Plan with the public supporting the Council’s intention to respect and restore heritage and brick Pavilion. The current advertisement at the site calls for restoration and redevelopment –not destruction.

In 2003, the then Minister of Planning, the Hon Mr. Andrew Refshauge M.P. placed and Interim Heritage Order over Merewether Beach Pavilion/Surf House for further investigation which lead to a report by the NSW Heritage Office that the building has Regional Heritage Significance and recommendation was made that the building be retained and preserved. Council must refer to those agreements and correspondence between the General Manager and Lord Mayor and the Heritage office of NSW as part of this assessment process.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement wrote to the General Manager, Lord Mayor and Councillors in an effort to have the building restored to its original state and recycled. The existing pavilion is the most well designed, robust and attractively sited building in the immediate Merewether precinct yet considerable funds have been spent on repair and refurbishing storm damage less important beachfront buildings but nothing has been spent on the Pavilion. Surf House with its attractive colonnades with rectangular two tone brick openings has survived many decades of storms, cyclones and earthquake. The recent storms which severely destroyed adjacent buildings made no impact on Pavilion.

We are concerned that the development proposed will also impact the former Dr. James Mitchell’s railway and embankment which was owned by the Merewether Family Estate and is now part of the Newcastle Bather’s Way walking path. It will be closed off to the public and built over.

We do not want this public land to become another alcohol sales outlet in competition with the nearby hotel with more noise, late hours and possible vandalism affecting the public’s enjoyment of the beach the baths and the precinct. Furthermore we are particularly concerned that the overdevelopment of the site will exacerbate car parking problems at Merewether.

The further alienation of scarce ocean front parkland for narrow private development should not be countenanced by the Newcastle City Council. A clear view to the Merewether beach front has been acquired at great expense since the gazettal of the Northumberland County Plan in 1960 and the proposed development is directly contrary to the intention of every planning scheme that has been proposed for the area.

Newcastle can ill afford the loss of this regionally important Art Deco Pavilion building which was designed by Pitt and Merewether Architects: the grandson of Mr Edward Christopher Merewether of the Merewether Family who once owned and named the suburb of Merewether.

Yours sincerely,

Mr. Doug Lithgow, President.
Parks and Playgrounds Movement Inc.

No comments: