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Community outraged, Council disappointed – century old Vaucluse mansion demolished

A mansion in Vaucluse has been demolished, sparking outrage in the community. Photo: Home Hound.

By ASTON BROWN

A culturally significant Vaucluse mansion has been demolished, prompting community backlash.

Until recently, a Mediterranean-style 1920s mansion sat on the 1700 square metre block on Vaucluse Road, originally built for the Arnott biscuit family.

Eastern Suburbs resident Anna Lynch says that more should be done to preserve old buildings in the area.

“Mistakes are being made by Council … that’s how we end up losing a beautiful building like that,” Lynch told City Hub.

“It’s just disappointing that we are losing these beautiful buildings. It’s happening too often.”

A new 16-room, three-storey mansion is planned for the site that boasts stunning harbour views.

The property was sold in 2013 for $15 million to King Fai Chu, a director of Great Wall International, and Xiaoyi Zhu. Zhu owns the recently built house directly across the road.

“They are pulling down buildings of character and putting up buildings that don’t have any,” Lynch said.

The DA for the redevelopment of the site was due to expire 5 years after its approval in 2015 by Council.

This period was extended from 5 to 7 years as part of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 response measures.

Council disillusionment

An Interim Heritage Order (IHO) was established in 2019 and extended into 2021 to save the property. Woollahra Council endorsed a proposal to heritage list the property and save it from demolition.

The land on which the property once stood is now deserted. Photo: Supplied.

However, the owners challenged the IHO in the Land and Environment Court and in May 2021 the decision to revoke the IHO was announced.

Council felt let down by the demolition.

“Having resolved to progress a planning proposal to heritage list the building, Council is disappointed with this outcome which follows 18 months of work to protect the building,” a Woollahra Council spokesperson told City Hub.

Double Bay resident Tomos Bielik is saddened by the news.

“It’s upsetting as a local to know that beautiful buildings on the harbour are disappearing … to be replaced by some new-age concrete bunker,” Bielik told City Hub.

“Whatever it’s going to be, it’s not going to be as pretty as the one that has been demolished.”

Residents worry that the demolition of culturally significant sites in the area will continue.

“I was in demolition myself for a few years … I’ve seen things … I don’t know how things get approvals,” Bielik said.

“It’s a shame, if you have a piece of architectural history in Australia, it should be preserved.”

Council hopes amendments to State law will stop demolitions happening in the future.

“There is currently a review of the NSW Heritage Act underway. This outcome should be used as an opportunity to review the IHO process,” a Council spokesperson said.

“Council staff have provided feedback as part of the review process.”

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