St. John’s Church campaign

Campaign Name: Save our St John’s (SOSJ)
Phase 1:
Year: 2003. SOSJ co-convenors: Jo Holder and Norman Thompson
Phase 2:
Year: 2016. Co-convenors: Susan MacKinnon, Christina Litchfield & Jo Holder

Protecting the historical significance of St. John’s Church, in the heart of Darlinghurst

St. John’s Church, Darlinghurst
Artist: Cedric Emanuel

St. John’s Church, Darlinghurst

The St John’s Church Group (church, rectory, garden and stone fencing) is a fine Gothic Revival Parish Church with “exceptionally well-designed later editions by Edmund Blacket” (National Trust). It occupies a prominent position on the Darlinghurst Ridge (NSW Heritage Register)  and the the church and spire (designed by Edmund T. Blacket) dominate significant local sightlines and vistas. It is the site of focal point and connectivity, light and sun.

2003 Development Application

Flyer for public meeting on St. John’s DA, 27 May 2003

Part of site of an architectural masterpiece, Edmund Thomas Blacket’s faithful replica of a Medieval Gothic village church, was threatened in 2003. South Sydney Council had voted to save this last open space in Darlinghurst (a space just to the north of St John’s Church) by State acquisition or lease. Then a real estate developer submitted a master plan to the Council of the City of Sydney, for two massive “mixed commercial developments” on the site. The developer’s plans proposed to construct two six-storey concrete towers, comprising 90 residential units sitting on 8,000 square feet of retail floor area and a 100 car parking station. Not much space left for the ecclesiastical masterwork!

The proposal was opposed by a coalition of residents groups (Friends of St. John’s Church, Darlinghurst Residents Action Group, 2011 Residents Association) and by local member Clover Moore MP and the Council of the City of Sydney (including its Lord Mayor, Lucy Turnbull). The developer appealed to the NSW Land and Environment Court, which rejected the appeal on 22 December 2003.

“In dismissing the developer¹s appeal, the Court confirmed the merit of the Sydney City Council’s unanimous decision to protect architect Edmund Blacket’s intact gothic-revival church which is listed on the National Estate. The Court refused the application because the development had an unacceptable impact on the heritage significance of the church and rectory, was incompatible with the scale and design of the church and spoilt the heritage streetscape. The Court also considered that the application provided inadequate details.”

Here are more details:
Anglican Church Property Trust v Sydney City Council [2003] NSWLEC 353
Development Application :- heritage impact
Click here to read the Appeal Judgement.

[Excerpt from Judgement] Conclusion
[64] In our opinion the application must be refused because the proposed development
• · is inconsistent with the aims and objectives in cl 22(e) and cl 22(f) of LEP 1998;
• · will have an unacceptable impact on the heritage significance, curtilage and setting of St Johns Church and Rectory (cl 24 of LEP 1998);
• · is incompatible with the scale and design of St Johns Church (cl 28(1)(c) of LEP 1998), and
• · is incompatible with the heritage streetscape of Victoria Street (cl 23A of LEP 1998).
[65] In addition we find that, in the context of a heritage-listed site in a heritage streetscape, the Stage 1 application does not provide enough information to be properly assessed.

Orders: 1. The appeal is dismissed. 2. Development application for a Master Plan and Stage 1 Development of the St Johns Church site at118A Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst is refused.

2016 Development Application

HammondCare Darlinghurst

The second proposal (Hammond Care, 2016) was for a 5-storey building (plus building services on top) boundary to boundary. A narrow walkway on the south side reduces the Church’s landscaped garden. Underground is 2 levels of car parking accessed from Darlo Road (26 vehicles: 12 for the home; 14 for the church). Hammond Care’s aged care facility fwas or 46 formerly homeless residents. Sydney City Council has granted $1.5 million to Hammond Care, prior to consulting you regarding the DA approval (on exhibition to June 2 2016).

The height, scale, bulk and mass of the proposed building in the 2016 application were substantially the same as the application rejected by Council and the Land and Environment Court in 2003. Like the plans in the 2003 proposal, the 2016 plans needed a re-think of design, bulk, height and set-backs to enhance the history and views of St Johns Church.

The campaign by DRAG and 2011 Residents Association was successful in reducing the impact on heritage. The aims and objectives in Sydney LEP 2012 protects the heritage significance, curtilage and setting of St Johns Church and Rectory and Gardens; the scale and design of St Johns Church, and the heritage streetscape of Victoria Street. Residents value compassion and diversity, but destroying a heritage precinct and proposing a building that infringes development standards does not justify the “public good”. Fortunately the Anglican Church and the developer were willing to significantly compromise and step the building back and widen public access.

Read more:
Save Our St. John’s Church (SOSJ) media release, 22.12.2003
Clover Moore, Bligh eNews, 19.9.2003
2016-05-16: St Johns DA – Darlinghurst Residents Action Group (DRAG)
“St John’s Anglican Church, Darlinghurst: a deal with the devil?”, City Hub, 2.11.2016