We’re sorry, this feature is currently unavailable. We’re working to restore it. Please try again later.
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
The Anglican Church is at loggerheads with parishioners over proposed heritage protections that would prevent a Sydney church from being redeveloped, potentially as housing or commercial premises.
Parishioners at St Paul’s Anglican Church in Bankstown fear the church building will be bulldozed to make way for a tower if Canterbury Bankstown Council’s heritage protections are not approved.
Canterbury Bankstown councillor Barbara Coorey and parishioner Bing Wu want St Paul’s Anglican Church in Bankstown to be given heritage protection.Credit: Dean Sewell
But the rector of St Paul’s, the Reverend John Bartik, said heritage protection would force the closure of the church because of a leaky roof that is too expensive to repair.
“We believe that the church will decay gradually over time,” he said.
“A heritage order would result in the eventual closure of the church when the need to replace the roof will be more than the congregation can afford.”
Bartik said the redevelopment of the site had been a difficult decision, and there were no concrete plans at present.
“We are not close to doing anything yet because finding a financially viable pathway to develop the site is the most difficult part of the project,” he said. “There are no money reserves to fund maintenance or development.”
Bartik said possibilities for the site included a hybrid development that may include housing or “something commercial as well as a renewal of parish premises”.
“We have every intent to preserve our stained-glass windows and repurpose the majestic beams holding up the roof as well as everything else of historical significance,” he said.
Save St Paul’s Bankstown Group spokeswoman Bing Wu said the church was under threat of demolition to make way for high-rise development.
“St Paul’s is a sacred place, with a number of fallen soldiers’ and ex-servicemen’s memorials within the church, and a priest’s ashes are interred beneath the altar,” she said.
St Paul’s rector, the Reverend John Bartik, said heritage protection will force the closure of the church.Credit: Dean Sewell
A council spokeswoman said the heritage assessment will be part of the Bankstown City Centre Master Plan, which permits buildings up to 18 storeys high if the church provides a multipurpose community facility on the site – otherwise, the current height limit of 11 storeys would apply.
“Council staff have made no recommendations, and while some parishioners want the church heritage-listed, the diocese and other parishioners would like to see the church evolve,” she said.
Canterbury Bankstown councillor Barbara Coorey said the council should not allow churches to be demolished for high-rise development.
“Council is not in the business of facilitating the upzoning and demolition of churches for high-rise monstrosities,” Coorey said.
“We have done our heavy lifting in so far as housing targets and cannot provide any more at the expense of destroying the heritage and character of our suburbs.”
The Anglican Church is not the only religion fighting heritage protection of its Sydney buildings. In March, Woollahra Council voted to heritage-list the St George Greek Orthodox Church in Rose Bay against the wishes of its congregation.
The stoush over the Bankstown church also comes as churches undertake large-scale residential and office developments across Sydney worth hundreds of millions of dollars – amid concerns about whether religious organisations are paying their fair share of taxes and other property levies.
NSW upper house Greens MP Sue Higginson said churches receive special treatment, and through exemptions from tax and council rates over a long period of time they have been able to acquire property.
“If they intend to develop housing, then it must be for the purposes of public and social housing,” she said.
“If churches are seeking to use their significant financial advantage to profit from the housing crisis, then that would be unethical and a breach of the public trust that many people place in the system of religious institutional benefit that is conferred upon them.”
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.
Copyright © 2023