St John’s church land sale given green light

Camden's historic St John's Anglican Church. Picture: Chris Lane
Camden's historic St John's Anglican Church. Picture: Chris Lane

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A patch of land at the historic St John’s Anglican Church site in Camden is set to go under the hammer after sale approval was granted by the Sydney Anglican Diocese.

The decision on the vacant land between the historic church building and the rectory was handed down at an ordinance meeting in Sydney last week.

A spokesman for the Diocese said everyone’s opinions were considered – including those of residents, parishioners and heritage experts who voiced their opposition to the sale – before the sale was given the green light.

“The standing committee fully considered all points of view and decided to approve a sale ordinance which will be finalised once all processes are complete,” the spokesman said.

“The matter was brought to us after an overwhelming vote in favour from the parish.”

Local church leaders want to sell the land to fund the construction of a secondary, modern worship centre to cater for the growing population in Camden and surrounding suburbs.

St John’s minister Reverend Tony Galea previously told the Advertiser the now-approved sale was not a land grab but rather a chance to better serve the church’s parishioners.

The Diocese spokesman said the land set for sale would not affect the heritage value of the site, despite claims to the contrary from NSW National Trust president Dr Clive Lucas.

“The Standing Committee took into consideration the fact that the land, originally used as horse paddock, is vacant and does not impinge on the heritage precinct in which the church stands,” the spokesman said.

“In making this decision the committee was concerned to ensure that the historically important site of St John’s Camden would be maintained while also enabling the church to grow and cater for the needs of the Camden community in the years ahead.”

Dr Lucas said he was very disappointed in the Anglican Diocese’s decision to allow a sale to go ahead.

He described the motion as a “breach of faith” and a “money-grabber” move.

“I don’t think they should have done that,” he said.

“The church has never paid rates, they had the land gifted to them by the Macarthur family, with the church and the rectory already built.

“They have been the recipients of an appeal set up by the National Trust, which was tax deductable for them.

“I think it is a real breach of faith – what more can I say?”

Dr Lucas hopes, if they have the power, the NSW state government or Camden Council will step in to prevent a sale going ahead.

St John’s senior minister Reverend Tony Galea said he was “happy” with the Anglican Diocese’s decision.

“We would have accepted any finding they came down with,” he said.

“All this means is we can sell the land, there are no buyers or anything at this stage.”

Rev Galea accepted that there would be “a couple of people who are not happy” but felt the sale was still a good option.

“I think there are just some people out there who don’t like to see land disappear that has been in the presence of the church for a long time,” he said.

Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak said there was little Camden Council could do surrounding the possible sale at this stage.

She said given the land was privately owned, the council was not in a position to make any decisions, recommendations or judgements.

“Until a DA comes before council, assuming the church finds a buyer, council is unable to do anything,” she said.

“It is a similar situation to the old Milk Depot in Camden, which went through a number of pre-DA rounds even before coming to council.

“If this was to get to a DA stage I think it would be one of the most complex DAs to be put before council.”

Cr Symkowiak said any potential buyers would have to carefully do their homework and look into the uses permitted in the zoning.

She said if the council was presented with a development DA the councillors would have to consider view corridors, heritage values, the proximity to residents and traffic impacts.