Camden Council has ensured it will make the final determination on any and all development plans for St John’s Anglican Church, Camden.
The council voted at last week’s meeting to forbid any private certifiers from approving plans.
Independent councillor Eva Campbell raised the motion to ensure the council and the Camden community were kept in the loop with all movement at the historically significant site.
It received unanimous support.
“Because I am so committed to being open and transparent I want everything with St John’s to be open and transparent for the whole community as well,” she said.
The church is looking to sell a parcel of its land (the expanse of vacant land linking the church building and the rectory, the rectory itself and a property on Alpha Road which backs into the land) to fund the construction of a secondary worship centre.
Church staff hope to fetch at least $6 million for the sale of the land package.
Cr Campbell said the site was such a heritage asset as it “told the story of European settlement in Australia, not just Camden and NSW”.
The church land was gifted by the pioneering Macarthur family, who brought commercial agriculture to the forefront of Australian life.
Cr Campbell holds concerns about any changes to the site and believes church leaders who dismissed the opinion of respected heritage architect Dr Clive Lucas (who drafted the site’s Conservation Management Plan in 2004 and has since voiced his objection to the proposed sale of land) as being “just an opinion” are being ignorant.
She said the management plan explicitly stated if any further developments for religious purposes were to go ahead on the site then they must be built on the vacant land currently earmarked for sale.
The church held an information meeting with parishioners to explain their sale process after Sunday’s services.
Parishioner, and neighbouring resident, Helen Cowell said she was pleased church leaders recognised there were many church-goers disappointed with the lack of transparency regarding the proposed sale and had vowed to keep them more in the loop.
She said many parishioners had questions for the church leaders and important points were raised about parking and revenue.
Another meeting will be held at the church, and open to members of the public, on Sunday, July 2.
St John’s senior minister Reverend Tony Galea said the church was “extending the courtesy” of allowing the community to present their questions and learn more at the meeting.