Resident action group urges candidates to protect 'town's heart'

Heritage fight: The Camden Resident Action Group wants assurances from local candidates that St John's will be protected. Picture: Chris Lane
Heritage fight: The Camden Resident Action Group wants assurances from local candidates that St John's will be protected. Picture: Chris Lane

Locals concerned about the future of the historic St John's Anglican Church precinct have called on all Camden election candidates to make protection of the site a top priority.

The Camden Resident Action Group (CRAG) recently circulated a press release urging wannabe MPs to "rigorously enforce" planning constraints which prevent construction of aged care housing at the site.

The church is selling the grassy slopes, historic rectory and an adjoining property to the Moran Health Care Group, which specialises in aged care and intends to build such a facility at the site if it can achieve the appropriate approvals.

"Local council zoning of the [church] precinct prohibits the construction of an aged care facility," the CRAG statement said.

CRAG members want the zoning to remain unchanged.

"The protection of St John's Anglican Church precinct is a watershed in the fight to stop inappropriate overdevelopment of this most historic town," they said. "If we cannot prevent the development of this iconic precinct, nothing is safe."

CRAG described the St John's precinct as the heart of Camden.

"It is very clear that the majority of the general community of this town is very disappointed by the news that St John's has granted an option to Moran Australia to purchase most of this State Heritage Register-listed precinct," the release read.

"The land was donated by the Macarthur family to the people of Camden. The church voluntarily entered into legally binding agreements with the Macarthur family to place the land into trusts and hold the land for the benefit of the community forever."

CRAG said members had correspondence from the Anglican church citing a "100-year-old piece of legislation" which allows the church to alter trusts.

"In the 21st century, the existence of legislation delegating legal authority to a religious organisation is abhorrent," they said.

"Many citizens have gifted property to the church, but the church's commitment to honour the donors' intentions seems unreliable."

CRAG has also asked election candidates advocate for the outdated legislation to be repealed.

St John's minister Reverend Tony Galea has told the Advertiser on several occasions that the congregation is overwhelmingly in favour of the sale to the Moran Group.

Funds from the sale will be used to construct a secondary modern worship centre at the site.