Plan lodged to turn historic Gledswood Homestead into childcare centre

Transformation: An artist's impression of the planned childcare centre at the heritage-listed Gledswood Homestead. Picture: Camden Council website
Transformation: An artist's impression of the planned childcare centre at the heritage-listed Gledswood Homestead. Picture: Camden Council website

Gledswood Homestead is one of the region's most significant heritage listed properties and it could soon be transformed into a childcare centre.

The homestead's owner, Roy Nasso, has submitted a development application to Camden Council to turn the iconic building into an 84-child preschool facility.

However some local residents believe a childcare centre is an inappropriate use for the home.

The proposal seeks approval for a minor renovations and alterations to the existing building to accommodate the childcare centre, as well as the construction of outdoor play areas, shade structures, additional fencing and a car park.

"The childcare provides for a total capacity of 84 children with four indoor play areas and a range in ages of children being cared for," the application states.

"Each playroom has access to amenities, which will provide a safe and secure environment for children, with appropriate supervision by teachers and carers.

"The management of the proposed centre has a detailed and thorough understanding of what is required to achieve appropriate levels of maintenance safety and operational efficiency in a childcare centre."

The property that the Gledswood Homestead is located on is listed on the State Heritage Register as an item of heritage significance.

It is believed that the homestead itself was built by Scottish soldier James Chrisholm circa 1830.

It was understood at the time that the property would undergo a significant restoration for public use.

Gledswood Homestead. Picture: Camden Council website

Gledswood Homestead. Picture: Camden Council website

Mr Nasso told the Advertiser in 2013 that he wanted to make sure the homestead was still open to the public once the restoration was complete, but that it had not yet been decided in what capacity it would be used.

However, the current development application for the house would see it retained for private use instead.

Camden resident Jo O'Brien said she would like to see the house transformed into something that could be used by the public.

She urged locals to have their say on the plan before the public submission period closes on November 9.

"I'd love to see it restored for public use as a museum or even as a heritage home that visitors can walk through," she said.

"It is already zoned for tourism and there aren't many buildings of this age in Sydney.

"I understand that adaptive reuse of historic homes is tricky but I think it would be a pretty popular place to visit - I think people would like to see the old house and how it has changed throughout the years.

"I can't think of a less appropriate use for a heritage building than a daycare centre, and I can't think of a less appropriate place for a daycare centre than a heritage building."

Another artist's impression of the future plan for Gledswood Homestead. Picture: Camden Council website

Another artist's impression of the future plan for Gledswood Homestead. Picture: Camden Council website

Ms O'Brien said she came across this development purely by chance on the council's website.

"If you aren't curious or aware enough to go through the development applications on the council website, you might not even know these things are happening," she said.

"A lot of people relied on significant developments being advertised in the paper and I think it is important that these kinds of developments are advertised so that everyone can have their say."

Former Camden Historical Society president and local historian Dr Ian Willis said he was also only just made aware of this proposal recently.

He said he had difficulty finding it on the council's website.

"It's not obvious unless you know where to look - I don't think the lack of advertising these developments is a positive move," he said.

Dr Willis said he had 'mixed feelings' about the proposal for Gledswood Homestead.

"I'm not prepared to condemn this plan completely because there are other childcare centres inside heritage buildings in the area," he said.

"Empty heritage homes are dangerous - because that means they are more likely to decay because they are not being maintained.

"Whereas if they are in use then they are not in danger of wasting away.

"I think the main issue is: 'how do you maintain the integrity of the heritage building with the addition of modern conveniences?'

"It's a really vexing problem."

Dr Willis said not all heritage homes could be restored for private residential or public use.

"Look at Harrington Park House, Catherine Park House and Orielton Homestead - the developers that owned those homes spent millions of dollars restoring them," he said.

"I am not sure what condition Gledswood is in, but I can only assume it will cost a lot of money to restore.

"I look at the Appin Inn as well - and the developers there have done an amazing job. It was derelict before they restored it for use.

"I completely sympathise with those who want it restored for public or residential use but I understand why this has been proposed.

"Adaptive reuse of these kinds of homes is a really difficult issue."