A CITY focused on protecting its past cannot afford to be blinded to the need to plan for the future.
A proposal to build an ultra-modern home in a conservation heritage area on Piper Street might have split Bathurst region councillors almost down the middle on Wednesday night, but the final decision they made was the right one.
The existence of a curious nine metre-wide vacant block between two 1800s properties was always destined to create some fights and it’s hard to imagine any home design would have completely satisfied all the neighbours.
But the fact is, the block had building permission and so something has to be built there. Once we accept that reality it simply becomes a matter of what to build there.
There was plenty of talk on Wednesday about the need for a design that was sympathetic to the surrounding area but that’s an impossible dream in practical terms.
For a home to be truly sympathetic, it would have had to have been built more than a century ago.
These are the properties that heritage supporters are so passionate about saving, even if it means retaining a heritage facade and building a modern home behind it.
But this was a vacant block, with nothing to be saved.
To have put forward a design that attempted to look like the surrounding homes while being built more than a century later would have been an insult to the surrounding properties.
As Councillor Monica Morse said, too much “fake heritage” around our city could leave us looking like a film set.
Far better, then, to opt for an unashamedly modern design that adds something new to Bathurst’s cultural assets.
In 100 years, our descendants will look at this home and see a genuine example of early 21st century architecture rather than a poor replica of 19th century design.
Tony McBurney’s design offers something new, something interesting and something with lasting appeal.
That’s not to discount neighbours’ concerns about overshadowing, loss of privacy and – in particular – the potential impacts of excavation, but those very real concerns must be tackled separately to the debate over whether a modern home should be built in a conservation heritage area.
When it came to a choice between fake history or genuine future, councillors made the best decision for Bathurst.