Old Union Theatre stables have a better use

IT seems that one man’s heritage item is the next man’s preferred demolition site.

And this is certainly the case with an old stables block behind the Union Theatre.

Lithgow City Council has voted to clear the site despite opposition in some quarters.

The stables structure dates back to the late 19th century but its very existence is unknown to most people — just another old building visible only from Mort Street.

The issue arose after the Lithgow Musical Society wrote to council seeking assistance with finding alternative dressing rooms as their present facility in the Hoskins Institute will be taken over as part of the University of Western Sydney redevelopment.

The Musical Society performances are staged in the Union Theatre.

Environment and Development Group Manager Andrew Muir has told council the remedy could be the purchase of two portable buildings which can be used as dressing rooms.

This would be a temporary measure until funds were available for a permanent addition to the Union Theatre.

But to position the temporary quarters it will be necessary to demolish the old stable building which has a corrugated iron section currently used for storage by the Musical Society and the Tin Shed tile business.

Mr Muir said the stables are not on the 1994 LEP listing of heritage items but is identified on the Local Heritage Inventory of the Office of Environment and Heritage.

Consequently it would be advisable to obtain agreement of that department.

The building’s historical significance relates to the recording that it was built by Thomas Brown in 1870 to house the pit pones for a new coal mine he was opening nearby.

Mr Muir said justification would have to be provided to the OE and H with photographs showing how the building had deteriorated further since a structural engineer’s report in 2005 described it as ‘structurally inadequate, unserviceable and unsafe’.

Deputy Mayor Howard Fisher said there was a need to apply common sense to ‘what has heritage value and what has not’.

“Unless you told people they wouldn’t know these are stables,” he said.

“You can’t do anything with them, you can’t even see them and we need the space for something of real use.”

Cr Grahame Danaher agreed.

He said the building was a fire and OH and S hazard and its removal should not be delayed further.

Chairman of Lithgow Tidy Towns Sue Graves, speaking from the public gallery, opposed the demolition.

“The old stables do need repair but when they’re gone they’re gone,” she said.

Mrs Graves said council should consider another option for temporary dressing rooms.

Mayor Neville Castle told Mrs Graves the stables were in danger of falling down.

He said consideration had been given to ‘bringing it back to life’ but the cost involved was significant.

Council resolved to prepare a plan of demolition for approval by heritage authorities.

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