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Tribunal crosses St Patrick's off heritage list

Date
St. Patrick s Catholic Church in Braddon.

St. Patrick s Catholic Church in Braddon. Photo: Graham Tidy

The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal has added a new chapter to long-running debate on the future of St Patrick's Church in Braddon, overturning its heritage listing on Friday.

Church authorities successfully argued the 1935 building should not be awarded heritage protection, which was sought for the second time by parishioners.

The church was added to the ACT Heritage Register last year after it was deemed to be a building of historical importance to the capital.

The building was considered for demolition as part of ACT government plans for the eventual redevelopment of the adjacent Cooyong Street precinct.

Despite deciding to retain the Braddon properties for the foreseeable future, the trustees of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn appealed the July 19 heritage listing.

In a 50-page decision issued on Friday, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal overturned the listing and was critical of ACT Heritage Council, calling into question its expertise.

It said the application failed to meet any of the criteria specified in the Heritage Act, despite its successful listing for reasons of religious and educational interests and special associations.

''We realise that this decision will disappoint many people for whom St Patrick's Church is a very important part of their lives,'' the ACAT decision said. ''It is, in many ways, a charming little church and clearly serves a valuable purpose in providing opportunity for Catholic worship close to the city area.''

''We also feel obliged to say that the proposed register entry prepared by the council does not measure up to what we would expect of such an expert body.''

The ACAT decision said anyone reading the heritage register entry would have difficulty understanding how the church building met the two nominated criteria.

ACAT was also critical of factual errors included in the proposed entry, retained from the document's first draft written in 2010, ''despite expert consensus to the contrary''.

Three individuals were granted permission to be joined as parties to the proceedings due to their spiritual interest in the building's status.

A similar application by the Parish Pastoral Council of St Brigid's and St Patrick's Central Canberra was deemed not sufficiently independent to be joined as a party.

The ACAT decision said any future nomination for heritage status should be much clearer in addressing the relevant criteria.

The ACT government's planned rezoning for the adjacent Allawah, Bega and Currong flats continues to divide a Legislative Assembly committee, with opposition MLAs critical of the plan's impact on the property sector.

Preliminary discussions were held as the church planned a redevelopment of its own facilities at Manuka.

Despite requiring a dedicated Catholic church be included on the redeveloped Braddon site, former archdiocese administrator Monsignor John Woods said the proposed price for the site offered by the government was inadequate and the Manuka works would be financed separately.

The proposed sale had also caused disquiet among Canberra's Catholic community, with some questioning the archdiocese's authority to sell the land.

The ACT Heritage Council and its chairman, Duncan Marshall, are expected to consider Friday's decision in coming weeks.

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