A cricket pitch linked to Sir Donald Bradman in his youth has been saved from development.
Historians and a group of NSW Southern Highlands residents are breathing a collective sigh of relief after learning the Land and Environment Court has refused a development application on land where the cricket pitch is located.
Developers ERF Hospice had proposed to establish a seniors living facility on the land at 11 Edward Street, Bowral.
The original development application for seniors housing featuring 16, mainly two-storey dwellings was refused by Wingecarribee Shire Council in 2018. As a result the developer lodged an appeal with the Land and Environment Court, but subsequently submitted a scaled-down proposal for the construction of 13 dwellings on the site.
However, residents rallied against the proposal concerned that the heritage value of the site could be lost forever.
Located on the edge of Bowral's Central Business District in the Bowral conservation area, the land is the last undeveloped section of the Glebe land first promised to the Church of England by John Oxley in 1855.
It retains the only remaining Glebe wicket from the 1890s when cricket boomed in Bowral on the church land. This 1892 cricket pitch, which was used by Sir Donald Bradman in his school days, is the centrepiece of the site. The land was also featured in filming the Ginger Meggs movie in 1982.
Until 2014 the site continued to be used by Bowral Public for school sport and was the main thoroughfare to town - the historic paths can still be seen etched in the ground from 150 years of foot traffic.
Land and Environment Court officials made an on-site visit on September 24 where they met with the developers to discuss the proposal.
Residents were advised at the time that there would be no opportunity for a meeting with the public, but submissions from the exhibition period would be considered. A council spokesperson previously confirmed that about 20 written submissions had been received during the public exhibition of the modified development proposal (from late July to early August).
In the decision published on the Land and Environment Court website on December 4 commissioner of the court Timothy Horton referenced his visit with the developers at the site on September 24.
"I attended the site at the commencement of the proceedings and my attention was drawn to a number of existing trees the subject of expert arboricultural evidence, and to the cricket pitch that is of local heritage significance. In the company of the legal representatives and the planning and heritage experts I then walked the perimeter of the site and was shown the interface with adjoining properties."
He made mention of a number of heritage-listed properties identified adjacent and in the vicinity of the site earmarked for development. These included 'Eldon Cottage' at 42 Bendooley Street, Bowral and the 'St Jude's Anglican Church Group, including Rectory, Church Hall, Lych Gate and Cemetery' at 34 Bendooley Street, Bowral.
Mr Horton also mentioned that the proposed development site was in the vicinity of a number of state heritage items identified for their connection to the Australian cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman including Glebe Park and St Jude Street, including the Bradman Oval and the 'Bradman Museum Collection and Grandstand'.
In conclusion the commissioner said that consent for the Development Application seeking demolition of an existing cricket pitch identified as an item of local heritage significance, the removal of 30 trees and the construction of a seniors living development comprising 13 independent living units with 26 resident car spaces and associated landscaping at 11 Edward Street, Bowral was refused.
He said the appeal was dismissed, however the applicant was granted leave to amend the application and rely upon amended plans and other documents.
Historian and keen campaigner for the preservation of the site Nick Corbett said was thrilled with the outcome.
"It's fantastic news. It's been a long hard fight for sure and great to be able to celebrate a victory," he said.
"The current heritage listing is based on 2015 research which is now outdated, and doesn't include the Bradman Oral history,so the next challenge is getting the Bradman connection into the official records. As it stands the cricket pitch could still be at risk from future development.
"We now have two oral histories - the Harry Smith recording which Bernadette Mahoney conducted and a second oral history from a 92 year old lady, Patricia Reynolds, whose father's proudest moment was catching Don Bradman on the concrete pitch behind St Judes.
"I spoke to Patricia at some length and her parents lived opposite Bradman Oval, and her cousin was the Bradman Oval curator.
"So she was confident of what she was saying and knew the area well - her father went to school with Don Bradman and played with him behind St Judes."
Nearby resident Bud Townsing described the news as "a fabulous result for the community and particularly for the residents of Edward and Church Streets."
"I thank council for effectively defending this case and to numerous people who over an eight year period have assisted in resisting a number of out of character development proposals for this site.
"The decision by the Land and Environment Court obviously affects Edward and Church Streets, as well as having broader implications for "Old Bowral". Council should be encouraged by their legal success in this matter in supporting the integrity of the Bowral Conservation Area against unsympathetic, out of scale, development proposals," he said.
"Bowral and the wider Southern Highlands have a distinct character that makes it very attractive to current residents, to new residents and to visitors. The challenge is to meet the needs of all these people without destroying what makes the region so attractive in the first place."
The developer has been contacted for a comment.