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 Fight to Save Historic Buildings
Charles
 Posted: Jul 8 2018, 10:13 AM
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Historic buildings to be razed to make way for caravan park in tiny WA town of Walpole

ABC Great Southern
By Mark Bennett


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Photo: The Rendezvous Guest House was one of the first buildings in Walpole. (Supplied: Walpole and Nornalup Historical Society)

Residents from the tiny town of Walpole on Western Australia's south coast have vowed to fight a move to bulldoze the town's first buildings built by original settlers almost a century ago.

Thousands of holidaymakers from Perth and around WA flock to Walpole during the summer holidays.

But now news that the local council has approved a developer's request to demolish two timber guest houses dating from 1926 to make way for a $12 million caravan park to accommodate the seasonal influx of tourists has shocked locals.

It has emerged that the Manjimup Shire gave the go ahead to Summerstar, the operator of Rest Point Caravan Park, in August last year but no-one had thought to consult the community about the proposal.

The revelation has triggered a petition and a call from the Walpole and Nornalup Historical Society to the developer John Layman, and the Manjimup Shire, to put a stay on the demolition.

"Just immediate halting is our first step," said secretary of the Society Jennifer Willcox.

"We are in a state of disbelief that such a major project is not only planned but well underway without so much as a whisper from the powers that be."

Historical monuments preserved by community


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Photo: A second historical building, the Rest Point Guest House, is also earmarked for demolition. (Walpole and Nornalup Historical Society)

At the centre of the storm are two wooden guesthouses built by the Swarbricks, one of the founding families of the tiny community.

The Swarbrick family also built the Lady Walpole, a 34-foot timber boat used for three decades to ferry passengers across the inlet to the Rest Point Guest House.

The boat was recently rescued from ruin and is being slowly restored, funded by donations from the 600 residents of Walpole.

"These buildings were built before Walpole started," said Don Burton of the Walpole Historical Society.

"So they are by far the oldest in the town and need to be somehow restored and somehow kept for the future, it's a very important part of Walpole's history."


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Photo: Locals say the buildings could be moved from the Rest Point caravan park. (Mark Bennett)

The timber buildings could potentially be moved from their site at the Rest Point caravan park.

Suggestions include taking them off their stumps and transporting them into Walpole five kilometres away, to possibly be relocated in the town's Pioneer Park, where it's planned to eventually display the restored Lady Walpole.

Ms Wilcox said raising money for such a venture was a problem the community would address once the preservation of the buildings was secured.

She said the problem now was getting developer John Layman to talk with the people who want to save the buildings.

Attempts to contact Mr Layman have proved fruitless.

Calls to his company SummerStar, which runs 10 tourist parks in WA, are not being returned to the Society, nor the ABC.


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Photo: Don Burton and Jennifer Willcox from the Walpole Historical Society say they want to work with the developer to save the buildings but their calls have not been returned. (Mark Bennett)

Following the backlash from the community, Manjimup Shire President Paul Omedei now agrees that the building should be saved for posterity.

Mr Omedei has offered to approach Mr Layman to see if the building can be gifted to the town before it's demolished.

"I'd certainly support an approach to Mr Layman. I'd be prepared to talk to him myself," Mr Omedie said.

"I'm very very strongly of the view that we should retain our natural heritage and our history, there's so much of it that is going," he said.

Part of the problem is the buildings are not on the State Heritage List, but only have a 'C' classification as having only local heritage significance, thereby allowing the Shire Council to approve demolition.


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Photo: Manjimup Shire President Paul Omedei says he is happy to approach developers to arrange for the buildings to be gifted to the town. (Mark Bennett)


History could spark tourism opportunity

According to Mr Omedei it's not too late to save the buildings.

"All is not completely lost even though those decisions have been taken, there's still an opportunity for the historical society to talk to Mr Layman and I would certainly support them in that process," he said.

"If Mr Layman were of a mind to allow the building to be released, bear in mind he's going to demolish it anyway, if he were to release it to a body in Walpole then I think that would be a positive outcome."

While the developers argued in their proposal that the buildings had been extensively modified since they were built 92 years ago and therefore were not original anymore, the Historical Society says the changes are cosmetic and the buildings still essentially retain their original character.


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Photo: Locals say the picturesque waterfront location has a rich history. (Supplied: Walpole and Nornalup Historical Society)

Under the terms of the approval all that is required of the developers is to take photographs of the buildings before they are demolished, and to set put up a plaque in the park outlining the history of the area.

"There's a group that's looking towards heritage listing for the area," Ms Willcox said.

"To destroy our actual heritage buildings would go totally against any heritage listing.

"We are already in a marine park, we are already in a Walpole wilderness area, and it's a drawcard for tourists. So what better drawcard than the original historical buildings.

"We don't necessarily need everything to turn into glass and brass."


http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-08/bulldozing-historic-building-for-caravan-park/9950736

Too much of our local history was destroyed in the name of 'progress and development' in the latter half of the last century.

Once gone, such buildings can't be replaced.

The developer, My Layman, appears arrogant in the way he hasn't responded to calls to discuss the matter.

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“If life were predictable it would cease to be life, and be without flavor.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

“All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” - John Wooden
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