Demolition and relocation of historic Willow Grove given the green light

The NSW government is free to demolish and relocate the historic Willow Grove villa to make way for the $ 915 million Parramatta Powerhouse, after opponents exhausted all legal avenues to halt its construction.

The NSW Court of Appeal on Friday upheld a judgment of the Land and Environment Court that the government’s environmental assessment for the museum project was sufficient.

Willow Grove in the middle of clearing the site of the Parramatta Powerhouse.

The North Parramatta Residents Action Group had unsuccessfully argued that Infrastructure NSW did not meet its obligations for a state-significant project when it did not properly consider alternative sites or designs that incorporated the only surviving example of a mansion by the river in the Parramatta CBD. The group immediately called for a moratorium on all demolition work while the pandemic-led shutdown was in place.

NSW health restrictions at public gatherings effectively prevent protests and fences to enforce a professional green ban, raising the prospect that the Italian villa will be away from the site within days.

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The ruling makes it possible to dismantle and store the villa, while consultation begins on a shortlist of new places in Parramatta where it could be moved.

Subject to structural engineering, cultural heritage reports, and development approvals, the surviving dismantled pieces of Willow Grove are likely to be stored in containers for at least a year, if not longer, a consultant’s report shows.

David Borger, CEO of Business Western Sydney, described the verdict as a victory for “Western Sydney families” given the villa’s move was a “fair compromise that gives Willow Grove a new life and Parramatta a world-class museum”.

“Opponents fought hard, but now it’s time to get together and make this a museum for everyone.”

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