Historic Willow Grove faces renewed threat

Willow Grove site on August 11. Photo: Susan Price

The lifting of the pandemic ban on construction in Greater Sydney means that the historic Willow Grove villa is now under imminent threat.

The New South Wales government wants to remove the historic home to make way for the new Powerhouse Museum against the wishes of local residents, heritage experts, architects, advocates and unions.

Early on August 11, residents were told that vehicles had arrived on site and works had started in and around Willow Grove.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMEU)’s Green Ban still stands, however the ability to enforce it is severely hampered by the pandemic lockdown.

Parramatta is one of the eight Local Government Areas currently under tougher lockdown restrictions.

“The people of Parramatta want [NSW Premier] Gladys Berejiklian to listen to their wishes and preserve this unique piece of local cultural heritage. Instead, it appears she is preparing to send in the wrecking crew under the cover of COVID,” CFMEU NSW Construction Secretary Darren Greenfield said on August 11.

“You would think the state government and Infrastructure NSW have more than enough on their plates dealing with the COVID crisis and its impact on the community without kicking off a fight over Willow Grove.

“It’s a low act to move on Willow Grove right now.”

Greenfield called on the Premier not to “betray the Parramatta community under cover of COVID” and to “listen to the local community and save Willow Grove”.

The North Parramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG) has been leading the campaign to save historic site.

NPRAG argues that with a small redesign of the Powerhouse Museum development, the Italianate villa could be saved. Preserving the site and incorporating it into the new museum design would also cost the government a lot less than demolishing and relocating it.

NPRAG spokesperson Suzette Meade said: “With no public reports existing on how Willow Grove can even be relocated, or where or when it will ever see the light of day, it is completely outrageous that any works commence on this site at all.

“The community of Parramatta is passionate about their stories, their heritage, their trees and their green space — but they are all being rapidly erased by the government.

“The Premier should expect an equally passionate defence from the community to protect Willow Grove, with the support of the CFMEU Green Ban and its many, many supporters,” Meade said.

[To stay in touch with the campaign, follow the .]