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Tight Lips Are Raising Eyebrows On Bronte Road

By Sarah Healey on September 28, 2011 in News

Photo: Grant Brooks

Surely Bronte residents have become sick and tired of scratching their heads for eight long years, trying to ascertain what the future holds for the unoccupied building at 363-367 Bronte Road which was once the Loreto Nursing Home for the Aged.

Walking past the site now you would think that it belonged in a ghost town, with vandals using its façade as a canvas for their graffiti ‘art’ and window-smashing escapades. Squatters have also been sighted on the derelict premises, causing safety concerns for nearby residents. A fence was erected recently to prevent trespassers from entering the site but the illusive owners haven’t visited the property since. The million-dollar question now is, who actually owns the site?

In February 2003 the nursing home closed and the only recorded activity since was the lodgement of a development application to Waverley Council in 2008 for a new residential aged care facility. The applicant had proposed two towers of four and five stories each along with car parking for 51 vehicles.

There was opposition to the application, as residents raised concerns that it was an overdevelopment that was “not giving a thorough consideration to the needs of the people to be housed there and the type of facility they would need”. According to those in opposition it would result in parking congestion, and noise and traffic issues in a street where many buildings are heritage listed. The applicant subsequently chose to withdraw the proposal.

Trying to find the current owners of the site has been like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The Beast contacted numerous organisations believed to be involved, but they have either denied ownership or were unavailable for comment. The minutes of Bronte Beach Precinct Meeting of April 2010 stated that the site was sold to Moran Health Care Group, but when contacted they denied any knowledge of it. And so the mystery deepens.

According to Waverley Council spokesperson Danielle Lee-Ryder, “Since the withdrawal of the previous 2008 application, we have not had any discussions with the site owner about any future development.”

When Lee-Ryder was asked about the squatters, she stated, “We have had no recent complaints regarding squatters. If residents are concerned they should call our rangers so we can follow it up, or call the police if they feel they are in any danger.”

Bronte residents can rest easy then, it seems. Apparently living near an abandoned building for eight years is just what some people have to put up with.

With council’s tight-lipped attitude becoming increasingly agitating, the investigation seemed to be a lost cause. Then a Bronte local suggested we contact Mary Immaculate Church in Waverley. Was this our Holy Grail? The church confirmed that they were indeed the owners of the site. However, the only person available to comment on the future of the site was Father Nick Lucas and he was on holidays and unavailable to talk.

Locals are clearly frustrated. Most don’t care whether the site is turned back into a nursing home or if apartments are erected, as long as its historic architectural integrity is maintained and there is enough room on the property for a simple garden to grow, in keeping with the aesthetics of the area.

As one resident pointed out, “The last thing we need is a set of townhouses that takes up all the land with no one planting a single tree.”

It seems as though we’ll have to keep watching this space.