A brief history of
The Paddington Society
The Paddington Society was founded in 1964 and remains to this day a vibrant and effective resident action group. It has often been stated that it was the first resident action group to have been formed in Australia. Its founding members were John Thompson as President, Pat Thompson, Don and Marea Gazzard, Viva Murphy and Sheila Rowan. As interest in the historical and aesthetic qualities of the area increased, so too did the need to protect it.
The stated aims of the Paddington Society were and are almost entirely concerned with preserving its environmental and social amenity, with a strong emphasis on conservation.
The Society was declared to be non-political and non-sectarian and has the following aims:
- The maintenance of all features of Paddington, having beauty, architectural and/or historical value
- The preservation of existing open spaces and for the increase in open spaces for the health and enjoyment of the community in general
- The maintenance of harmony with existing architectural patterns
where new buildings are constructed
- The prevention of disfigurement of premises, streets and open spaces by ugly advertisements, poles, wires and unseemly structures
- Protection of residents from noise and other nuisances detrimental to the quiet enjoyment of their homes.
- Protection and enhancement of the amenities of Paddington
- Assurance of the safety and convenience of cultural amenities of Paddington
- Encouragement of cultural activities
- Compilation and recording of the history of the area.
In its formative years the Society organised an effective and successful fight against the proposed Neild Avenue/Liverpool Street expressway. It obtained special protective zoning for North Paddington. This was later extended to south of Oxford Street as more and more terrace houses were threatened by development. It defended Centennial Park against the proposal to build a sports stadium in the park.
As early as 1965 the Paddington Society first came up with the idea of Paddington as a unique area, both architecturally and historically, and emphasised the need for it to be preserved and that Paddington be zoned as a Special Area of Outstanding Architectural and Historical Interest. However, in 1967 when the City Planning Scheme was exhibited, zoning was unchanged allowing high-rise low-cost building and alarmingly there were several road widening proposals including Jersey Road, an act which would have destroyed many terrace houses, as well as having a divisive effect on the whole suburb.
The Bunning Report - 1968. prepared by an independent commissioner was a positive result for the Society. Bunning recognised the merit of such proposals and recommended:
“That the Paddington Area, including West Woollahra, hounded by Ocean Street.the northern boundary of Moore Park Road, Oatley Road, Oxford Street to the eastern side of the new Barcom-Boundary road alignment and New South Head Road, should be declared a precinct of architectural merit.”
The Society started a vigorous campaign for a public enquiry into these proposals and formed the Paddington Society Special Area Committee. This dedicated team of experts with Don Gazzard at the helm produced a 57 page report in 1970. Paddington -A Plan for Preservation which was a milestone for planning for inner-city living.
In September 1970 the Minister for Local Government announced that Jersey Road would not be widened. The Paddington Society continues to be involved in an ever increasing number of activities on behalf of the community.
After it was sold, the oldest house in Paddington, Juniper Hall became the subject of many development applications. At this time the house was obscured from view, having a row of shops on its Oxford Street frontage. As a result of campaigns by the Friends of Juniper Hall and the Paddington Society, these development applications were refused by Woollahra Council. A permanent Conservation Order was placed on the building which effectively removed the matter from Council's jurisdiction.
It could be claimed that Juniper Hall was saved by a State election which produced a change of government. The new Premier of NSW. Neville Wran announced a Bicentennial grant of $750,000 to the National Trust which enabled them to buy Juniper Hall. The Trust was able to raise more funds, and with further contributions from Woollahra Council, a founding member of the Paddington Society and the Paddington Society itself. Juniper Hall was saved from becoming a shopping arcade.
The Paddington Society continues to be increasingly involved in monitoring developments that are seen to threaten the viability of Paddington as an historic suburb. Rather than diminishing in number, large developments applications are increasing. Earlier battles having been fought and won in no way decreases the activity and vigilance of the Society. History has taught us how little things change.
The Society has battled strong opposition over the years to save a row of cottages in Stafford Street. It was involved in discussion on the development of the Royal Hospital for Women site. The new park opened in 2005 on the Glenmore Road side of the development is a happy result of this involvement and of the Society's persistence to achieve a positive outcome for the community.
Other sites that have involved the society in discussions and the preparation of submissions are the Taxi Site in Glenmore Road, the Water Board Site in Moore Park Road, St John's Church development in Oxford Street, and of course the development of the Showground site by Fox.
Currently the proposed developments at White City, the Scottish Hospital site, the collapsed Reservoir in Oxford Street and impact of the Cross City Tunnel on through traffic flow, are major causes of activity and concern for the Society. Understanding complex development applications requires a great deal of effort on the part of committee and society members. We have learnt that each development has its own complexities, coming to grips with one does not ensure easy understanding of the next one. We are lucky in having a great deal of expertise to call on within the body of the Society.
History has taught us that we must remain ever vigilant.