Saving the Historic Cricket Pitch

23 DEC 2020


ERF Hospice Foundation Ltd v Wingecarribee Shire Council [2020] NSWLEC 1604

A historic concrete cricket pitch in Bowral dating back to the 1890s has been saved after the Court dismissed ERF Hospice Foundation’s application to demolish and the pitch to make room for a seniors living development.

Adam Seton of our firm appeared as the advocate for the Council in the proceedings.

The historic cricket pitch was listed as an item of local heritage significance in the Council’s Local Environmental Plan due to its status as a remnant concrete pitch of its era and its association with the development of cricket as a recreational pastime in the region. It was also suggested that the pitch was possibly used by Sir Donald Bradman in his early playing years.

The historical significance of the pitch was disputed by the Applicant as they claimed there was not enough evidence to prove Bradman ever played on the pitch.

Commissioner Horton heard the appeal and relevantly said at paragraphs 39-42:

“39. Bowral is clearly proud of its association with the game of cricket. A particular focus of this association is the period of time spent by Bradman in Bowral, and his development as a cricketer of international acclaim.

40. The degree of association, if any, between Bradman’s school-aged years and the cricket pitch on the subject site is a matter of dispute. While the heritage experts are agreed that there is no definitive connection between the cricket pitch that is the subject of this appeal and Bradman, Mr Nick Corbett, in written submissions, sets out research he has undertaken on his own initiative and which he asserts is strongly suggestive of such a connection.

41. Mr Corbett identifies as a long-time resident of Bowral who undertook research on the cricket pitch as part of a graduate certificate in Natural Resource Management and which he considers to be grounded in primary sources.

42. In summary, Mr Corbett’s submission is that:

•The cricket pitch is significant for its association with cricket in Bowral, which is itself important in explaining the rise of Bradman as a world class cricketer from a country town.

•A number of cricket pitches were located in the Glebe, and there is evidence of multiple teams playing on multiple pitches simultaneously.

•The marks identified in the ‘Google earth aerial’ that appears in the joint expert report … are more likely to be remnant orchards or kitchen gardens associated with the St Jude’s Church than tennis courts which were located closer to Edward Street.

•The site was a thoroughfare for the young Bradman who attended the nearby school until 1922, and choir until 1923.”

In addition to containing the listed cricket pitch, the development site was situated within the Bowral Heritage Conservation Area.

The Commissioner ultimately concluded that the development application should be refused based on the unacceptable adverse impact of the proposed development on the Bowral Heritage Conservation Area as well as uncertain environmental impacts arising from proposed footpath and stormwater works within the road reserve.

In particular, the Commissioner found that the amount of hardstand proposed within the site was excessive, meaning the proposed development failed to complement and harmonise with the character and garden setting of the surrounding part of the Bowral Heritage Conservation Area.

The Commissioner also found that inadequate information had been put before the Court in relation to the design of the stormwater management system and footpath in the road reserve to enable him to be sufficiently certain about the likely environmental impacts of the development, including on significant mature street trees in the road reserve.

The Commissioner did not make a final determination on the effect of the proposed development on the heritage significance of the pitch having regard to his other findings but specifically noted that a direct connection to Don Bradman, if found, had the potential to indicate an under-estimation of the social significance of the cricket pitch.

The Applicant’s appeal was dismissed and the development application refused.

A copy of the Commissioner’s judgment can be accessed here.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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