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Urrbrae gatehouse to be moved - not demolished

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BREAKING: The historic Urrbrae gatehouse will be dismantled and rebuilt nearby rather than being bulldozed for a road upgrade, the State Government has announced after bowing to months of community protest.

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Urrbrae gatehouse campaign

The University of Adelaide says it’s “pleased that the State Government has decided to take responsibility” for the gatehouse, but campaigners say it’s “not an ideal heritage solution”.

Transport Minister Corey Wingard revealed a short time ago that the government had “come to an agreement” with the University of Adelaide to decommission, rebuild and repurpose the 130-year-old state heritage-listed building.

Wingard said the building would be pulled down and moved hundreds of metres from the corner of Cross and Fullarton roads to be rebuilt at a new site on Claremont Avenue, at the southern end of the university’s Waite campus.

He said the university had proposed the new location for the gatehouse and would fund an interior restoration “so that the building can serve a useful purpose for future generations”.

The gatehouse sits on the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus and is linked to its Urrbrae House historic precinct.

It was last year slated for demolition by Wingard and the Transport Department as part of a $61 million intersection upgrade – despite advice that it was possible to move the building.

The university had vowed to fight the land takeover and demolition by pursuing its “legal rights under the compulsory acquisition process” – and was considering an offer from the State Government to move the building itself, despite describing it as “passing the buck”.

The government had offered the university $2 million it had set aside for state heritage projects – in addition to about $2 million in compensation it would receive through the acquisition process – to move the gatehouse.

Transport Department chief executive Tony Braxton-Smith this morning told a parliamentary committee a decision on the gatehouse was “imminent”.

Shortly after, Wingard announced the government would proceed with its compulsory acquisition of land on the university’s Waite campus and would pay for the building to be decommissioned and rebuilt on Claremont Ave.

“We have acknowledged the feedback from the community and from the University and I am pleased to say we have come to a decision that will save the Gatehouse,” he said.

“We made the tough call that attempting to move the Gatehouse in one piece was too risky, as with such an old building, there was a real possibility it would crumble during the process.

“The University also agrees that moving the building in its entirety was not straightforward or without significant financial risk.

“This solution also means we save 18 homes and trees with heritage or scientific significance from demolition.

“Importantly, we can also get on with the job of upgrading this dangerous intersection to improve safety and traffic flow for the thousands of motorists who use it every day.”

Local independent MP Sam Duluk said “today’s announced brick-by-brick deconstruction and re-construction of the Gatehouse, is not an ideal heritage solution, but positively, will continue to see the Gatehouse have a presence at the Waite Arboretum for the benefit of the community”.

“My community has strongly opposed the demolition of the Waite Gatehouse,” he said.

“Over the last five months we have held two public rallies and collected over 8,000 petition signatures which will be presented to Parliament protesting the demolition of the Gatehouse.

“I will continue to work with the community to fight for heritage preservation by presenting the ‘Save the Gatehouse’ petition to Parliament and seek additional legislative measures to strengthen State heritage.”

A spokesperson for the University of Adelaide said the university was “pleased that the State Government has decided to take responsibility for relocating the Gatehouse”.

“We have recommended a preferred relocation site that will enhance the building’s integration into activities on campus,” the spokesperson said.

“In addition, we have agreed to refurbish the interior of the Gatehouse.

“The Gatehouse was once the home of the Head Gardener of the Urrbrae property. In its new location, it will become home to the many volunteers who are the backbone of support for the Waite Arboretum and its unique gardens.

“We expect this to be a positive outcome for our community.”

The spokesperson said the university had “from the start, expressed its opposition to the acquisition of Waite campus land”.

“Our preference has always been and remains for the Waite campus land and the Gatehouse to remain untouched and intact,” the spokesperson said.

“As the landowner, we have through a formal process objected to the compulsory acquisition.

“While the State Government has formally acknowledged the University’s concerns, it has rejected our representations and will compulsorily acquire the land.

“The State Government has responsibility for the future of the heritage-listed Gatehouse building.

“Notwithstanding our opposition to and disappointment with the compulsory acquisition of the Waite land, we are pleased that the Gatehouse will continue to have a place at the Waite campus, and that it will become a useful, useable space for generations to come.”

Wingard did not reveal details of the cost of pulling apart and relocating the gatehouse but Braxton-Smith this morning told the Budget and Finance Committee an estimated cost would be about $2.5 million.

Braxton-Smith said “we are progressing with a party who has recent relevant experience” in rebuilding and an “indicative cost” to do so with the gatehouse was “in the order of $2.5 million”.

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