Coptic Church “unsafe and unstable” says independent report

The NSW Government’s Public Works Advisory has confirmed that the former Coptic church in Sydenham is “is in very poor condition” and that a recent fire “has caused a significant further deterioration of the building stability and safety”.

The independent and expert report from the Director Engineering Emergency Management was provided to Council this week.

NSW Government’s Public Works agree with Inner West Council’s assessment that the building represents a serious public safety risk.

The report further notes that the building “has been vacant and largely unmaintained since approximately 1995” – six years before the Australian Government handed the deconsecrated and abandoned church over to Marrickville Council in 2001.

The site had been compulsorily acquired by the government because it lay directly under the flight path of the-then new third runway. The congregation moved to Bexley.

In 2015, Marrickville Council resolved to demolish after spending almost fifteen years trying to find a way to restore and reuse the building, including four Expressions of Interest, and several rounds of negotiations with the Coptic Orthodox Church.

All efforts to find an organisation that could take on the repairs (now estimated to be in excess of $5 million) failed.

No permanent Heritage Order has ever been made, and the Office of Environment and Heritage does not oppose demolition.

On Tuesday 2 May, a substantial fire in the southern corner of the building caused further significant damage.

Timely demolition is more critical than ever to ensure the safety of staff, contractors and pedestrians, said Administrator of Inner West Council Richard Pearson.

“It was fortunate that the recent fire resulted in no loss of life, injury or damage to adjacent properties.

“The fire has, however, made an already precarious building even more unsafe.

“It is the only responsible step is for Council to now move forward with the demolition of the building to ensure there is no risk of a further fire or collapse of the building.”

 

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Page last updated: 12 Nov 2018