A proposal to turn a listed heritage home into a new school in the northern Sydney suburb of Hornsby is facing objections from local residents as well as the local council.

After purchasing the Mount Errington house in 2019, Best Practice Education Group (BPEG), a not-for-profit community body decided to adapt the use of the Federation-style heritage home into a small preschool and primary school called Blue Gum Community School to accommodate 80 pupils and nine staff. When BPEG lodged plans with Hornsby Shire Council for the adaptive reuse of the property, residents and the local council raised concerns that the proposal would impact the site’s heritage value.

Hornsby Conservation Society, a local heritage conservation group, described the planned adaptive reuse of the 1897-built Mount Errington house as “totally inappropriate”. BPEG plans to modify the home’s interiors to incorporate three preschool classrooms and five general learning areas, while the grounds would be developed to accommodate car parking and drop-off areas.

Though the proposal has received support from the NSW Department of Planning, the local Hornsby council fears that it could have an “unreasonable and adverse impact on several significant heritage elements”. BPEG’s proposal has now been referred to the Independent Planning Commission following receipt of more than 50 submissions against the plan.

Objections are also being raised to BPEG’s plans to cut down about 40 trees on the property, some of which are more than 100 years old, according to the conservation group. Though the Hornsby Shire Council believes that the adaptive reuse of the property as a school could potentially assist with the long-term conservation of the heritage home, they have expressed concern about the need to cut down trees as well as make changes to the balcony, which could impact the heritage significance.

Described as an excellent example of Federation Arts and Crafts Style architecture, Mount Errington not only features in the local council’s heritage listing but also on the Register of National Trust (NSW).

A final decision on BPEG’s proposal is expected this month.

Image Credit: NSW Planning Department