Anglican Church puts CBD property Bishopscourt on market

THE Anglican Diocese of Newcastle has officially put its inner-city estate Bishopscourt on the market despite renewed efforts from opponents to save it from sale.

The 4130-square-metre residence in Brown Street had previously housed the city’s successive Anglican bishops until current bishop Greg Thompson chose to settle elsewhere.

Advertisements for the grand property appeared in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald with expressions of interest being called through Walkom real estate.

The Herald understands the property will fetch upwards of $4.75 million, but any sale could be hindered by new moves to have an interim heritage order placed on the property.

The church, including Bishop Thompson and Assistant Bishop Peter Stuart, maintain that Bishopscourt had become too costly to maintain and its sale would generate enough funds to buy a more modest residence for the Bishop as well as fund other church operations.

But the impending sale is continuing to cause dissent among some churchgoers who say the church is selling a valuable asset and may ‘‘fritter away’’ the proceeds.

Further, the opponents argue that the land was originally gifted to the diocese for use as a Bishop’s residence ‘‘for all time’’.

In an email sent to Bishop Thompson on Friday, William Scott, Robert Caddies, David Stewart and Laurie Tabart questioned the church’s decision to sell a gift against what they say were the donor’s intentions. Additionally, they say part of the site was sold in 1996 to create a trust that would fund the upkeep of Bishopscourt without the need to sell it.

The church maintains the sale is supported by a majority within the diocese, including Synod and the Diocesan Council.

Assistant Bishop Stuart said the diocese had been ‘‘diligent and steadfast in dealing with’’ the complex legal framework and its own ordinances.

He agreed that the property was donated to the diocese on the condition  it be used to house the Bishop, but said he strongly believed the donor, if she were alive, would be ‘‘very pleased’’ that proceeds from the sale of that gift were still being used to house the Bishop and meet the modern challenges faced by the church.

He acknowledged the ‘‘passionate concern’’ among objectors, but said he was unaware of moves to have an interim heritage order placed on the property. The impact of such an order, he said, is ‘‘beyond my field of expertise’’.

In regards to the trust established from the sale of part of the land in 1996, Assistant Bishop Stuart said the trust still existed but does not earn enough to cover Bishopscourt’s maintenance costs.

Currently, the seven-bedroom, four-bathroom Bishopscourt is not heritage listed but parts of its grounds are. The application for an interim heritage order on the building does not specifically seek to protect the heritage value of its architecture, but its cultural and historical significance to the city.

Expressions of interest in the property close on May 11.