The natural beauty, vistas, architecture and historic context of Berrima are subject to a variety of potential and present threats.
The greatest threat to Berrima is inappropriate development. This would permanently compromise Berrima’s unique heritage significance as the only settlement in Australia that dates from colonial Georgian times that did not develop into a major town as did Campbelltown in NSW, also laid out by Robert Hoddle, and Richmond and Longford in Tasmania.
The original Berrima town plan reflects pre-industrial thinking – a sparse settlement pattern within the village, dominated by long half acre allotments.
These allotments envisaged houses placed at the front, creating a vibrant village street life, with sufficient room at the rear for a stable, cow shed and fruit and vegetable production.
This need for self-sufficiency reflected the relative isolation of the village, being two days coach ride from Sydney.
The countryside surrounding the village was rural bushland, one of the remaining and protected characteristics of the village.
In recent times there have been developer driven pressures for multi-occupancy subdivisions of the half acre allotments, proposals for significant housing developments on the edge of the village, spot rezoning to create new housing entitlements, strata titled townhouse developments along the river, and most recently pressure to merge New Berrima with the Colonial Georgian village by substantial land releases for housing developments.
These pressures have been successfully resisted, as the local, State and federal governments recognised that Berrima is the only intact colonial Georgian village where visitors can experience the town plan, substantial civic buildings – the Berrima Gaol and Courthouse – colonial dwellings, historic churches, inns and commercial buildings all largely “frozen in time”.
After 11 years of determined community opposition, the South Korean owned Hume Coal project was finally rejected by the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) in late 2021. The project would have seen a new underground coal mine being developed about 5km south of the village. The IPC determined that the project would damage the surrounding landscape from the depletion of groundwater thus adversely affecting the significant cultural landscape of the Berrima, Sutton Forest and Exeter Areas, recognised by the National Trust as an area of State Heritage significance.
The current major threat to Berrima is the potential for Berrima Gaol to be bought by a developer who would want to develop the site for housing or as an exclusive hotel or major commercial space. On 18 October 2021, the NSW Government called for Expressions of Interest to purchase the free-hold of the site.
The Association has developed a ‘vision’ for the site that respects the history of the site and its location in Berrima. The site would be re-purposed as a significant cultural and tourism asset for the Southern Highlands community. Details of the ‘vision’ have been posted progressively on the HOME PAGE on this website.
All the other settlements to the west, and south of Sydney have been absorbed into the greater Sydney metropolitan area. As a living memory of the earliest colonial period, Berrima constitutes a heritage treasure worth fighting for. The Southern Highlands is a unique rural, residential, tourism and recreational area, 125 km south of Sydney. It forms a vital part of the Sydney water catchment area.
The Residents Association believes that the most effective way to protect Berrima unique heritage significance is to demand that Wingecarribee Shire Council strictly enforce its own planning rules as set out in the:
- Wingecarribee Local Environment Plan (WLEP 2010)
- Berrima Development Control Plan (Berrima DCP 2010)
- Wingecarribee 2031 Community Strategic Plan
- Wingecarribee 2040 Local Strategic Planning Statement
- Wingecarribee Shire Council Local Housing Strategy