ONE of Parramatta’s most iconic historical sites is being prepared for sale by the state government, according to the authority managing the site.
An internal government newsletter published last month stated Parramatta jail was being readied for sale by the State Property Authority.
‘‘The SPA is applying its specialist property skills to the unique challenges of managing an old and unusual property: the now-closed Parramatta Gaol,’’ the letter stated.
‘‘The SPA has taken on the management of the property while preparing it for sale and is meeting the challenges presented by a site of such age and scale.’’
The monthly online newsletter Tenant Talk ‘‘is intended for NSW Government agencies which are clients of the State Property Authority’’, its website states.
Federal Parramatta MP Julie Owens said the letter confirmed the state government wanted to off-load the iconic sandstone property.
‘‘This, of course, is very worrying,’’ she said. ‘‘Because we’ve had indications from the Premier, Barry O’Farrell, that a proper plan of management would be developed for [Parramatta’s heritage sites] and this [sale] indicates that Parramatta jail will not be included. It’s a bit suspicious.’’
Ms Owens said recent actions by the O’Farrell government had made heritage advocates anxious.
An overhaul of heritage planning meant state assets with heritage significance were asked to be transferred over to the National Heritage List.
Ms Owens said Parramatta’s Female Factory Precinct had been left off that list by the state government.
She said heritage protection was vital for the colonial-era sites because Parramatta was hot property for developers.
‘‘There are probably a few years left of this state government and we have a very pro-development council so we have four very dangerous years ahead of us,’’ she said.
‘‘If all you care about is development it does affect how you deal with development planning around heritage.
‘‘Development planning should be affected by heritage because we have some of the most significant heritage sites in the country. We’re lucky to have them.
‘‘They’re assets, not a hinderance.’’
In August, the premier told a forum in Parramatta his government would develop a masterplan that could leverage up to $1billion from the city’s many historical sites.
‘‘Parramatta is the centre of much of Australia’s European and commercial history,’’ he said.
‘‘So I’m delighted to tell you that we’ve given the green light to developing a masterplan for public-owned sites in Parramatta, a move which will maximise the area’s heritage, social and cultural spaces and inject over $1billion into the precinct.
‘‘The masterplan will specifically guide the strategic development of this important precinct.’’
Parramatta state MP Geoff Lee has said he supports the ‘‘adaptive re-use’’ of sites such as the Female Factory and jail.
Using the circa-1800s buildings for commercial purposes, as cafés, restaurants and galleries, was the best way to fund their conservation, he has said.
Mr Lee was not available for comment today on the prospect of Parramatta jail being sold.
Parramatta Lord Mayor John Chedid also could not be contacted for comment.
Parramatta jail is the oldest jail in Australia, built between 1837 and 1843, and the site was used as a jail from 1798 until late last year.