Endless holidays spent at White's Cottage, Byron Bay
Endless holidays spent at White's Cottage, Byron Bay

Beach shack demolition in millionaire's row put on hold

LATEST: DEMOLITION work on a historic beachside cottage in Byron Bay's dress circle location has been put on hold.

White's Cottage, which sits within Reflections caravan and camping area at Clarke's Beach, was scheduled for demolition on Monday.

Further investigations are to be undertaken after beach erosion of the dunes there in 2019 and this year under mined the cottage's foundations.

In a statement Reflections confirmed: "That advanced plans for an adaptive re-use of the White's Cottage were prepared in 2018 and that these plans included upgrading this cottage to holiday rental.

"Unfortunately, due to the effects of coastal erosion in February and again in July 2019 and as well as August 2020, there are genuine concerns as to the stability of the land on which the cottage stands.

"The cottage's historic foundations also make it more susceptible to movement on the loose sand and the risk of collapse in the event of further coastal erosion. 

"Our priority is now about protecting the environment in the event of further coastal erosion because the cottage cladding and internal walls comprise asbestos.

"We confirm that the proposed demolition works commencing 12 October have been placed on a temporary hold pending further consultation with relevant authorities around protection works of the coastline. 

"We will continue to monitor this building in its precarious location and remain ready to act quickly to reduce risk of environmental contamination in the event of further dune erosion.

"Reflections recognises the local heritage significance of White's Cottage and the connections people have to this special location. Consideration is being given to how to preserve and share the long history of holiday makers to this beautiful section of the Byron coastline."

 

Original story: A LITTLE slice of Byron Bay's beachside history is about to be destroyed unless a woman who spent idyllic summers holidaying at historic White's Cottage can win an 11th hour reprieve.

White's Cottage was built in the 1930s when sand mining became part of Byron Bay's industrial landscape.

But unlike the other trendy cabins and cottages dotted along Byron Bay's beachside foreshore, and rented out for thousands of dollars a week, White's Cottage has fallen into disrepair and is slated for demolition on October 12.

The cottage is within the boundary of the former Clarke's Beach Caravan Park, which is now part of Reflections, run by NSW Crown Holidays Parks.

 

A piece of Byron Bay history, White's Cottage.
A piece of Byron Bay history, White's Cottage.

 

Patricia Bryant, who spent idyllic days holidaying at the cottage as a child, is facing a "David and Goliath" battle to save the cottage from being torn down.

She has been lobbying various government agencies for several years to have the cottage refurbished and repurposed either as a museum or place to stay for disabled children.

It could even be renovated like the other ex-miner's cottages that dot the sand dunes between Clarke's Beach, The Pass and Wategos.

Thomson, Imeson, Mildenhall and Partridge cottages and Geoffs Shed are all within the Cape Byron State Conservation Area and are run by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

White's Cottage is outside that zone and seems not to enjoy any of its protection, although its heritage has been investigated and the cottage deemed 'rare'.

Ms Bryant's great aunt, Elizabeth White, built the cottage which is adjacent to up-market restaurant the Beach (formerly Clarke's Beach Cafe).

Elizabeth White, of Lismore, constructed the building as a holiday cottage in 1933 at a cost of 350 pounds, on a site, which was subject to a sand mining licence.

 

Aerial view of Byron Bay.
Aerial view of Byron Bay.

 

According to a heritage assessment, it became the permanent residence of Elizabeth White and her sisters Tossie and Gwendoline Willows. The place was modified to accommodate the needs of its three permanent 'spinster' residents.

In 1984 the deed of occupation of the cottage was transferred from Elizabeth White to

Gwendoline Willows, after the death of Miss White. This occurred at or around

the time that the permissive occupancy became the crown lease. Gwendoline Willows lived

in the place from about 1940 until 2000.

Patricia Bryant remembers spending wonderful school holidays at White's Cottage in a blissful period before Byron Bay became an international tourist destination.

"Our family knew Granny Clark well, a neighbour running a caravan park," she said.

"For us 'the aunts' hosted many extended family members for beachside school holidays.

"All of us are well acquainted with Byron changes, such as mining the sandhills, protecting the beach from cyclone ravages, the 'hippy' phase and whaling.

"We were not keen as children to partake in the walk to town through bandy bandy snake habitat, to purchase freshly made, hot, bread."

It seems initial enthusiasm by NSW Crown Holidays Parks to engage a heritage architect and renovate White's Cottage, waned after storm damage impacted on the sand dunes abutting the caravan park in 2019.

 

White's Cottage looking forlorn and awaiting demolition.
White's Cottage looking forlorn and awaiting demolition.

 

Indeed, there have been approvals in place for 12 months to demolish the building, but work has not been scheduled to commence until October 12.

So the countdown is on, and unless a reprieve can be won, White's Cottage will be bulldozed and this significant piece of Byron Bay's history lost forever.

Reflections have been contacted for comment on this story.


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