The former Corrimal Cokeworks site will be officially heritage listed, highlighting its importance to Wollongong's industrial development and its role as the longest continuously operated coke works in NSW.
In a report to Monday night's meeting, Wollongong City Council has recommended councillors progress a planning proposal to list the north-east corner of the site as historically important, and have also flagged that it is likely to get a state heritage listing.
This means that the site's developers, the Illawarra Coke Company and Legacy Property, will be compelled to preserve or reinterpret parts of the remaining industrial structures as they move ahead with plans to build a 700-home development on the site.
The redevelopment has prompted significant community debate, with concerns raised over the housing estate's effects on heritage, environment, traffic and the character of Corrimal. Formal community consultation on the plan is yet to occur.
In May 2019, the developers went outside the council and gained private approval to knock-down structures on the site, prompting the council to obtain an interim heritage order to protect the old cokeworks.
This was then extended in October, with councillors saying company's decision to gain permission for demolition against the council's wishes was "totally unacceptable" and a breach of trust.
Liberal councillor Leigh Colacino said at the time that he believed the housing development could be an "exceptional opportunity" for the old industrial site, but said this could not come at the cost of the region's history.
"The cokeworks are not a fantastic cathedral or an old council building or state building. But they are the history we have that's still clinging on to existence," he said.
Defending their actions, the developers argued it "common practice" to obtain a broad demolition consent, and said their private certifier's approval was simply to provide them "flexibility" as the housing development progressed.
The also highlighted their safety concerns about the site, which has become run down and targeted by vandalism since the coke works closed.
The formal heritage listing will apply to a reduced area compared to the interim orders, but a larger area than that suggested by the developers.
It will cover the northern corner adjacent to Railway Street and the rail line, where the majority of the industrial activity occurred and structures are located.
Important structures identified by the heritage listing include the coal oven battery running adjacent to the rail line, the prominent brick chinmeny, and a 1912 remnant wall of the former powerhouse.
"The revised boundary captures the significant aspects of the site, including key historic, physical and visual connections between the site and the surrounding location, and importantly provides a fair and sound basis for future decision making in relation to the development on the site," the council said.
"It is not intended to prevent future development or the potential demolition of some of the components through a DA process, however, it does ensure that such development is appropriately designed and considered..."
According to the council report, the developers have committed to establish a height limit for new development that is lower than the brick chimney in the heritage area, and complete a photographic archival recording of the site to be submitted to the council prior to any demolition.
They will salvage a range of objects and materials (mainly bricks) from demolished structures to be used as part of future interpretation elements on site and use an appropriate palette of materials for new development within proximity to key heritage items.
They will also provide prominent views to and from the brick chimney and implement dust monitoring for the duration of demolition works.
If supported by councillors on Monday, the heritage planning proposal will be forwarded to the NSW Planning department for final sign off.