A bitter neighbourhood stoush has erupted in a tight-knit Aussie community over one man's plans to build his ultimate "dream home", metres away from a historic 200-year-old cemetery.
Residents in Maitland, in the NSW Hunter Valley, claim that council has failed to protect the centuries-old piece of history, allowing local man Michael Hall to build what he says is his "dream retirement home" directly beside Glebe Cemetery.
Hall remains adamant that the home — which is about 15 metres from the nearest grave, and is already halfway through construction — has strictly adhered to building and planning laws and, is determined to see the project followed through.
Community feud erupts
But others, including another local Joshua Bower, say given the area's cultural significance, and metres beneath the ground lies the final resting place of Maitland's first settlers, there should have been a "buffer zone" in place, protecting the immediate vicinity around the graves from developments.
"I don't know how they approved it... it should never have been approved," Bower told Nine News.
Though Heritage NSW said it was not aware of any discovery of historic burials associated with the construction, and Maitland Council agreed that it was satisfied the build had complied with all approvals and conditions — people in the community remain less than impressed.
Historian Peter Fox, a former detective, is one of these people.
"To actually build the fence line when some of theses graves are only 18 inches from the fence is beyond my comprehension to figure out how a council could permit that, knowing its history and its significance," Fox said.
"I don't blame them, they bought the block of land, it's not their fault and I'm not being critical of them."
Hall's lot sits on a patch of land known as Maher's Paddock. It was subdivided in July 2014 and a month prior, a conservation management plan — prepared by Maitland Council — recommended there be a 35-metre buffer zone to protect possible unrecorded burials outside the cemetery.
"There's multiple reports both commissioned by council and (conducted) by council all saying that there should be a buffer zone on this side of the cemetery," Fox said.
Unaware of such reports, Hall said his build is a "legal development" and will get finished.
"This is a legal development, right, we bought a block of land, and now look what happened," he said.
"You can see the white peg, so that's the start of the boundary, and that's the end of the cemetery.
"The house is going to get built, I'm going to live here cause I want to live here. There was no undisturbed graves, there was no unmarked graves that we were made aware of."
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