In the 1830s, Parramatta was home to what was called the Female Factory.
The factory housed women who had lost their employment, who had become pregnant out of wedlock, and even those who needed to be ‘‘punished’’.
Among the buildings that remain within the heritage precinct are dormitories that housed these women cast off by society.
As historian Babette Smith told a crowd gathered last Saturday to protest against what they called a fast-tracked plan to develop Parramatta, the site saw immense tragedy in those early years of Sydney’s settlement.
‘‘It would be yet another tragic outcome for these buildings if they are just presented as artefacts with a development beside them,’’ Ms Smith said.
Held by the North Parramatta Residents Action Group, Saturday’s meeting called on the NSW government to ‘‘press pause’’ on its North Parramatta Urban Renewal Transformation plan.
The plan aims to create a ‘‘new, vibrant hub’’ in Parramatta North that will restore heritage buildings, deliver 4100 new homes, create 4000 new jobs, and ‘‘improve connections’’ between the Parramatta CBD and Westmead.
But concerned residents said the period for submissions on the plan gave them too little time to view about 2500 pages of information.
Given the plan’s impact on the history of the area and the people who live there, they are asking for a further six months to consult with the public about the project.
NSW Labor MP for Toongabbie Nathan Rees told the crowd that because the site was ‘‘hidden away’’ it ‘‘lends itself to more thorough consultation on the project’’.
‘‘The motivation for all of us is to look after these buildings,’’ Mr Rees said.
The Greens candidate for Parramatta Phil Bradley said the plan would be an ‘‘over-development’’ and needed to be downscaled to preserve the heritage of the area.
‘‘We need a guarantee leading into the election,’’ Mr Bradley said.
‘‘You have an opportunity here to have a very say in this and I encourage you to do so.’’
NSW MP for Parramatta Geoff Lee heard from concerned residents before stating he would ask NSW Minister for Planning Pru Goward to ‘‘press pause’’ on the plan.
‘‘It’s not my decision,’’ Dr Lee said.
‘‘I have to ask the minister. I commit to supporting its national heritage listing and its world-status listing so that we can freeze it ... so that for future generations we preserve this wonderful precinct.’’