Developer Steve Grovac to buy controversial Sovereign Hill block

SOVEREIGN Hill is in the final stages of selling its 1.2-hectare block of land on the corner of Magpie and Bradshaw Streets to developer Steve Grovac after years of lobbying by residents to have it officially turned into a park. 

A source told The Courier developer Grovac Homes has purchased the land in a contract conditional on subdivision permits being issued by the City of Ballarat.

The land is zoned as Residential 1, which allows development subject to council permission for subdivisions.

The property is still listed online for sale by real estate agent PRDnationwide Ballarat for $1.15 million. 

Sovereign Hill CEO Jeremy Johnson described the sale as a “conditional land sale” but would not confirm the price. 

Steve Grovac, who specialises in building units, said “it’s a freehold piece of land” but would not comment further on his plans for the site. 

Magpie Street residents have called for the City of Ballarat to buy the land and keep it as a park since Golden Point Primary School was shut and it lost its educational zoning. 

The residents’ group, Friends of William Dunstan Reserve, has fought for the land – unofficially named after the Ballarat-born Victoria Cross winner – to stay public since Sovereign Hill first listed it for sale in 2012. 

“This is a site with crucial, pivotal, relations with Ballarat’s history.” - Peter Wills

Spokesman and chief organiser Peter Wills said it would be disastrous to develop the land because of its historical importance as the site of the Gold Commissioner’s camp in 1852, from where the government administered the goldfields. 

“This is a site with crucial, pivotal, relations with Ballarat’s history.” 

Councillor Belinda Coates has supported the group since it formed in 2012, and said it was important to consider the case for heritage protection. 

“(The group) is working hard to get the facts on the site. If they’re right, protection would have to be carefully considered,” she said.  

Mr Wills said the group would meet with Cr Coates, Cr Peter Innes and council officers to discuss the possibility of a compulsory acquisition. 

“It comes under the legislation for compulsory acquisition, because aside from the public interest in keeping it a park, it’s more important historically even than Sovereign Hill itself, he said.” 

There was a mine on the site until the 1920s, after which the government cut the top off the hill and left the block flat.

 Residents cleared the site for the use of the school as an oval in 1972. 

alex.hamer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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