THE owners of the controversial former Ballarat Orphanage site have hit out at the City of Ballarat, asking why councillors don’t support the development of a proposal backed by peak statutory bodies.
Labelling the site an eyesore and comparing its uncertain future to the Civic Hall, part-owner Gerard Cosgrave said the proposed development had become a debacle, slamming the council for its reluctance to build on the dilapidated site.
Mr Cosgrave purchased the site in 2011 and said it was unprecedented for a local council to vote against Heritage Victoria and the State Planning Board.
He was reluctant to comment on a recent Victoria Police search of the site for the bodies of former residents. But he said there was now nothing stopping council from backing his development.
“The first and foremost priority is the need to address the derelict condition of the site and its buildings,” he said.
“We are extremely disappointed in the deterioration to date ... after several attempts to discuss the issue with the City of Ballarat, we were denied approval to erect appropriate fencing and security at the time of purchase back in 2011 for fear of providing a false impression to the general public that a major development approval had already been given.”
Mr Cosgrave said it was “ironic” the council then demanded the erection of security fencing two years later, long after there had been considerable vandalism at the site.
“Disappointed with the lengthy process it has taken thus far to rezone and obtain approval for development of a supermarket, medical centre and residential housing, it is important to note that developers have agreed to meet all statutory planning and legal requirements made and endorsed by heritage experts such as Lovell Chen, State Planning Board, Heritage Victoria and qualified council-employed officers within the City of Ballarat,” he said.
“However, local councillors of Ballarat have decided not to support the informed recommendations from government bodies and expert advisers, with developers now seeking support from the City of Ballarat CEO and state government MPs to ensure the matter is resolved in a timely manner in accordance with state planning recommendations previously obtained.”
City of Ballarat general manager of city strategy Natalie Reiter said council accepted most of the recommendations adopted last August, but rejected part of the amendment to demolish the rear of the school house and part of a wall along Stawell Street.