Court heritage bid rejected
AFTER failing to secure National Heritage listing for Willow Court, the Derwent Valley Mayor is pondering whether to fight the federal government or demolish buildings on the site.
After more than three years of deliberation, the council received notice federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg had last week rejected the nomination.
Council-owned buildings on the site of the former asylum, Willow Court Barracks Precinct and Frescati House, were nominated by the council for national listing in February 2015.
Mayor Martyn Evans said the council was now in a bind after two costly attempts to find ways to preserve the buildings had failed.
There were no resolutions from a $60-80,000 expressions of interest process seeking adaptive reuses for the site, which ended in May.
Cr Evans said about $50,000 was spent on the nomination for National Heritage listing.
He said council would have to decide whether to spend more money on the fight for federal protection, or apply to have the buildings removed from the state heritage register.
Cr Evans said he was disappointed no state member for Lyons, except Craig Farrell, had made contact or expressed their disappointment at the heritage decision.
“I’ve had no phone call from the Heritage Minister [ Elise Archer] or even the Premier who looks after tourism,” he said. “Obviously they don’t care.
“If I was to put a request to remove it from the Heritage Council or Tasmanian Heritage, I wonder if they would just say yes or would they start treating it seriously then?
“Let’s just remove it [from the state heritage register] and we’ll demolish the amazing hedge structure that’s at the front of Frascati and put a carpark in there. Would that be OK?”
MLC Craig Farrell said he was surprised, shocked and disappointed at the results of the assessment.
“I look around at some of the other places that have been listed and think, what has this area done to upset someone?” Mr Farrell said.
Cr Evans said he was seeking to meet with state and federal ministers and Tasmanian Heritage Council chairwoman Brett Torossi to discuss options to appeal the heritage decision.
He said an appeal against the findings might mean a court case against the Federal Government.
“I’d hate to see the bill if you lost that case,” he said.
Cr Evans said maintaining Willow Court was a cost to ratepayers every year.
UTAS history professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart said National Heritage listing would have helped Willow Court, but would not have solved all of the site’s issues.
“Willow Court is one of a number of high-profile buildings which we’ve got to find some very clever way of confirming,” Prof Maxwell-Stewart said.
He said the issue was finding a sympathetic ongoing use for the Barracks building which generated sufficient revenue to conserve it.
“But it’s not going to be easy — it’s going be a struggle,” he said. “I’m surmising that one of the reasons the federal government was reluctant to list it was because once something goes onto a heritage list, it becomes beholden on government to dig deep into their pockets to make sure that it’s protected and preserved.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Environment and Energy said Mr Frydenberg had not visited Willow Court during the assessment process.