The Borough of Queenscliffe is preparing to have detailed plans of the project drafted however The Rip understands key players, including the Port Phillip Sea Pilots and Channels Authority, are yet to be advised.
Former Victorian Channels Authority CEO Michael Dowling described the lack of consultation as “mind-blowing” given the navigational importance of the Bluff.
“It’s just amazing that you can have a supposedly consulting process yet you don’t speak to the key players,” he said.
“There’s one reason that there hasn’t been development in and around the lighthouse and that’s because it’s totally inappropriate … to come up with an idea and then fail to consult with the people that have a real interest in this type of stuff is just amazing,” he said.
Mr Dowling was also founding Chairman of the Victorian Regional Channels Authority (VRCA) and is a director of a London based shipping group.
The federal Government has contributed $3.5 million towards the development – part of a larger $7 million Destination Queenscliff Tourism Strategy aimed at increasing visitation to the fort precinct.
A Council spokesperson said it was premature to talk to maritime organisations until plans were completed.
“It is anticipated the detailed design tender will be advertised in April or May. This will seek tender proposals from suitably qualified and experienced architects and landscape designers. Once detailed designs are prepared to support a planning permit application, this will be advertised and the community will have the opportunity to review plans and provide a formal submission,” she said.
“Shortland’s Bluff already includes a dedicated car park, a kiosk and a maritime lookout for public use. The site has a footprint of former residential buildings which is captured in the concept plan.”
The cabins would sit behind the 170-year old lighthouse and two navigational towers and could, according to Mr Dowling, impede views of the rear black lighthouse.
“It’s a housing development, that’s exactly what it is and vehicles travelling in out of there would cause great confusion and if you have a look at the site, you have to look through the white lighthouse to the Black lighthouse …why would you want to look through a residential development to see where your bearings are, it’s pretty extraordinary."
The controversial proposal, initially for six single level eco-cabins, was rejected by the community in a 2014 community survey, but supported by the then Council.
Meanwhile the borough has dismissed the concerns of a growing list of local accommodation providers who fear the cabin development would provide unfair competition to their businesses.
“Council has received one enquiry from a local accommodation provider. If any other accommodation owners have any concerns, Council will respond and is willing to meet and discuss any concerns,” the spokesperson said.
“The proposed eco cabins provide a different accommodation option then what is currently available within the Borough. It gives visitors the option for group accommodation and a different experience to what is currently available.”
A letter from the Department of Land, Water and Planning, cited by The Rip, said Council raised the possibility of exploring accommodation options when management of the site was transferred in 2012 however any development would be subject to Coastal Management Act provisions.