Borough of Queenscliffe CEO Martin Gill revealed Council had been unable to meet redevelopment milestones set out by Regional Development Victoria (RDV) as part of a $600,000 funding agreement, because of delays in obtaining heritage, coastal and cultural planning approvals.
The redevelopment was to have included removal of all but one of the huts. Council will now seek to have project timelines re-adjusted.
“The timing of that [RDV] agreement required some milestones to be met early this year. Those milestones cannot be met due primarily to the approvals processes that we were going through and some advice from the cultural heritage management plan work that there are parts of the site that should not be disturbed for sub-surface testing,” Mr Gill told the April Council meeting.
“In receiving that information, Council officers realised that not only did we need to think about the milestones, but we should also have a think about how we amend the activities that are part of that grant agreement.
“We’re recommending a change to the the grant agreement that would include the P1 huts as a project - to record those, remove asbestos and… for want of a better term, to mothball them until we can work out what the future of those should be,” Mr Gill said.
Under the redevelopment plan approved in January 2019, all but MacDonalds Hall - the biggest of the four - was to be removed. The proposal also included paths, landscaping, a ship spotting platform, barbecue amenities.
However, a subsequent Heritage Victoria decision to formally recognise the site’s heritage and cultural assets - renaming it the Point Lonsdale Maritime and Defence Precinct - committed the Council to having to undertake extensive planning investigations before any works could commence.
As a result of the missed milestones, Councillors unanimously voted to amend the current plan.
Cr Susan Salter, who was part of the 2019 Council that approved the huts’ removal, described the process as long and convoluted.
“The Victorian Government heritage listing extends all the way up to Winterley Road, so it is a much larger space than it used to be and of course in passing this, we are rescinding the motion of 2019… we’re tidying up quite a lot of work within our own historical records I guess.”
The Federal Government is still considering an application for the reserve to also be included on the National Heritage List - a move that would add even further protections from development.
“I think it’s really important at this stage that we improve this precinct with the allocated funding, providing RDV does agree to the proposed redirection for some of the activities,” said Cr Michael Grout. “But in particular, I think we really do need to better secure and preserve the heritage of the P1 huts so that the unsightly temporary fencing can be removed.”
The State Government, through RDV, has committed $500,000 to the redevelopment. A Council spokesperson said discussions were underway with RDV to vary the grant agreement.
"Interim reserve works would include removing asbestos from the huts, ensuring they are structurally sound and re-cladding them in a material similar to the original, he said.
The P1-style huts were erected as part of a Defence camp in the early 1940’s. They were later taken over by the Toc H benevolent group to provide holiday accommodation and activities for children of war veterans.
Council erected fencing around the buildings in March 2017, after a fifth hut was destroyed in an arson attack and to prevent gatherings of young people.