Saturday, June 9, 2018

No news in Willow Court report

Deputy mayor Ben Shaw and mayor Martyn Evans on the
WIN TV News on Thursday night.
SPECULATION about a major redevelopment of the Willow Court historic site has been dismissed by Derwent Valley Council deputy mayor Ben Shaw.

Councillor Shaw, who yesterday announced his intention to run for mayor at this year's council election, said report broadcast on WIN News on Thursday night had been filmed weeks ago.

WIN TV newreader Brent Costello told viewers: "Speculation is mounting that New Norfolk's Willow Court is set for a $25 million redevelopment. The country's oldest running mental institution has been left untouched for 18 years, but there's talk international investors are about to give it, and the Derwent Valley community, a new lease on life."

Reporter Ainsley Koch referred to speculation that "Russian investors" were looking to turn the site around. Using the privately-owned buildings adjacent to the New Norfolk Woolworths as a backdrop, the news item combined aspects of three different development processes into one muddled story.

Mayor Evans featured prominently in the report but did not respond to the New Norfolk News' request for a statement about the alleged $25 million project. He told WIN News that Willow Court had been a millstone around the council's neck for 18 years, costing ratepayers "a couple of hundred thousand dollars" a year.

Deputy Mayor Shaw told the New Norfolk News that the WIN News report had been filmed three weeks ago. He believed that the reporter's interest had been piqued by Facebook speculation about the sale of privately-owned buildings centred around the Willow Court Antiques area. Cr Shaw said there was no basis to social media discussion that buildings in that section had been sold to a Korean church.

Cr Shaw said the three buildings featured in the WIN News report, often described as the "Oval Buildings" or the "Ellis Buildings", were also privately owned and had been in the hands of LJ Hooker Real Estate for some time. He said a firm offer is understood to have been made for those buildings, which was a good thing for the community. He did not believe the potential purchasers to be Russian.

In relation to the council-owned buildings on the site, Cr Shaw said an expression of interest process had recently concluded and a number of submissions had been reviewed. "A report to council is expected this month," Cr Shaw said, noting that this was likely to be tabled in a closed council meeting due to confidentiality.

Cr Shaw said he did not know the origin of claims by social media commentators that an announcement about property sales at Willow Court was to be made on June 7.

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