MONTHLY tours of the council-owned section of the Willow Court historic site could start as soon as September following a near-unanimous decision of the Derwent Valley Council tonight. In the same week as it was announced that the site had been refused entry on the National Heritage List, the council has delegated control over tours, themed events and internet communications to the Friends of Willow Court Special Committee.
Ratepayers will fund the cost of portable toilets and site clean-ups prior to each tour, including mowing and weeding. The Friends of Willow Court committee will assist with the clean-ups and will operate a booking and payment system as well as setting up a Facebook page and website for promotional purposes. The committee has also been granted permission to conduct tours on demand.
In a report to tonight's meeting, regional development officer Jess Dallas said the Friends of Willow Court had participated in a number of events at Willow Court since 2012 and had provided tours for various groups and individuals. "Friends of Willow Court have undertaken research and training in order to make certain that the information they provide is professional, historically accurate and based on contemporary tour practices," Ms Dallas said.
Friends of Willow Court chairman and recently-elected councillor Anne Salt last month provided the council with a written proposal requesting approval from the council to operate a Facebook page and website to advertise its events for approval to run a series of events at Willow Court.
The Facebook page and website were approved at staff level, and Ms Dallas recommended that councillors approve the request to run tours and special events. She said discussions would be held to ensure that the Friends of Willow Court committee's access to the site does not clash with other activities previously approved by the council.
"[The] Friends of Willow Court have requested that the council provide some support for the proposed events," Ms Dallas said in her report. "This includes clean up of wards, general ground maintenance and the provision of porta-loos and tables and chairs. If endorsed by the council the costs associated with the provision of these requests can be accommodated within the council’s budget allocation to Willow Court.
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When the Friends of Willow Court proposal came up for discussion at tonight's meeting, Cr Salt said she had declared an interest in the matter but it was not a pecuniary interest and she would not be leaving the room. Cr Salt remained silent during the brief discussion that followed and then abstained from voting, which is recorded as a "no" vote.
Cr Frank Pearce serves as the council representative on the Friends of Willow Court committee and said it had been providing tours on an ad hoc basis for some time. He said there would need to be a discussion about the cost of access to the site. Deputy mayor Ben Shaw said the proposal was a great step forward for the Friends of Willow Court but pointed out that other interested parties had been required to pay for access according to the established schedule of fees and this should apply to the Friends of Willow Court as well.
Councillors voted 7-1 in favour of the recommendation, including an additional clause that the committee be required to pay for site access in accordance with the fee schedule.
PROPOSED EVENTS AND DATES
History tours on the first Sunday of the month (September 2, October 7, November 4, December 2, January 6, February 3, March 3, April 7, May 5 and June 2), 90 minutes duration, from 10am-4pm, entry $20 per adult, $5 per child
Themed events: Meet the Matron/Tea and Charity with high tea (October 6); International Day of Persons with Disabilities Human Rights Day (December 1&2); Women of the Willows (March 29-31); National Trust Heritage Month including Meet the Matron/Tea and Charity with high tea (May 13); times and prices not stated.