The group last year lodged a formal expression of interest with the Derwent Valley Council for use of council-owned sections of the Willow Court site, but no news of its progress was revealed until last month's council meeting in a report from regional development officer Jess Dallas.
Ms Dallas said the Friends of Willow Court expression of interest (EOI) had been assessed by a panel of councillors and referred to a closed council meeting held on June 21 last year. "Following the meeting, Friends of Willow Court was advised of the decision of the council which included that the Friends of Willow Court were to provide the council with a framework to develop the concepts provided in the EOI. The decision also noted the council was not prohibited from exploring opportunities from developers who may approach with unsolicited proposals," Ms Dallas said in her written report.
"On Thursday, 9 May 2019, Dr Helen Norrie from the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Tasmania presented a proposal to the council on behalf of the Friends. The proposal outlined the vision that the Friends of Willow Court have for the precinct. Friends of Willow Court have sought the permission of the council to present that document, Willow Court Future Vision ...TRACES... to the community, heritage and government," Ms Dallas said.
"The original EOI document contained a provision stating that any proponent making a submission during the EOI process must seek the written permission of the council prior to making a public disclosure about their submission. This provision and other confidentiality provisions were included to ensure that commercial-in-confidence and other confidential information was protected.
"As a product of the confidentiality clauses contained within the EOI documentation, the Friends of Willow Court are of the opinion that they have not had the same opportunities to discuss their proposal as other unsolicited proposals received outside the EOI process have had the opportunity to seek the view of the public."
Ms Dallas recommended that councillors permit the Friends of Willow Court to present their proposal to the public, and this was moved by Cr Martyn Evans and seconded by Cr Julie Triffett. Cr Rachel Power said the Friends of Willow Court had given a great presentation and had put together a lot of really good information. "I am looking forward to seeing a bit more about the costings and a bit more of a progression of that into what we sort of expect from an EOI," she said. The motion was carried unanimously, with the exception of Cr Anne Salt, secretary of the Friends of Willow Court, who had declared an interest and left the room.
With permission to go public, the Friends of Willow Court gave the first of several private briefings on May 20, and on May 24 issued a statement advising of a public meeting to be held on June 5.
"Friends of Willow Court recently presented their vision for the Future of Willow Court to the Derwent Valley Council," Cr Salt said in the press release. "This response to the council’s call for expressions of interest involves a staged plan for a community-led long-term vision for the site, through a collaboration with the Derwent Valley Arts.
"It includes the development of community spaces, with a balance of community and commercial leases, and a governance structure comprising of a skills-based board and expert advisory panel to oversee the redevelopment and ongoing management of council owned portions of the site."
Cr Salt said the vision was framed around six strategies based on the acronym "TRACES".
- TRAILS and tours around the site, New Norfolk and beyond;
- RESTORATION and reuse of the buildings that remain in public ownership;
- ACTIVATION and access to these buildings;
- CURATORS and custodians, drawing on local knowledge to draw together the history of the site;
- EMPOWERING and engaging people through skills training in building, gardening and cooking;
- SIGNAGE and sites more clearly marked, creating connections between the High St and Willow Court.
A public meeting to present the TRACES proposal to the community will be held at 6pm this Wednesday, June 5, at the Lions Club of New Norfolk, off Humphrey St, New Norfolk.