Public input sought on best use for vacant Gleniffer Brae area

Gleniffer Brae manor house.

Gleniffer Brae manor house.

Wollongong City Council will seek suggestions from the public on how best to use the vacant part of Gleniffer Brae manor house, if councillors accept a staff recommendation.

The future of the historic house has been in limbo for the past 19 months after councillors voted to reject a land rezoning proposal to allow the University of Wollongong to build a $40 million creative arts precinct at the site.

After a protracted debate during 2012, councillors narrowly voted to reject the university’s plan in January 2013.

Staff were then asked to prepare a report on future options, which will be considered at next week’s meeting.

They have recommended a formal ‘‘call for proposals’’ process be undertaken, asking interested parties to submit ideas for how to use the small area not leased by the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music.

The conservatorium occupies most of the manor house and all the former school classrooms on the site, and is entitled to remain there until 2023 under historical lease terms.

This meant proposals for the rest of the site would be bound by ‘‘numerous constraints’’, as they needed to be ‘‘reasonably compatible and not conflict with the [conservatorium’s] activities’’, staff said.

Suggestions for use must also address six community values, which include heritage conservation, financial viability, community access, tourism, and links to the botanic garden.

The council has spent an average of $143,000 each year on maintenance of the manor house over the past seven years, according to the report.

In the 2014-15 financial year it has allocated a budget of $40,000 for external lighting upgrades, $50,000 for manor house maintenance and $10,000 for signage.

The conservatorium contributes $44,274 in rent each year and up to $32,000 in maintenance costs, as well as paying electricity, rates, garbage and sewerage charges.

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