The future of Gleniffer Brae precinct remains no clearer after Wollongong City councillors last night voted against submitting a draft planning proposal to the NSW Department of Planning.
In front of a crowded public gallery, councillors voted 6-5 to support a motion from Greens councillor Jill Merrin to not proceed with the rezoning at this stage and enter into negotiations with the university for a creative arts facility to be built in a location closer to the city centre.
The motion also included further consultation with the community over other options for the Gleniffer Brae site.
Under the $30 million planning proposal placed on public exhibition, the University of Wollongong proposed to lease the heritage-listed manor for up to 30 years, refurbish it and use it as a function centre. It planned to also buy an adjoining 1.2ha of land with old school buildings, demolish them and construct a creative arts hub.
The proposal attracted hundreds of submissions during a two-month exhibition period, with 133 objections countered by 106 letters of support. Other submissions supported part of the plan but opposed other parts.
A petition from the Gleniffer Brae Community Support Group objecting to the proposal contained 1216 signatures.
A petition collected by the University of Wollongong expressing support for the proposal contained 1210 signatures.
Last night council staff recommended the draft plan be submitted, but with modifications.
Their report to council recommended that only the portion of the site containing the old school buildings be reclassified and that the manor house be retained as community land and leased to UOW for a maximum period of 30 years.
Speaking against the staff recommendation, Bess Moylan said the buildings were a great idea in the wrong place and the proposal was insensitive to heritage.
Flaws in the process would cause problems in the future each step of the way, she said.
The UOW’s Chris Grange thanked the council for the extensive campaign of consultation and said the proposal was an opportunity to build the best creative arts facilities in Australia, and Gleniffer Brae was the ideal location because of its proximity to the university and synergy with other educational programs.
Councillors Martin, Curran, Kershaw, Connor and Petty supported Cr Merrin’s motion.
Councillors Brown, Colacino, Blicavs, Crasnich and Bradbery voted against.
Cr Takacs declared a pecuniary interest and was absent from the chamber for the debate, while Cr Dorahy was an apology from last night’s meeting.