Mayor uses casting vote in Gleniffer backflip

Wollongong City Council has voted to overturn its December decision to reject a land rezoning proposal for the Gleniffer Brae precinct.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery used his casting vote to pass the motion after the initial vote ended in a 6-6 deadlock. Cr Jill Merrin was absent from the meeting.

Councillors had originally backed Greens councillor Jill Merrin’s motion at the December 10 meeting calling for the council to retain control over Gleniffer Brae,  rejecting rezoning plans for the University of Wollongong to lease Gleniffer Brae and buy the adjacent school buildings.

However, councillors last night overturned the decision, opening up further debate about the future of the heritage precinct.

The Gleniffer Brae manor at Gwynneville.  Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

The Gleniffer Brae manor at Gwynneville. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Councillors spoke passionately both in favour and against the rescission motion.

Liberal councillor Michelle Blicavs said feedback from the community after the December 10 meeting indicated people were not happy with the decision.

‘‘There was some concern that the motion passed on the 10th [of December] was not an appropriate way to move forward...that’s why I believe we have to rescind that motion,’’ she said.

Fellow Liberal councillors John Dorahy, Bede Crasnich and Leigh Colacino also supported overturning the original decision, as did Labor councillor David Brown.

Independent councillor Vicki Curran argued against the rescission motion ‘‘as a matter of principle’’, saying there was no new information that justified revisiting the matter.

She said to do so was a waste of councillors’ time and ‘‘valuable staff resources’’.

‘‘The December decision on this should be respected,’’ she said.

‘‘We should be focusing our resources into master-planning this site.’’

Labor councillor Janice Kershaw also spoke against a rescission.

‘‘The university has moved on and so should we,’’ she said.

UOW had planned to use the manor house as a function centre, demolish the school classrooms and construct a three-storey building in their place to house its new creative arts hub and the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music.

However, university bosses withdrew the proposal following the outcome of the December meeting.

The institution refused to elaborate on its decision at the time, and last week remained silent when asked if it would consider bringing the arts precinct proposal back to the table if the council had a change of heart at last night’s meeting.

Last night’s move marks yet another step in a long chain of decisions aimed at shaping, and shoring up, the manor house’s future.

The council first flagged concerns about maintenance costs at the property in 2009, with the then administrators deciding in 2010 to call for expressions of interest for the ‘‘possible sale or lease’’ of the precinct after a review found maintaining the house and accompanying heritage gardens beyond the council’s means.

UOW revealed its proposal for the site later that year and was backed as the preferred bidder, despite strong opposition to the proposal from some sections of the community.


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