Re-open Willow Court roads, councillor says

MOVES are being made to re-open roads within the Willow Court historic site. Several streets on the site were sold off to private owners when the Derwent Valley Council disposed of a number of heritage-listed buildings in 2003, but one councillor is now seeking to have the error reversed.

At the council meeting held in September last year, a local ratepayer asked who had approved the recent closure of several roads on the site, which had resulted in the users of several buildings on the site being told they must find alternative access. General manager Stephen Mackey said the streets concerned were privately owned and not under the council’s jurisdiction. When reminded that the council had once owned all the roads on the site, Mr Mackey said they had only ever been private access roads and had never been “maintained” by the council.

The matter has been taken up by Councillor Richard Parker at recent council meetings. In November he asked that the council seek legal advice on how it could acquire the roads in question, and that the council initiate discussions with the owners.

Cr Parker raised the issue again at the January meeting and asked what progress had been made. Mr Mackey responded that if the council wished to go through a compulsory acquisition he would make the necessary arrangements. Cr Parker, who had proposed a consultative process rather than a compulsory one, said it was “very much in order” that the council try to acquire access.

The council was the first property owner to close roads at Willow Court, using railings and boulders to limit “hooning” and vandalism. Private owners have subsequently built fences across roads (see photo above) to protect their investments but this has unfortunately prevented lawful access to other properties on the site. This is another impact of the council’s disposal strategy for the site rather than preservation of Willow Court in its entirety.

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