Willow Court visitor attraction moves closer

THE Derwent Valley Council this week unanimously supported a proposal to develop a plan to have the Willow Court historic site open to visitors as soon as possible. The recent resignation of the council’s economic development staff at Valley Vision had created a need for the temporary employment of a consultant or contractor to consolidate the many studies, plans and reports relating to the Willow Court site, Cr Damian Bester said.

In particular, a business plan was urgently needed, to increase the council’s chances of obtaining grants to aid the development of the site. “A comprehensive Business Plan and Development Strategy are essential components of any future grant application or request for government or corporate support,” Cr Bester said.

“I have brought forward this suggestion after spending quite some time trying to adapt an earlier Willow Court grant application in order to make it suitable for the now-closed RCLIP grants,” Cr Bester said. “Unfortunately, many of the documents required for a such a grant were simply not available to us. This includes a Business Plan for Willow Court, which is an essential component of almost any grant application.”

“An updated Development Strategy will also provide Council with the necessary directions to undertake a step-by-step development of the site in the event major funding is not immediately forthcoming,” Cr Bester said.

Cr James Graham supported the move, said it was evidence the council had heard the concerns of the public. He hoped there would be scope to extend the successful applicant’s contract in the event they showed a capacity to co-ordinate the larger development project.

Deputy Mayor Craig Farrell said the funding of the short-term position was not a major budget issue, as the council was no longer paying the wages of two staff at Valley Vision. “This is an important role and this is the right move,” Cr Farrell said.

Cr Narelle Molan agreed with the urgent need to develop a business plan. She also expressed a desire to see Willow Court developed as a place people would want to visit again and again, rather than just once.

Cr Scott Shaw also expressed his support for the move. “It is good to have a fresh approach,” he said. He looked forward to the successful applicant reporting back with someething suitable for the council and the community.

Cr Judy Bromfield said she agreed with most of the recommendations but was concerned Cr Bester was suggesting too many duties for the new position. “We can’t do all this in three months if we haven’t been able to do it in nine years,” Cr Bromfield said.

Cr Barry Lathey agreed with the recommendations but remarked that he was disturbed there was not already a business plan for the barracks. Cr Lathey also advised there was a report from the Willow Court Working Party, letting the council know of its agreement to become a Friends group under the council’s auspices.

General manager Stephen Mackey said he would like to see the successful consultant report to the council on a monthly basis and this met with general agreement.

The matter was put to the vote and carried unanimously.

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