Two businesses express interest in Willow Court

Bronte House at Willow Court.

THE award-winning Agrarian Kitchen cooking school has been granted an exclusive licence to negotiate with the Derwent Valley Council for the use of Bronte House at the Willow Court historic site in New Norfolk.

At the council’s monthly meeting on Monday night this week, the council reversed an earlier decision to lease the building to the Derwent Valley Community House, having received a request for the community house to go to the Carinya Education Park instead.

In a written report to the meeting, council general manager Greg Winton said two proposals had been received seeking use of the council-owned building known as Bronte House or B Ward, and its immediate surrounds. “Successful grant funding has enabled the undertaking of major restoration works on the Bronte building in the past two years. This has resulted in the majority of the building now being ready for adaptive re-use,” he said.

The sunroom at Bronte House.

“For some time council has been considering the potential reuse for buildings within the Willow Court precinct. The November 2015 local visit by the Prime Minister provided the first limited public viewing of the restoration works undertaken [and] it is understood this event prompted a level of interest and subsequent proposal submission,” Mr Winton said.

The meeting heard that formal approaches had made been by the Agrarian Kitchen and The Eleventh Order with proposals to lease the Bronte building for a shop and restaurant including provision for functions, as well as a brasserie including a boutique brewery.
“The Agrarian Kitchen is an established business in the Derwent Valley, offering a farm-based cooking school and paddock-to-plate experience. The business operates from a heritage listed school house in Lachlan, and attracts a wide range of guests including interstate and overseas visitors,” Mr Winton said.
“The Eleventh Order is an emerging boutique brewery and brasserie aiming to fill a niche market and complimenting existing cellar door and other similar experiences in the Derwent Valley and beyond,” he said. “The boutique and craft beer market across the state and more broadly is currently undergoing strong expansion, the placement of The Eleventh Order in the Derwent Valley fits well with the area’s strong and ongoing association with the hop industry. The Eleventh Order proposes to target a sophisticated demographic with a family-friendly environment.”
Mr Wintin said that while these were two separate proposals they would compliment each other and were not in competition for the use of the building. “These proposals are currently in the formative stages, and will require additional detail before being able to be presented to council for a final decision,” he said.
“It may be problematic to have two lessees with shared amenities and common space, particularly if operating hours and requirements differ. Therefore it is suggested that discussions provide for the Agrarian Kitchen to be the primary lessor, sub-leasing to The Eleventh Order under the provisions of a lease agreement. Brief discussions with both proponents suggest that they would not be adverse to this idea. This arrangement would allow the businesses some flexibility to arrange shared space and access to amenities as per their needs.”
This room was originally a dormitory when Bronte House
was built in 1925.

Under the interim Derwent Valley Planning Scheme, the Willow Court precinct comes under a Historic Heritage Code, with a separate Special Purpose zoning. “Due to this zoning any development will need to be advertised. Heritage Tasmania and other relevant experts will be consulted during further investigations into the proposed use of the site.”

Mr Winton said the proposals fit broadly within the recommendations of the MacDonald Report commissioned by the council in 2011. “The proposals align with appropriate reuse of the site and represent an opportunity that deserves additional investigation and possible negotiation. The Agrarian Kitchen is a well-recognised, local commercial success story. For this reason … the council should pursue this particular proposal in the immediate future.”
Councillors voted unanimously to:
  • Give initial in-principle support to the further development of the proposals for the use of the Bronte building and immediate surrounds
  • Grant an exclusivity licence to the proprietors of the Agrarian Kitchen to negotiate an acceptable arrangement by 31 March 2016
  • Nominate Councillors Frank Pearce and Damian Bester to assist in the process and authorise the general manager to negotiate acceptable terms
  • Receive monthly reports on the progress of the proposal.
The council will continue to seek expressions of interest in the other buildings it owns at Willow Court.
The proposals have attracted wide attention on social and mainstream media today, including the Mercury and the ABC.

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