Move ‘radical and outside loop’ 

GRAEME Welsh does not want to paint his building purple or rip off its roof.

But by his own admission, his proposal to jack up his historic Lagoon St real estate office on a truck and move it 20 metres across the road is a little “radical and outside the loop”.

Yet after some gentle persuasion against the tide of council planners, councillors think it’s not a bad idea.

Mr Welsh’s development application to relocate 15 Lagoon St across the road to number 16 came before Council last Tuesday night.

After considerable debate they voted unanimously to support the building’s relocation in principle, thereby “preserving its heritage value”. A full planning assessment will be brought to a future meeting for councillors’ consideration.

It may not happen anytime soon, but if the 1914 building is threatened with demolition, Mr Welsh wants to ensure it’s saved.

The problem is Woolworths, or at least a development company acting on its behalf.

Three years ago Crighton Projects No 1 Pty Ltd approached Mr Welsh and many others in the area about purchasing properties. The land was pegged for a future development but its exact nature kept the city speculating.

Plans seemed to go off the boil when Big W chose the Marketplace redevelopment.

Now with the chain pulling out there, rumour is rife again that Lagoon St is back on the agenda.

Mr Welsh told Tuesday’s meeting he sold the land and building to the company. But he also made an agreement with it that he could shift the twostorey weatherboard structure across the road to land he owned if the company developed the site.

That agreement is due to expire at the end of this year.

As Mr Welsh said, the window of opportunity won’t always be there and potentially, the house would not be conserved.

“What I am proposing is a bit radical but at least it is positive and a new approach to saving out heritage,” he told the meeting.

“In a perfect world and if we were to follow the letter of all visions of our advisors, we would probably still be living in bark huts and cooking on open fires.”

He argued a precedent had been set with the Big Merino’s relocation some 500 metres up the road in 2007.

Mr Welsh said he’d been involved in numerous local heritage restorations, including the Southern Star Inn. When he bought 15 Lagoon St it was in a “state of disrepair and decay” and he’d poured a great deal of time and effort into its conservation.

“It’s time that all players in the heritage debate in Goulburn started to think outside the square and find progressive solutions to the preservation of heritage items and homes and not just say no,” he told councillors.

Planners had recommended against the move due to the “unacceptable impact on the heritage values of the site and surrounds. But if a future development were approved for the site, then the relocation would be reconsidered.

Heritage adviser Jennifer Lambert Tracey also said moving the structure would “irrevocably” change the site’s heritage qualities. The house is listed as an item of heritage significance in the LEP.

Seeking certainty

DEPUTY Mayor Bob Kirk argued Mr Welsh was simply seeking direction from Council to take back to the company. He moved ‘support’ rather than reconsideration, but agreed with planners it should not be endorsed at this stage because there was no immediate threat.

Woolworths confirmed in a letter last May that “currently it had no definitive plans for future use of 15 Lagoon St or a number of adjoining properties we also own.”

“Despite this, we are in the early stages of investigating a number of future uses for the land that would be compliant with its mixed use zoning,” Woolworths development manager Jon Lindsay wrote.

Mr Welsh met with another development company representing Woolworths yesterday to find out more about plans.

But other councillors didn’t have a problem with the relocation.

Cr Andrew Banfield doubted Woolworths would want to save the building with the same “gusto” as Mr Welsh.

Cr Alfie Walker likened the move to taking an antique car toy out of its box; while it slightly lost its value, he was only putting it in a similar style box for protection.

In the end they voted unanimously to support the relocation to “preserve its heritage values.” They will consider a more comprehensive planning report at a future meeting.

Planning director Chris Stewart said there was still a great deal of work to do on this score.

After the meeting, Mr Welsh said he was happy with the outcome.

“That gives me enough direction and that’s some of what I’m trying to achieve,” he said “What I was proposing was a positive.

The timing wasn’t perfect because the site has an unknown future but I can’t sit around forever.”

Mr Welsh said the DA had taken a year and involved heritage, engineering, surveying and architectural reports.

He estimated the relocation would cost over $100,000.

WOOLWORTHS has still not given a firm indication of its plans for the Lagoon St area.

Real estate agent Graeme Welsh met with another development company representing the chain on Thursday.

While no definite proposal was on the table, Mr Welsh said it was still important to have Council’s support to shift 15 Lagoon St. He would not keep the land he owned opposite forever.

“The company continues to be supportive of the concept,” Mr Welsh said.

“Now we have to work through the next part of the approval, that is, the planning report which involves liaison with the Roads and Maritime Service (in regard to road closure) and the energy company about powerlines and to refine the logistics of moving the house.”

An engineering firm, architects and specialist removalists had all told him the structure could be moved safely.

The house was built in 1914 by local builder and carpenter John James Grant, who worked on several prominent Goulburn buildings, including the Kenmore and the Base Hospitals.

Oregon timber, pressed metal ceilings and other Federation elements are used throughout.

“This move will need the cooperation of all parties who perceive an interest in what we are doing and it will be a good test of whether they are serious about heritage or are just paying lip service,” Mr Welsh said.

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