Bendigo theatre funds ‘in jeopardy’

UPDATE 1.20pm

A directions hearing into a proposed 1000-seat community theatre at the old Bendigo Gaol site has been set for Friday, September 28.

After bungling the appeal process, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal advised Bendigo council they will hear an objection, headed by Daryl McClure, into the project next week

Bendigo council initially gave the green light for a planning permit for the project last week before being told of VCAT's error.

With $11 million worth of state funds set to be provided reports that Victorian Minister for Planning Matthew Guy will bypass the VCAT hearing has angered objectors.

"If the minister issues the permit he will have set himself a very difficult precedent, due to the many breaches of the planning scheme contained in the proposal as it presently stands," Mr McClure said.

"It (council applications for funding) pointed out that because of the 'community' aspect of the theatre, a planning permit would be required from either the council or the state government. Clearly it was a set-up from the beginning."

The hearing is scheduled for 10am, Friday, September 28, in Melbourne.

EARLIER: 

BENDIGO could lose federal government funding for a 1000-seat performing arts facility such as that being proposed for the Old Bendigo Gaol site, according to Federal Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons.

Mr Gibbons said the federal government’s decision to fund an application from the City of Greater Bendigo and Bendigo Senior Secondary College for a theatre development was specifically based on the project at the old gaol site.

“The independent panel that allocates funding under the federal government’s Regional Development Australia fund based their decision on that particular application at that time at that site,’’ he said.

“If any VCAT application blocking the project is successful then the Commonwealth funding will be withdrawn and the funds allocated to another project that was overlooked in that round of funding.

“Federal government minister Simon Crean has guaranteed the funds will be available during the costly delays caused by any VCAT appeal but only for that project.

“If the VCAT process succeeds in scuttling the old gaol site proposal then all bets are off.

“Any future proposal for a 1000-seat theatre facility for Bendigo will require a new application and a new assessment process and there is no guarantee that Commonwealth funding will be available.

“The independent panel would be highly unlikely to favourably view a new application given the controversy surrounding the current and successful project”.

Mr Gibbons’ comments follow news this week that VCAT had botched the appeal process for the gaol project by informing the City of Greater Bendigo and the school that no appeals were lodged within the prescribed time.

However, VCAT has since admitted one objection had been received.

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