Gaol’s fate set to be revealed

THERE is speculation the Bendigo Gaol theatre project will be given the green light today. 

This month, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal told the City of Greater Bendigo there had been no objections to the project – allowing a planning permit to be issued – but then said an application had been received. 

A VCAT mentions hearing is scheduled for next Friday, but an announcement will be made at the gaol at 9.30am today.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy told ABC Radio he wanted to see the “very, very important” project go ahead, but his staff refused to say if he would override the VCAT process. 

He said he was keen to see the project move forward quickly. 

A VCAT hearing could delay the $25.8 million project by months and, according to Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons, increase costs by $1 million, or scuttle the development completely. 

Daryl McClure, one of four objectors to the project, said that if Mr Guy overruled the body, it would set a concerning precedent. 

“The principal issue is that the planning application is quite improper,” he said.  

“None of us disagree that it would be good to have a theatre in Bendigo, but it needs to be done properly. 

“People with other non-compliant applications will be saying that he approved this in Bendigo, let’s do it here, there and everywhere.”

Mr Gibbons said he would be very surprised if the council had made a mistake with its planning. 

“They’re not going to spend all this money on something that will be deemed illegal,” he said.  

“They’re not that silly.” 

Member for Northern Victoria Damian Drum wouldn’t say if today’s announcement would clear the way for the project to go ahead. 

A spokesperson for Mr Guy refused to comment.

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