Old Bendigo Gaol plans approved

A NEW theatre at the Old Bendigo Gaol will cater for live events that previously skipped the city when it is opened in late 2014. 

The $25.8 million project was given the green light by the state government yesterday with Planning Minister Matthew Guy dismissing a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal appeal. 

Four complainants had appealed to VCAT, arguing the council’s planning was short-sighted and broke regulations.

But the ruling means the project will begin early in 2013, and construction is expected to take about 15 to 16 months. 

Member for northern Victoria Damian Drum said it was important the project not be delayed, or cancelled, by “menial issues” like traffic flow and parking.

“The language from the federal government is very clear,” he said.  

“There is no extra money available should this project run over budget.

“To allow an appeals process to proceed through VCAT, in our opinion, would be placing the concept of this project being built on budget at too great a risk.”

He said each of the issues raised by the VCAT applicants had been adequately addressed. 

“If you would like those issues to delay this whole project, that’s the balancing act and the price you have to pay is you take a real risk this world-class theatre will have to be compromised in some way,” he said. 

City of Greater Bendigo city futures director Stan Liacos welcomed the announcement and said the 1000-seat theatre would employ hundreds of people during construction. 

“We should be able to increasingly attract high quality musical, comedy and theatrical entertainers to our region,” he said. “We simply haven’t had the quality and size of a venue to date. 

“Mainstream and popular entertainers are often attracted by quality facilities and venues of a sufficient size to make their visits feasible.”

The project is a joint venture between the state and federal governments, the council and Bendigo Senior Secondary College. The development will retain heritage aspects of the gaol, which opened in 1863 and closed in 2006.

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