Group hopes to reverse Old Castlemaine gaol sale

RESIDENTS opposed to private development at the historic Old Castlemaine Gaol are hoping the incoming council can reverse the decision to sell the site. 

The Mount Alexander Shire Council has signed contracts to sell the heritage-listed gaol to a consortium of local businessmen for $550,000.

Friends of Old Castlemaine Gaol president Doug Falconer said a lot of locals were concerned about the loss of the heritage asset. 

He said the group, which had previously staged protest meetings, was now talking to council candidates about overturning the sale.

“With a signed contract, some of the options are off the table,” he said.

“There’s three months until the settlement. But there’s still the option for the new council to consider withdrawing from the contract. It’s theoretically possible.”

Mr Falconer said the group had spoken to all of the local Mount Alexander Shire candidates and were hoping to get some support.

“Some of the candidates have been very receptive. Nothing’s off the table, we’re going to keep plugging away.”

Mayor Janet Cropley said the sale was finalised. “The contracts have been signed and settlements will be in by the end of the year.”

The group of developers including Gary McClure, Trevor Butcher and Don Culvenor and their families have put forward plans to build 22 townhouses and 16 homes on the 1.73-hectare site and use the mid-19th-century building as a conference centre. 

Cr Cropley said their vision for developing the site was supported by the wider community.

“They have wonderful plans. They have kept their heads down and had a number of conversations with community groups and they will work closely with heritage offices.”

Mr Falconer said the opposition group would look at any measures to stop the developments. “We still think the level of development they’re proposing is completely inappropriate.”

Cr Cropley said the council had requested a whole site development plan to review before the settlements of the sale.

The gaol was decommissioned in 1990 and the cells were converted to accommodation. It has since been used as a function centre, school camp and conference venue. 

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