Update on the Osborne House Sustainable Development Plan

Just to re-cap: CoGG Council voted in July 2018, to retain Osborne House in community ownership and accepted a recommendation for a Master Plan to be created. This Master Plan was presented to Council in August 2019 but was rejected because it failed to reflect said motion of elected councillors. Council officers were directed to re-scope the plan, commencing with the boundaries of the property [ie: Melbourne Road to the Bay and Swinburne Street to the northern industrial boundary] and to produce a business case.

Osborne Park Association members have been engaged in the Project Reference Group over the past 6 months – since Council voted on 25 February 2020 to accept the Principles established for re-scoping the Master Plan for Osborne House and environs.

Now labelled the Osborne House Sustainable Development Plan, it was agreed that the areas being addressed concern Crown Allotments 56 A, B & C; i.e. Osborne House, the Stables and the former Russell Polo Ground (in the Lovell Chen Conservation Management Plan 2009 referred to as the former Council depot site).

Any reference to ‘Osborne House’ in the Sustainable Development Plan by definition or inference incorporates the Stables and the adjoining Polo Ground – all of which sit within the historic property of Osborne Park.

Also engaged in the process were a Project Control Group with Regional Development Victoria, Heritage Victoria and National Trust Victoria representatives, and a Project Working Group with CoGG Council Officers from various council departments (finance; Arts, Culture & Heritage; planning; Community Life; Property & Procurement.)

Two Consultancy firms – BIRUU and Trethowan Heritage Architects plus a Quantity Surveyor, were engaged by Council to evaluate 5 Options as presented to them, to assess financial and heritage values. The OPA proposal was one of the 5 and all Options were required to comply with the Principles as accepted by Council in February.

OPA proposed a community based creative arts/heritage/innovation concept with commercial elements. It differs from alternative options by a projected governance and management structure that benefits the community and not a ‘for-profit’ private enterprise on an extensive lease that risks not only the Council losing control over long-term outcomes but the community aspect of the Principles not being adhered to.

The conclusion as presented to Council at last Tuesday’s (8 September) Community Focus meeting and available to read on Council’s website, stated that:
“the redevelopment of Osborne House as a cultural heritage asset may be feasible in partnership between the City and the State Government and/or private partners. Osborne House as an enduring, creative, productive and protected heritage and community asset is also consistent with Council’s Vision statement for a Clever and Creative City, which states specifically that success (in part) “will be achieved by attracting creatively oriented and artistic industries to the region through the creative re-use of heritage assets”.

Geelong is also a designated UNESCO City of Design and has a key objective of working “towards placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans”
There is a powerful economic benefit to creative arts and the preservation of our heritage where Geelong is the ultimate beneficiary.

Furthermore, the report stated that future management and development of Osborne House and environs must consider a mix of community, public and commercial uses and provide public access and community use.

This next phase of the process, which sets out parameters and Principles for Expressions of Interest, returns to Council in December and aims to test the interest of potential public/private partners.

On the issue of maintenance of Osborne House and Stables – this has been an area of neglect and of considerable concern for years but Council agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to contribute up to $10m over 3-4 years to make the built form safe, secure and compliant with current public building standards, to restore the heritage elements and reopen it for public uses.
Work has already commenced on repairs to windows and painting.

Since OPA’s inception in 1999, our members have stayed true to our governance and our aims to retain Osborne House in community ownership for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the community. It has been the community that has kept Osborne House & environs activated over more than two decades and through strong advocacy and local government support in 2018, the property will now remain in community ownership.

If you’re in the area, call past and take a look. Take a picnic. We’re strong advocates of the public using the public space and we like to keep a watching brief on this fantastic, heritage listed, iconic Geelong property.

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Councilor Column

With the ongoing strong support and encouragement from the community, for some 10 years now, I along with others have been advocating for and working to protect the future sustainabilty of Osborne House.