Last month was the 8th anniversary of the fire which destroyed the historical Diggers Rest Hotel, one of the few Mount Alexander Road gold rush wayside hotels known to survive.
Unfortunately, due to a series of issues the hotel cannot be re-developed by the current owners and may never be rebuilt without some level of community involvement.
The hotel site is subject to a Heritage Overlay control and under the current zoning of the land, the use of the land for a hotel is prohibited. However, the presence of a Heritage Overlay control on the site would allow Council to consider an application for a rebuild of a hotel, bistro and bottle shop, subject to a permit.
The hotel is listed for sale and the asking price is $1.6m. It is estimated that an additional $1.5m would be required to fully rebuild the hotel in accordance with the expectations of Council, taking into account the conservation of the heritage place.
Some preliminary discussions with the owners and Council have taken place this past week with the idea of fast tracking the prospect of a re-development plan.
At present the hotel is not economically attractive from an investment viewpoint, nor is it physically attractive to locals and visitors to Diggers Rest.
The existence of a blueprint for the hotel would help encourage potential investors, reducing the risk of uncertainty and pave the way to re-developing the site.
Despite all promises by the former Brumby Labor Government to provide additional services to Diggers Rest as part of the $270 million upgrade to the Sunbury line, the toilets and waiting rooms will stay locked.
In response to a recent letter from Melton City Council, the Minister for Transport, Jacinta Allen MP, said “I appreciate your continued concerns that the facilities at Diggers Rest Station remain closed. As you are aware, PTV (Public Transport Victoria) advised that the decision to staff a station is based on passenger numbers. PTV confirmed that there are no plans to open the waiting room and toilets at Diggers Rest station or to staff the station, until passenger numbers increase”.
Anecdotal evidence would indicate that patronage at the station continues to grow with the significant number of commuters using the station and Park-n-Ride facilities.
The facilities currently being offered by PTV do not reflect those of a premier “Park-n-Ride” station and are not in accordance with expectations of residents during the planning phase.
The Minister seems reluctant to provide any further indication to Council with respect to when the waiting room and public toilet facilities will be made available to commuters.
This Saturday eight years ago, a suspicious fire destroyed the historical Diggers Rest Hotel leaving a smouldering emptiness for the township of Diggers Rest.
Although the community remains divided on the future of the hotel, it has become a centre piece for urban exploration. Like a scene from a horror movie, the video by Colin Ewington takes a look beyond its burnt exterior to reveal the internal destruction of that October night in 2008.
Given the length of time that has lapsed since the fire, any existing use right has expired, and under the current zoning of the land, the use of the land for a hotel is prohibited. However, the presence of a Heritage Overlay control on the site would allow Council to consider an application for a rebuild of a Hotel, bistro and bottle shop.
The Heritage Overlay control in the Melton Planning Scheme identifies the site as one where prohibited uses may be permitted (subject to a permit) and provided that any rebuild will not adversely affect the significance of the heritage place and the benefits obtained from the use of the land for a hotel can be applied towards the conservation of the heritage place.
If the feedback is anything to go by, then it seems that everyone enjoyed the 2016 Diggers Rest Primary School annual trivia event held last night.
It was fantastic to see more staff and teachers participating this year.
Hats off to Maree Welshe and her team for an exceptional effort in bringing it all together. In conjunction with rounds of questions and answers, the event was host to a live auction, a coin toss and paper plane throwing contest, as well as a silent auction, raffle draw and a logo identification game.
Although the night is about raising funds for the Primary School, last night the event paid tribute to Michael Cherriman and his wife for their past support with this event. Sadly, Michael passed away in February this year and his absence was felt.