Heytesbury’s $8.5 million plan to revamp the Margaret River Hotel has been given the green light, despite councillors withdrawing support over a move to waive the public art contribution.
Heytesbury’s $8.5 million plan to revamp the heritage-listed Margaret River Hotel has been given the green light, despite councillors withdrawing their support over a plea to waive an $85,000 public art contribution.
Margaret River Hotel Holdings, a subsidiary of the Holmes à Court family company, received the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council’s backing to undertake an $8.5 million redevelopment of the landmark building.
The proposal comprises plans to restore the 1930s hotel to its original ground floor layout, construct a new two-storey, 17-bedroom wing, an outdoor courtyard garden room and a bar servery area.
But Heytesbury challenged the shire’s inclusion of a condition requiring it to fund public art worth 1 per cent of the development’s value, which is applied to projects worth more than $1 million.
The private company argued it was already making a considerable investment in the order of $1.5 million to restore the heritage asset, which in and of itself adequately satisfied the public art requirement.
In its development application, the company argued against the addition of a public art element on the basis that it had the potential to detract from the heritage significance of the building, which it said should be celebrated in its purest form.
The city’s planning staff, however, disagreed.
During a meeting of the Regional Joint Development Assessment Panel this morning, Heytesbury heir Paul Holmes à Court said the company’s investment in the renovation and reactivation of parts of the hotel as well as its pledge to honour its history were sufficient.
“If you’ve been to the hotel in recent years, you would know that we’re reactivating a number of spaces left vacant,” he said.
“You could go into the hotel and have no real sense of the history of the family who built and operated it for more than 50 years. We intend to change that.
“We want to celebrate Bernard McKeown [the hotel’s founder] just as we celebrate Tom Cullity at Vasse Felix for what he has done for the industry.”
Though all five of the panellists hailed the proposed redevelopment a fantastic heritage outcome, both of the shire councillors spoke against the removal of the public art requirement.
Councillor David Binks said he was surprised there was a question mark over the contribution of public art.
“I’m disappointed that this is being argued for the sake of one per cent,” he said.
“Unfortunately, using the excuse that the building itself is a form of art gives the community no opportunity to say what is going to reflect and enhance this development.”
But panel chair Tony Arias disagreed, declaring the nature of the proposal should be given due consideration.
“Heritage considerations have been dismissed far too easily,” Mr Arias said.
“We are criticised far too often for not preserving heritage; here we have an example of a genuine restoration of an asset significant for Margaret River and the rest of the state.
“I would have thought that some regard should be given to what is being done.”
The panel voted to remove the public art requirement three to two before approving the plans by the same margin.
Heytesbury, which was established almost 100 years ago, has a portfolio of assets worth more than $570 million, including four vineyards in the Margaret River region and several pastoral stations.
The business is currently spearheaded by Paul Holmes à Court and is famously part of the Robert Holmes à Court empire.