Originally written by JASON WALLACE
NEGOTIATIONS are nearing completion for the sale of two historic buildings in Glenelg Shire.
Prices have been agreed to by potential buyers of Cape Bridgewater’s St Peters Church, which is owned by the National Trust of Victoria, and Portland’s council-owned Steam Packet Inn.
Contracts to protect the heritage of the buildings may be finalised soon, according to National Trust of Victoria chief executive officer Stephen Hare.
The church was donated by the Ballarat Diocese of the Anglican Church around two decades ago to the National Trust of Victoria for preservation.
But the trust has been reducing the number of properties it owns and manages, according to National Trust of Victoria conservation manager, Ian Pausacker.
He said schemes to protect historic properties had been introduced, including establishment of the Heritage Council, since the trust began to acquire properties in the 1960s, and properties could now be protected in private hands.
Mr Pausacker said covenants would be placed on the two buildings and they would be protected by conservation plans that new owners would have to abide by. Mr Pausacker said the documents were not public and he could not supply copies to the Portland Observer.
Mr Hare said the church had not been advertised for sale, and the sale of historic buildings was not always conducted conventionally because the purchase price was not the most important commitment made by the buyer.
“It is not about getting the best dollar, but getting protection for the building,” he said.
Mr Hare would not reveal the price agreed upon for the sale of the church, nor would he reveal the potential new owner, although it is believed to be a Cape Bridgewater resident.
Mr Pausacker said the buyer had approached the trust and expressed an interest in the building.
However, Cape Bridgewater resident Joanne Kermond, who has been managing the property, said the sale had been conducted “deceptively”.
She said the trust had denied the property was for sale when she made inquiries over the past few months, and she had not eceived “truthful” information about the property being for sale until after the it had been promised to the “mystery buyer”.
Mrs Kermond, who has managed the property as an accommodation venue for the past decade, said she believed the trust were selling the property well below market value, although Mr Pausacker claimed the property would be sold at a value set by an independent valuer.
“There were many others within the community who were interested in buying the property, but they were not given the chance, despite having approached the National Trust with expressions of interest,” she said.
She said the sale of the property was unnecessary because a local group had offered to donate money for restoration and maintenance of the building.
“It is disappointing to see the National Trust speaking about the protection of our heritage while they are willing to part with such a unique and historical building that was originally donated to them with faith that it would be preserved for the community, not sold as a private property,” she said.
National Trust Portland branch spokesperson Gordon Stokes said the trust’s commitment to the property had not been high in recent years and the divestment into the hands of a Cape Bridgewater resident may be the most desirable outcome.
Mr Pausacker said the building would continue to be used as an accommodation facility, promoted by the National Trust.
Meanwhile, Glenelg Shire Council is planning to sell the Steam Packet Inn and has been negotiating with the trust and a potential new owner of the building.
The historic building was used as an inn from July 1842.
Mr Hare said the National Trust did not plan to maintain the lease of the hotel after it was sold.
Mr Stokes said the council had invited the trust to set conditions for preservation of the building and that it may be used as a private residence or accommodation venue.
Mr Stokes said the Portland branch of the trust had been based at the former hotel for the past decade, and during the 1980s, and that other community groups had used the building.