A steering committee established by the Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre and the Daylesford Community Theatre has found that a community cinema is not feasible for the Court House building on Camp Street.

The Court House precinct includes the Court House, the new paddock room, the former police quarters and the old lock-up. The Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre has been located at the site since 1993.

Following Hepburn Shire’s recent decision not proceed with the development of the Hepburn Hub at the Rex in Vincent Street, including the proposed cinema, the Daylesford Community Theatre approached the Neighbourhood Centre to consider the possibility of establishing a community cinema in the Court House.

The Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre (DNC) and the Daylesford Community Theatre (DCT) agreed to establish a joint steering committee to consider the proposal and the possibility of commissioning a feasibility study.

The Steering committee comprised three nominees from the DCT, three nominees from the DNC and an independent member of the community, Dr Stan Capp, as chair.

The Committee considered three key threshold issues that had to be satisfied before proceeding to a more detailed and costly feasibility study: whether it was technically feasible to modify the building to establish and operate a suitable cinema, the heritage conditions that apply to the Court House (including whether any modifications would be permitted), and the implications for the ongoing operation of the DNC.

The Court House is one of a small number in the Romanesque Revival style and replaced a smaller court house that was built on the site only a few years prior to its establishment in the 1860s. It was decommissioned in 1986. The Court House precinct is the overall responsibility of Working Heritage.

As a first step, the Steering Committee therefore sought advice from Working Heritage architect and advisor, Fraser Brown.

Following a site inspection, he indicated that it would be difficult to make modifications required for the cinema that meet the requirements of the Disabilities Discrimination Act and retain the heritage values required for the Court House. For example, he did not consider it likely that it would be permitted to remove the Court House furniture to make way for the cinema. It would also be difficult to separate the operation of a cinema from the operations of the DNC.

After considering Mr Brown’s advice, the Steering Committee unanimously agreed to advise the Neighbourhood Centre and the Community Theatre group that that the feasibility study of the Theatre/Court House proposal not proceed further.

While the Court House option did not end up being sensible to pursue, the process undertaken by the Steering Committee proved to be an important and pivotal step that found the use of limited financial resources to undertake a more detailed feasibility was unnecessary.

The Daylesford Theatre Committee will keep exploring viable options to enable the community to benefit from a community theatre.