The Daylesford Town Hall will be closed for at least 18 months from September 2024 for essential electrical and roofing works at an estimated cost of $1.5 million.

Works will include reroofing, parapets and chimneys and electrical upgrades. The Mayor Cr Brian Hood and the Chief Executive Bradley Thomas indicated that roof of the Town Hall leaks and the original electrical wiring needs to be replaced once the roofing has been repaired. The work is necessary to preserve the heritage and integrity of the building.

Council will lease 24 Vincent Street for Council offices, meeting spaces and library facilities until works on the Town Hall are completed.

Following external review and valuations, Council has taken out a six year lease on 24 Vincent St opposite the War Memorial for staff accommodation and meeting facilities.  This is a new building and will provide appropriate and accessible facilities for staff and meetings, including Council meetings. The lease provides a short to medium term solution to pressing accommodation and meeting facilities. Council will meet at the new premises while the Town Hall works are underway.

The value of the lease is commercial-in-confidence but local business people familiar with commercial properties in Daylesford estimate the rent will be in the range of $150,000 to $200,000 per year. CEO Bradley Thomas has confirmed that the negotiated lease is “at the lower end of that range”. Council has a budget of approximately $100,000 for furnishings and fit out of the leased space.

The scope of the Town Hall works includes the senior citizens facilities at the back of the Town Hall. Negotiations with Town Hall user groups have commenced to find suitable alternative facilities during the construction and renovation period.

Cr Hood said the project was part of a broader plan to upgrade facilities for Birch Ward. This includes the library, which now seen as too small and inadequate for contemporary use.

When Council cancelled the Hepburn Hub at The Rex project in November 2021, it resolved to identify possible solutions for staffing accommodation and community facilities for Birch Ward. The possible relocation of the library and upgrade to the Town Hall space would help to achieve those objectives.

Council will enter into a separate tender process for $200,000  to engage architects to consider the development of library and multipurpose facilities within the Town Hall, the senior citizens facilities and the area leading to Bridport Street. The project does not include provision for a cinema or pool.

Mr Thomas indicated that Council remains willing to work with community groups to develop alternative proposals for a cinema. He indicated that the development of community facilities within the Town Hall would include consideration of audio visual and seating in the main Hall, which could be suitable for cinema nights.

Consideration for redevelopment of the pool will be dealt with as part of the Council’s aquatic strategy.

Cr Brian Hood, said, “We are investigating options to consolidate and upgrade the Town Hall so it could act as a community hub, similar to what we have in Creswick, Clunes and Trentham,”

“This would include whether Daylesford Town Hall could be refurbished to include a library along with multi-purpose community spaces to cater for meetings, functions, performances and events.”

Council had well developed plans to develop the Town Hall as a community hub in 2014 when it made the unfortunate decision to change direction and purchase The Rex for that purpose. The earlier plans had been based on considerable community consultation.

“We won’t be starting all over again,” said Mr Thomas. “The community consultation outcomes and the earlier plans for the Town Hall will be made available to the architects we engage to develop new concept plans.” New plans are necessary because council offices will no longer be included in the Town Hall.

In addition to the $1.5 million required for the roof and electrical work, Council has set aside $2m for development of community facilities in Birch Ward. Cr Hood said it was unlikely this would be sufficient to meet the full cost of the facilities the community wants and that Council will need to seek additional funding from the Federal and State Governments. He emphasised the need to take a prudent and judicious approach. The $2m fund is quarantined and will not be used in any way for fit out of the temporary council offices and community spaces at 24 Vincent St.

An eight member project advisory group will be established to provide recommendations on the community facilities project. Expressions of interest from community members will be sought in April.

While it expected the urgent works on the Town Hall will be completed in the next 18 months, if plans for further development of the Town Hall are in place by the end of 2025 and funds are available, further works on the Town Hall would extend the closure for an additional one to two years.

There are no timelines for the development of new community facilities.