Plan to demolish original Bellbrae school building has community up in arms

August 8, 2019 BY

BELLBRAE residents and the local primary school community have been shocked that plans for a multi-million-dollar redevelopment of Bellbrae Primary School include demolition of the historic old school building on the site.

This year’s state budget committed $9.1 million to rebuild the school by 2022.

The funding was welcomed by the school community, which has been campaigning hard for many years for the much-needed upgrade.

However, when initial plans for the development were released recently, many residents and members of the school community voiced their concerns on social media and in writing that the plans included the demolition of the 103-year-old original school building on the site.

Fourth generation Bellbrae resident and primary school alumnus Kate Gittings, who also has a daughter attending the school, said the old school building was the “heart and centre of Bellbrae itself”.

“With the building being 103 years old, I personally had thought it was heritage listed,” Ms Gittings said.

“I have had many discussions with both past and present families in Bellbrae and the greater area, and am yet to come across anyone (excluding a Facebook conversation with School Council members) who supports this decision, and find it incomprehensible that it is even being considered.”

She said the school is one of the oldest in the state and the plans as they stand would destroy one of the main focal points of the historic town.

“This is not just a decision that will affect the school; it is a decision that will affect the entire Bellbrae community.”

A recent school newsletter addressed the concerns parents had with the move.

“The School Council discussed and debated various options associated with the historical building (current art room),” it said.

“The debate included refurbishing, relocating, demolishing or recycling elements of the building into the new building. After careful consideration of the architects’ analysis of options, including costs, building constraints, school history and the impact on school building entitlement, School Council decided on recycling elements of the original building into the new building.”

Surf Coast Shire general manager environment and development Ransce Salan said Bellbrae Primary School was not covered by a heritage overlay and had not been assessed for its potential heritage significance.

“The Department of Education, through the Minister, has a general exemption for any planning permit approvals in the planning scheme.”

The Department of Education has been contacted for comment.

UPDATE: Since this story was published, the Bellbrae Primary School Council has issued a statement to the school community saying the school council “will now consider additional opportunities for the building”.