Old Grafton jail site offered up for redevelopment

THE former Grafton jail site, which has been empty since August, has been offered to Clarence Valley Council for redevelopment according to a report from council's general manager Ashley Lindsay.

However, the report, which will go before today's full council meeting, says council is not in a position to take on the former site.

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Mr Lindsay recommends in the report that the site's future use should be reflective of the developing health and education precinct around the area.

"The agricultural area of the old jail for instance could be redeveloped for badly needed hospital parking (it's in a flood impacted area), while there is an expanding presence of Wollongong University doctor training centre for GPs at Grafton Base," it reads.

"There are also possibilities for some emergency social housing in the minimum security dorm accommodation area. Allied health associated industries are logical also for this precinct."

According to the report, The NSW Valuer General's unimproved land value for the site is $1,090,000 as at July 1, and while the value of the building improvements on the site are unknown they potentially would add significant maintenance and depreciation costs to Council's General Fund.

"Based on a recent inspection of the buildings and structures on the site significant investment will be required to re-purpose these assets," the report states.

Grafton Correctional Centre
Grafton Correctional Centre

There are also zoning issues council would have to change, a heritage area of around 5000 sqm within the precinct and also two current Aboriginal Land Claims over the site lodged by the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

The recommendation to council is to advise NSW Corrections and NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment that council is not in a position to acquire the former jail site.

It also recommends to assist the government bodies with any community consultation they make undertake with regard to the site, and recommend its use for health, education and accommodation that addresses a range of social outcomes including homelessness, emergency and low cost.

Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said while he didn't want to see council take on a liability, he felt council was well-paced to administer it at what he believed would be at minimal cost.

"I don't think it's the liability they think it is, and in the event they struggled to attract the services there, they could go back to the community and look at the commercial opportunities," he said.

"No-one wants to see council take on a liability, it's tough enough just to provide the basic services, but I think this would be revenue neutral because it could generate an income they could put back into it."

>>> RELATED: Staff bid farewell to old jail site

Mr Gulaptis also suggested uses for the various areas including parking for the hospital in the agricultural area, transitional housing and medical research facilities, all of which could be leased to organisations to create income.

"The old wing, which is heritage listed would make a terrific museum," he said. "And you can have an associated coffee shop which would generate income for council.

"People seem to like these sort of macabre facilities … most old jails have these facilities … and it could be a real drawcard."

Mr Gulaptis said to see the area become a commercial precinct would be disappointing without seeing what benefits it could provide.

"I think it's got to be for a community use. It's close to people's heart - 127 years in the middle of town - it's got a real history attached to it that we've got an affiliation with," he said.

"It needs an architect with a bit of vision to transform it - albeit it's a jail - but it can be transformed with some innovativeness and vision."

Mr Gulaptis suggested any organisations that took advantage of any long-term lease could then apply to the state government for funds in re-purposing their area of the jail site.

"It's in a terrific location, and we need affordable housing and here is an option that someone with some vision could do something with," he said.

"It doesn't have to be a prison cell, but you've got the barebones to work with.

"What could be the ugly duckling could become the swan."

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