Letter to the editor | Bob Lamond continues support for Regent Theatre

I was puzzled to read Hugh Bateman’s comments in the Mudgee Guardian on Friday, November 17.

YES -  Mudgee citizens “can lay blame fairly and squarely on Mid-Western Regional Council” for their numerous failures to buy the Regent for the community – First one was in 1998 when the NSW Premier exhorted councils to buy their local cinema offering grants from Ministry of the Arts as a community and social asset. 13 NSW Councils accepted this offer - Mudgee Council said NO THANKS! Second failure was in 2010 when the Regent was put on sale by the owners. Third failure was when Mod Urban P/L acquired The Regent,  this must have been a private transaction, however, it would be even stranger if Council was not aware of the transaction.

YES -  Cinema’s time is “over” until someone builds two modern small cinemas in Mudgee.

YES -  You believe “the Hotel should go ahead as long as it met regulations” - we all have a right to express our opinions BUT as a prominent person in our community, very knowledgeable in real estate matters, perhaps you should have mentioned the regulations breached in the DA?

WRONG “It’s far too late people” to lobby them (Council)

WRONG “the horse has bolted”.

The DA is placed on exhibition for citizens to read and, if they wish, make comments to Council. Council has rightly extended submissions on the DA to December 1 giving time for three more Guardians, perhaps three Editorials,  and all the citizens including the colloquial “fat lady” to sing out loud and clear.

I shall prepare and distribute a petition to Council,with the help of the 1300 plus community members of Revive The Mudgee Theatre, informing citizens of the regulations and community issues, seeking their support by signing the petition and requesting Council, at the next Council meeting, to further extend the date to January 2, 2018 to allow adequate time for Council to get the benefit of the communities responses.

Hugh, you are well aware of my efforts since 2007, along with other community members to convince Council to save the old TAFE land - Southbank - as open parkland; and in 2010 when the Regent was offered for sale - we asked Council to acquire The Regent, transfer Town Hall 1st floor Live theatre to the Regent and develop the Regent as a community multi-focus entertainment centre. I presented 1,342 citizens petitions to Council which they ignored as they did for the 500 plus petitions the late Arthur Breckenridge presented specifically calling for open parkland. 


What did we achieve? The Council dithered for years with plans for a many millions dollar Library on the Tafe site, eventually reneged those plans, developed the Old Town Hall, which they knew was well overdue with major roofing problems - Council was not short of funds at the time investing in the former Stocklands property and developing the fabulous sporting fields including a multi million $? who knows? grand stand. BUT they had no money to buy the Regent for the community - especially for our youth.

We got the open parkland and an excellent redeveloped library with modern film equipment which is used once each month thanks to Rotary Volunteers BUT NO Regent community multi focus entertainment centre. 

Hugh, I am sure you would agree that, as we told Council at the time, “We should all be concerned about the future of our youth - there is today a major shortage of non-sporting youth activities in Mudgee”. In 2009, Council lodged a proposal for funding - Heritage Projects which was focussed on its restoration and development into a multi use centre - nothing was publicly heard of the lodgement or of the result. In 2010, our Youth Mayor declared their primary goal for 2011/12 was to bring cinema back to Mudgee. We have fabulous sports facilities - what we need is equally fabulous non sports entertainment and arts facilities. 

The 2017 DA - the central issue - the 2015 report to Council by Graham Hall, Architect and Heritage Consultant highlighted that the 2015 proposal would have a seriously adverse impact on the heritage significance of the Regent and that accordingly it might be argued that the DA should simply be refused. Hall refers to the widely recognise “BURRA CHARTER” which states “Cultural significance is embodied in the place itself, its fabric, setting, use, associations, meanings, records, related places and related objects.” Hall emphasises that the Theatre is socially significant, valued by community members who recall important events and regular cinema-going over many years means that it’s interiors, as well as its presence in the streetscape, are highly valued by the community. Hall states that the 2015 proposal involved such extensive alterations that all aspects of its significance - historical, historical association, aesthetic, social significance, rarity and representativeness - will be very much affected.

Given the 2017 DA is 66 2/3 per cent larger than the 2015 DA I believe that the “might be argued” is no longer the case - in my opinion the 2017 DA should be refused by Council.

Focusing on the many other issues with the DA - is it a 84 room motel or a hotel? Does a large scale motel/hotel qualify with the LEP Commercial Core? Five storeys is 66 2/3 per cent larger than the previous owners three storey DA and that had a problem being in excess of 15 metres - overshadowing? privacy? roof top drinking? parking/traffic - 84 rooms - 84 parking spaces? = 70 cars moving each day? two lane vehicle entry/exit say 36 vehicles per hour? etc. etc.

Surely the above leaves the only use which meets these requirements is for Council to buy it and gift it to the community by deed creating a Regent Theatre Community Foundation - for the community to develop it over time as a multi-focus entertainment and arts centre - look how our businesses helped out with the Mens Shed - especially involving our youth organisations - ignore the oft mentioned $4.7 million - that was former CEO Bennet’s ROLLS ROYCE special - we should proceed slowly as did 13 communities in NSW who have set us an example - slow but sure - encouraging community involvement with Council helping when it can - it doesn’t need millions of dollars - it needs the tender loving care style development of willing community organisations and members.

Hugh this is rather long winded as I hope it will give our community enough background on the real issues. I personally admire your many acts for our community, your interest in our history, help to the Colonial Inn Museum and particularly your NSW tractor Drive for the McGrath Foundation - we have some common interests - having Driven my 1910 Brush, twice for Perth to Sydney and in 2001 “Around Australia” collecting donations for the McGrath and Prostate Foundations and as a Life Member of the Colonial Inn Museum. 

Surely you don’t believe that this motel/hotel project is of greater good for Mudgee than Council buying the Regent for the community, establishing the Regent Theatre Community Foundation and helping our community develop the theatre into a multi focus entertainment and arts centre? We need your help and that of the other community leaders.

You say it is good for tourism - but is it good for our community?

Bob Lamond


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