A proposal for a Beechworth caravan park that would have had The Castle house as its centrepiece has been rejected by the local council, which cited an adverse impact on the area’s “vibe” in its decision.
George Fendyk — owner of the weatherboard that featured as Darryl Kerrigan’s ‘castle’ in the 1997 film — said it had been deteriorating while Indigo Shire Council considered his proposal to open the caravan park.
He said it had been sitting “as a wreck”, in four pieces with no roof, since it was transported from Strathmore to its new site — Beechworth’s 105ha former Mayday Hills Lunatic Asylum — in December 2017.
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Mr Fendyk and his business partner Geoffrey Lucas paid $40,000 for the house, without its block next to Essendon Airport in Strathmore, at auction in mid-2017.
The ultimate piece of movie memorabilia was then carved up, wrapped in plastic and tarp, and heaved on to a convoy of trucks to be driven about 300km to Victoria’s northeast.
It would have been the caravan park’s office, and accordingly open to the public.
Indigo Shire councillors voted 5-2 against the caravan park proposal this week, with council minutes citing a number of reasons including that the proposal would “adversely affect the amenity and vibe of the surrounding area”.
In the meeting, former Indigo Shire mayor Jenny O’Connor labelled Mayday Hills of “paramount significance to the community as a heritage site that is pivotal to the history and future of Beechworth”.
She said the caravan park application — which included developing 35 cabins for “permanent accommodation” — was “not sympathetic to the heritage and cultural value of this important site”.
“This would be setting up virtually a ghetto situation. There’s a lot of concern from the community about that,” Cr O’Connor said.
Mayor Bernard Gaffney questioned why Cr O’Connor had concerns based on vibe, noting the planning department’s recommendation had been to “approve the planning permit application (subject to) conditions”.
The minutes also showed the council received four objections to the park, centring on noise, traffic and security concerns, and the development not being compatible with surrounding agriculture activities and low density.
A frustrated Mr Fendyk said he planned to fight the council’s decision in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
And despite the ruling, the businessman still intended to restore The Castle house.
But he wouldn’t open it to tourists as he’d planned.
“It won’t open to the public until we get a caravan park. The park will make it viable,” Mr Fendyk said.
“Regardless of whether the council gives me a permit, I’m not going to sit back and watch it deteriorate further. It’s sitting there as a wreck — another year of this and you’d just burn it.
“It’s already cost us $80,000, and it’s gonna cost another $80,000 at least to make it liveable.”
Mr Fendyk said he’d hoped to “well and truly” have the caravan park open by now.
The house’s previous owner Vicky Cosentino had it for 24 years as a rental property, including when The Castle was filmed there.
The two-week shoot occurred without her permission and caused the weatherboard substantial damage.