Moira Shire Council is officially saying goodbye to the historic Cobram grain silos, after it last week unanimously approved a permit application to demolish them.
Cr Ed Cox moved an alternate motion at the ordinary meeting last Wednesday night to allow for demolition, subject to a number of criteria including creating a visual record of the silos and railway tracks and paying for a commemorative historical plaque detailing the history of the site to be included in any future development.
Originally, a report listed in the council minutes recommended that council refuse the permit, citing inconsistencies with local and state planning policy frameworks and the decision guidelines of the heritage overlay, and because it had a significant impact on the Cobram town centre precinct.
‘‘The report concludes that the proposed demolition and removal will have a detrimental impact upon the heritage significance of the Cobram town centre precinct,’’ it said.
Four objections to the proposal were received, highlighting concerns for the landmark status of the silos, suggesting they should be painted and that the concrete was not deteriorating.
Cr Cox said as a Cobram resident, he had seen community support for council to approve the permit and support to reject it.
‘‘Across the state of Victoria, there are various silos that have tremendous art painted on to them, and I will say the silos in those towns are practically all you can expect to visit in those towns.
‘‘Cobram, as a town we live in, is a thriving town and our future does not revolve around a silo.
‘‘As for the railway system, there’s no further use. And a pocket of land right in the centre of the business district of Cobram, where we have an application before this council for somebody else, apart from council’s money or ratepayers’ money, to develop the site — somebody else is prepared to take on a role, other than government, to tackle this job, and I commend the person,’’ Cr Cox said.
‘‘If we turn around and say no, we might wait again a long time as a council before we get an application to come in and demolish these silos.’’
Cr Cox said at the end of the day, the silos were just not worth it.
‘‘I think to make the best of this opportunity and for the future of the central business district of Cobram, while sad as it may be that the silos go, it has my attention and support for the proposal to get rid of the silos,’’ he said.
Cr Kevin Bourke said there were a number of other grain silos across the shire, including at Yarrawonga, Nathalia, Waaia and Picola.
‘‘They’re too toxic for the main shopping centre of Cobram. Currently they’re not used, obviously, and haven’t been for many years. They’re a home to vermin,’’ Cr Bourke said.
‘‘It’s obviously not going to be a very cheap project, but to have the foresight and the determination to move forward, open this up to future development — I think we won’t get a second shot at this if we ignore it this time and refuse this permit application, and we’ll be looking at silos harbouring vermin and being a danger to members of the community.
‘‘It’s got to be a liability to the town and this is where I think we need to lead the way and move forward.’’
Cr Marie Martin said it would likely be a different story if council owned the building, ‘‘but we don’t, so I support this motion’’.
Cr Peter Lawless said, as Cr Cox pointed out, Cobram had ‘‘a hell of a lot going for it’’ and didn’t need this kind of structure in the middle of town.
‘‘A lot of these other towns that have got these structures (painted with art) ... pretty much haven’t got much else going for those towns,’’ Cr Lawless said.
‘‘I think this is a real opportunity ... to tidy up that whole precinct. We would be silly to knock back this opportunity.’’
Cr Wendy Buck said as much as she supported Cr Cox, she’d be sad to see the silos go.
‘‘It’s like our foreshore ... they’re not making any more of it — once they go, they’re gone,’’ Cr Buck said.
‘‘Are the next generation or the generation after us going to look back and say we made a poor decision, or we made the right decision?
‘‘As far as the art on the silos go, I’m a big supporter of that. It brings tourism, bountiful tourism, in every town and little locality that’s got them.
‘‘They’ve even got a trail now to do the silos and here we are, kicking that out of our shire.’’
Councillors Peter Mansfield and Libro Mustica agreed with Cr Cox.
‘‘The silos at Cobram are an eyesore and the sooner they go, the better,’’ Cr Mansfield said.