In a blow for the future of the Old Bega Hospital, a request for $2.4million needed to begin the restoration of the building has been knocked back.
Last year an application was made under round two of the NSW government’s Regional Cultural Fund, a fund that aimed to support the development of cultural infrastructure in regional NSW.
But Old Bega Hospital Reserve Land Manager board member Richard Bomford said on December 21 he received the news their application had been unsuccessful.
It is not the only Bega Valley project that missed out on a grant from the fund, as the Bega Valley Regional Gallery’s request for $3.4million for redevelopment works was also denied.
By Wednesday, Mr Bomford had not yet been informed why the project had lost out and was “still a bit in shock”.
“There’s nobody that’s opposed to it that I know of,” he said.
“The community wants it fixed and wants it as a space again.”
The application had been widely supported by a number of groups including South East Arts, Spiral Gallery, Bega Chamber of Commerce and Member for Bega Andrew Constance, he said.
He said the reserve land manager had plans, cost estimates and was “basically ready to go to council for a development application”.
The Regional Cultural Fund was worth a total of $100million and Mr Bomford was unsure where else a grant with enough funding to begin the restoration could be found.
“The purpose of the fund aligned pretty well with what we wanted to do, which was build a regional community cultural centre,” he said.
“It was a one-off opportunity and we really, really needed the funding and we were ready for it.
“When there will be another funding opportunity, we don’t know.”
Mr Bomford said work that had been completed for the project so far, such as the costings, would become out of date and he estimated they had about two years to find another source of funding otherwise the money already spent on the plans would be wasted.
Now, he plans to write to the NSW Premier to make clear the “urgent” position of the old hospital, confirm plans are ready to go and say there was no other applicable funding program for the project.
“It’s been rejected, but that’s not the end of the road,” he said.
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He said the reserve land manager had also applied for a $500,000 grant from the Building Better Regions Fund for stage two works but was unsure if it would be accepted now without the Regional Cultural Fund money.
He also said Deputy Premier of NSW John Barilaro had previously made an offer of $500,000 towards the restoration of the old hospital on the condition enough funding was found to complete the project.
That offer expired last October, but a month earlier the reserve land manger contacted Mr Barilaro to request an extension and as of this year had still yet to hear back from him.
The Old Bega Hospital was gutted by fire in 2004.