The Central Coast Conservatorium of Music, the largest regional Conservatorium in NSW, hopes to expand on land behind its present location, the historic court house in Mann St, Gosford.
President of the Central Coast Conservatorium’s Management Board, Mr Peter Brandon, said the conservatorium was negotiating with the University of Newcastle, Central Coast Council and the NSW Government to secure its future expansion.
The historic court house on the corner of Mann St and Georgiana Terrace, Gosford, is Crown Land and the current trustee is the University of Newcastle (UON).
Mr Brandon said that he was hopeful that negotiations with UON would see that trusteeship transition to the Conservatorium for the next 30 years.
He said the Conservatorium was also in the process of lobbying Central Coast Council to give it a 300 square metre piece of land between the court house and the site of Council’s proposed multi-storey carpark.
The land would be developed, in stages, to accommodate a performance space, studios and a library.
Finally, the Conservatorium has been lobbying the NSW Government to directly provide it with $2 million towards its development plans.
That $2 million was part of the $12 million bundle of NSW Government funds promised for the development of a regional performing arts centre in Gosford.
Mr Brandon said the $2 million had always been earmarked specifically to build a conservatorium alongside the regional performing arts centre.
He said the Board of Management had invited NSW Minister for the Arts, Mr Don Harwin, to take a tour of its facilities at 45 and 35 Mann St.
“We took Mr Harwin, and the Member for Terrigal, Mr Adam Crouch, around our facilities and gave them a presentation on what we are doing and the way ahead,” Mr Brandon said.
“We explained the situation and he was very supportive,” he said.
According to Mr Brandon, the Central Coast Conservatorium is “going ahead in leaps and bounds”.
“We have 400 one-on-one students and around 800 school students who are in bands and ensembles,” he said.
“The conservatorium completes 30,000 equivalent teaching hours per year, so it is the biggest Conservatorium in NSW outside of Newcastle and Sydney.
“It is currently crammed into 35 and 45 Mann Street, Gosford.
“45 Mann St is the old court house and 35 is currently the subject of a development consent that will be commencing who knows when, so, at the moment, we are on a month-to-month lease.
“It is a difficult situation, but we have to put up with it and we are negotiating with real estate agents for a place nearby, so that if the development comes to fruition, we have a place to move into,” he said.
The buildings occupied by the Conservatorium at 35 Mann St are used as studios, rooms for teaching musicianship and a library.
Mr Brandon said he wished to assure the community that the court house would be preserved and enhanced.
The UON has held the crown land lease on the court house since the 1980s.
The Conservatorium moved into it in 1987 “and they allow us to use it,” Mr Brandon said.
“We would like to enhance the site so that it becomes a mix of the old and the new and an iconic landmark in Gosford,” he said.
“The new building would be available to the community as it would include a performance space and potentially a function space looking out to Brisbane Water,” he said.
Mr Brandon said it was disappointing that the concept to build a performing arts centre and a new conservatorium on Poppy Park had been turned into a “political hot potato”.
However, he said the Conservatorium was confident it could build stage one of its proposed development behind the court house with the $2 million pledged by the NSW Government.
He said ADG Architectural Design had already completed conceptual work that meant a first stage could be completed to first floor level with more added as funds became available.
The completed building, according to Mr Brandon, would cost around $6 million.
“We hope to go to the community, to the government and do other fund raising to meet the cost,” he said.
Around 25 per cent of the Central Coast Conservatorium’s funds currently come from the NSW Department of Education.
The majority of the other 75 per cent comes from fees and sponsorship.
Mr Brandon said the Conservatorium had a very good relationship with Central Coast Council.
“We have had lots of fruitful conversations with Council.
“Ms Julie Vaughan [Group Leader Connected Communities] is an amazing person and we want to offer our expert advice on the regional performing arts centre as it will need to be acoustically sound,” he said.
Mr Brandon said the Conservatorium hoped to move ahead with its plans as quickly as possible.
“If the money comes through from the State Government, I would like to see the first sod turned by March 2018,” he said.
Interview, Aug 21
Peter Brandon, Central Coast Conservatorium
Jackie Pearson, journalist