Premier raises hopes about VU site

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews. Picture: Luke Hemer

Premier Daniel Andrews has hinted at ‘‘exciting announcements’’ about the former Victoria University site at Jacksons Hill, raising hopes that the historic property will not be lost to community use.

Visiting Sunbury last Wednesday, Mr Andrews said the state government remained steadfast in its belief that the site should be used for educational purposes.

‘‘There’s a few issues we need to work through,’’ he said. ‘‘But we hope to have some exciting announcements to make in the future.

‘‘We should always be looking for more educational provision, particularly in an area like Sunbury that’s pretty unique.

‘‘It’s got that country feel about it, but it’s on the edge of Melbourne. That’s great, but it also means there’s some more challenges.’’

Residential development has been among possibilities floated for the site, which was handed over to VU in the 1990s.

It has been largely dormant since the university closed its Sunbury campus in 2009, with parts becoming a target for vandals.

Sunbury Residents Association (SRA) has long sought promises that the site, which was the historic home of Sunbury’s 19th century asylum, will not be carved up for housing.

Western Metropolitan Liberal MP Bernie Finn has also warned the government against changing planning permits or zones.

The Sunbury Asylum Alliance, which hopes to turn the site into a thriving community hub with space for jobs training, youth programs and artists, has also urged the government to prevent the land being sold off.

Parts of the site, being used by community groups including radio station 3NRG and the Boilerhouse Theatre Company, have been earmarked by Hume council for an arts and cultural precinct.

In a letter to the SRA, council chief executive Domenic Isola said the future of the remainder of the site lay with VU.

‘‘Council understands that VU considers the site surplus to needs and has initiated a planning scheme amendment seeking to rezone the site to facilitate the sale,’’ Mr Isola said.

Council city infrastructure director Kelvin Walsh told Star Weekly that VU ‘‘should consider ways that the area could continue to support our community in the years ahead’’.

‘‘At the same time, Hume is keen for the government to lead a working group which can help identify how the site may be used in the future,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘We would like to work closely with the government so that options can be developed to ensure that the site contributes positively to Sunbury.’’

VU has previously said the university was working with the council to determine a use for the site to ‘‘enable a tertiary presence to be retained in Sunbury’’.