Thorneside resident says historical Willard's Farm is going to ruin while Redland City Council fails to plan

FENCED OFF: The homestead and other buildings on the Willard's Farm property on Old Cleveland Road East.
FENCED OFF: The homestead and other buildings on the Willard's Farm property on Old Cleveland Road East.

A THORNESIDE resident says the historical Willard's Farm at Birkdale is deteriorating while the council fails to plan for its restoration.

Redland City Council bought the Cleveland Road East property for $1.45 million in 2016 to save the homestead built in 1876 and prevent developers dividing it into 12 lots.

Rowanne McKenzie said only minor works had been done since the site was fenced off in 2016.

"The construction fencing and fluro-orange mesh is unsightly and the buildings are continuing to deteriorate," Ms McKenzie said. "The further they deteriorate, the more it's going to cost ratepayers to restore."

A council spokesman said that the restoration had been stalled because a $1 million state grant had not been forthcoming.

He said the council had spent $385,000 in three years and budgeted $150,000 this year on tender documents to engage specialist contractors and $28,500 for security, utilities and maintenance.

It was likely the homestead - also known as The Pines and Cotton's farm - was built about 1876 by James Willard.

It was likely the homestead - also known as The Pines and Cotton's farm - was built about 1876 by James Willard.

Ms McKenzie said she had asked Cr Paul Bishop on social media about who was responsible. She said he had replied: "That likely deserves a conversation. Perhaps with other civic entities. Perhaps with other commercial entities. Perhaps with our community."

She said Cr Bishop had said: "RCC currently has no guiding document for management or maintenance of heritage matters to advise residents or itself on such matters."

She said the responses were concerning as Cr Bishop had pushed for the council to buy the farm.

"Redland City Council owns the farm so in essence shouldn't it be the council's responsibility now to restore it instead of leaving it there behind unsightly construction fencing to deteriorate?" Ms McKenzie said.

Cr Bishop said although the land no longer fell in his division, he had pushed for money to be spent on renovations. "But it is not something that I as a lone councillor can control," he said.

The council spokesman said the council had progressed the project with the funding available.

"This includes working with heritage experts to prepare a conservation management plan, archival records, measured drawings and engineering assessments," he said. "We have also undertaken emergency remedial works, including asbestos removal; vegetation clearing; roof plumbing and drainage works; power, security and lighting installation; and pest treatment.

Redland City Council installed a fence to prevent vandalism and theft of materials from the property.

Redland City Council installed a fence to prevent vandalism and theft of materials from the property.

"Fencing has been erected to prevent vandalism and stop the theft of materials from site."

Cr Bishop said he had passed on details of dozens of people who had offered to help.

"It is a great frustration to me," he said. "I have asked for more to be done but that is not the consensus view."

The spokesman said the council was prevented by legislative and safety restrictions from allowing volunteers to work on a construction site.

"The community members referred by Cr Bishop have been recorded on a register and will be consulted regarding what contributions they can make to the ongoing operation of the property," he said.

A 2015 engineers report said there had been little maintenance of the house, dairy and laundry. Some buildings were affected by termites and rot.

The homestead on Willard's Farm.

The homestead on Willard's Farm.

It was likely the homestead - also known as The Pines and Cotton's farm - was built about 1876 by James Willard.

Former Redland chief executive Bill Lyon said in 2016 urgent work would include vegetation and debris clearing and minor repairs.

He said a heritage architect would be engaged to ensure artefacts like old dump sites, a child's grave and garden bed would be protected.

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