Celebrity chef Shannon Bennett has hit out at ‘dictatorial’ officials who he claims are stifling his redevelopment of a historic mansion into a luxury six-star resort by making unreasonable demands for repairs.
The head chef at Melbourne restaurant Vue de monde and his business partner have already poured millions into transforming the iconic Burnham Beeches mansion in the Dandenong Ranges, 40km east of Melbourne.
They planned to turn the state-listed building – which they took over in 2010 – into a hotel with a microbrewery, shop and new restaurant.
Bennett was given approval to transform the property in 2018 but now claims a deal with a leading high-end hotel chain could be under threat after Heritage Victoria demanded he complete a series of minor but costly alterations to the property.
Celebrity chef Shannon Bennett with his former partner Madeleine West. Bennett has hit out at what he called ‘dictatorial’ heritage bureaucrats who he claims are stifling his redevelopment of a historic mansion near Melbourne
Plans for the state-listed Art Moderne building constructed in 1933 include a microbrewery, a shop and a new restaurant – but Bennett fears Heritage Victoria’s demands for repairs are putting the project in jeopardy
The chef said the project would bring jobs to the area at a time when Victoria has been brought to its knees financially by the COVID-19 crisis.
‘Victoria is currently at its lowest morale ever. This is a vision that we are determined to make a reality,’ he told the Herald Sun.
One notice he and his business partner Adam Garrison received from Heritage Victoria had ordered them to carry out $250,000 in repairs, he said.
‘We’re happy to keep the building in reasonable repair but in this instance it seems all about compliance,’ Bennett said.
‘It’s madness. I’m not standing for it any more.’
Heritage Victoria executive director Steven Avery hit back and said the mansion must be repaired.
Shannon Bennett with Madeleine West in 2016. He said Heritage Victoria had ordered him and his business partners to carry out $250,000 in repairs
The iconic 1933-built 22-hectare mansion was previously a children’s hospital and a research centre
Bennett (left) pictured with former MasterChef judges George Calombaris (bottom right), Matt Preston (top middle) and Gary Mehigan (bottom middle). Pictured far right is guest chef Curtis Stone
‘Despite frequent requests over more than a year, the owners of Burnham Beeches have failed to undertake even basic maintenance works such as cleaning gutters and urgent repairs,’ he said.
‘Owners of state listed heritage places such as Burnham Beeches have obligations under the Heritage Act 2017 to ensure that they are maintained and do not fall into disrepair.’
The 22-hectare mansion, built in 1933, has previously been used as a children’s hospital and a research centre.
The rooms and suites in the mansion though have been stripped of fittings and fixtures ahead of the redevelopment.
Bennett dressed in his Vue de monde chef attire. He and his business partner have already poured $2million into transforming the Burnham Beeches property