THE old Shadforth schoolhouse could be home to a $2.9 million hedge maze and bed and breakfast if Orange City Council gives the development the green light at tonight’s meeting.
The venture is the brainchild of Orange Mini Golf owner Andrew Bailey, who bought the Mitchell Highway property about 18 months ago with the view to establish the tourist attraction.
Complaints from Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) forced Mr Bailey to abandon plans for a drive-through cafe at the site, but he has not given up and will lodge a separate development application for the cafe in the future.
“It was going to be a separate kiosk that would provide coffee and light snacks to motorists driving to Bathurst,” he said.
“From the money side it made sense, but RMS has opposed all these types of developments due to erratic behaviour by drivers.”
Stage one of the development will see the hedge maze planted and a temporary dwelling built for Mr Bailey and his family to live in while work gets underway to convert their current home, the historic schoolhouse, into a 50-seat restaurant.
He believes the maze will become a landmark for the area once the plants grow to full height within four years.
“Kids will run for the hedge maze while the parents have coffee ... they can kill some time and have a bit of a laugh,” Mr Bailey said.
Within five years he hopes to build the five-bedroom bed and breakfast with an indoor pool, spa, sauna, movie room and squash courts.
“It’s aimed at the Sydney market. We’re looking at bringing people up for the food and wine and the lifestyle,” he said.
“We’re targeting those people with a bit more money who want something more relaxing.
“Developments like this are needed for Orange, for the employment opportunities and the tourism opportunities.”
Mr Bailey was confident both ventures would be financially sustainable on their own.
The bluestone schoolhouse was opened in 1883 and despite fronting the highway is largely missed by passers-by.
Although the building is not heritage listed, Mr Bailey plans to restore it back to its former glory.
“We want to keep the historic side very much alive,” he said.
“During the last 15 years of its private ownership it’s been neglected so we want to improve on it.”
To comply with the council’s zoning, which only allows one dwelling per lot, Mr Bailey will decommission the temporary dwelling after stage two is finished.
He plans to convert the building into a commercial venture incorporating art, food and education, but was tight-lipped over the finer details.
As well as plans for a drive-through cafe, Mr Bailey would also like to establish a commercial nursery specialising in heritage fruit and vegetables on Crown Land he has leased in front of the schoolhouse.
But he will have to apply for council to rezone the land to allow it to be used for a commercial venture.