The multi-million dollar upgrade of the popular Port Macquarie observatory has taken a major step forward with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council passing the development application.
The approval was granted at council's development meeting on March 25.
The project is expected to be constructed in stages with a new dome likely upgraded first. Costings put the proposed upgrade at between $3.5m and $4m.
Association president Robert Brangwin said the current observatory is now 58 years old showing its age and has definitely reached its use by day.
"This is a major milestone in the progress of the association towards its desire to provide a visionary facility for the local and regional communities," he said.
"The idea behind the vision - building an astronomy/science centre - began in the 1980s but had remained dormant for many years until it was resurrected in 2006 by the then committee.
"A number of ideas and plans were put forward and put to the council, which then developed and released plans for an information centre to be combined with the science centre in Rotary Park.
A number of ideas and plans were put forward and put to the council, which then developed and released plans for an information centre to be combined with the science centre in Rotary Park.- David Brangwin
"However, interest in this plan was lost when the Glasshouse project was mooted as a more ideal site for an information centre as it was situated in the central CBD.
"The vision was later revitalised and a new, inspirational design was released in 2015," he said.
"This drew a great deal of excited attention and new enthusiasm for the project evolved."
Mr Brangwin said the costs associated with the project proved that it was out of reach for the association's financial capabilities.
The new enthusiasm added members to the management committee which then undertook to continue following the vision.
After three years of consideration and conversations with members, the association's consultant, the Lands Department and council, the current design and plan was agreed upon.
The brief stated that the new building should be unique and iconic to make the best possible use of the high profile site, Mr Brangwin said.
"The community deserves a high profile asset in the town beach area.
The community deserves a high profile asset in the town beach area.- David Brangwin
"A chief aspect of our vision is to provide a learning experience for both students and adults that will be both entertaining and informative."
The opening hours of the new building will be gradually extended to provide opportunities for all ages of the local residents, students and tourists to understand the wonders of our universe and its science.
David Tooby from design consultants King and Campbell said achieving development consent for this important community facility marks a big step towards realising the association's long held goal of replacing its existing building.
"The new facility will be able to cater for a wide range of school and community science-based events and will contribute significantly to the social and built fabric of the town," he said.
"It will also provide much needed public toilets for Rotary Park."
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