A group of locals in South Australia’s Barossa Valley has launched a campaign against a $50 million, 12-storey hotel proposed for Seppeltsfield Winery, which it says is excessively large and out of character for the area. Two neighbours of the winery have also applied to the Environment, Resources and Development Court, calling for a review into the local council’s approval process.

Designed by Adelaide-based practice Intro Architecture, the “Oscar” hotel is intended to reference the history of the winery, established in 1851, with its form inspired by the wine barrels in the Centennial Cellar, built by Oscar Benno Pedro Seppel in 1878. The Barossa Valley lies on the land of the Peramangk, Ngadjuri and Kaurna peoples.

Neighbour Tracy Collins, however, says the design is inappropriate.

“It is purely the magnitude, the height, the fact that it doesn’t sit cohesively within the landscape, it isn’t sensitive to nature,” she told the ABC.

“To be honest, we don’t think it truly reflects Barossa culture.

“People come from the city with big skyscrapers and high-rises and come to the Barossa because they don’t see that.”

Collins is part of the Taming Oscar community action group, which says that while it is not in opposition to development at Seppeltsfield or the wider Barossa area, development should work with the landscape and fit in with the largely low-rise buildings of the winery region.

Preliminary plans for the hotel were submitted to Light Regional Council for consideration in February 2020. Council planning staff assessed the development as a Category 2 tourist accommodation development, which means that only owners or occupiers of adjacent land are entitled to be consulted.

Opponents of the proposal have objected to this classification, arguing that such a significant development should require input from the public at large.

In a consultation period in August, council received 11 representations from the 14 neighbours contacted, with two of the neighbours applying to the Environment, Resources and Development Court for a review of the category 2 classification.

The council has since released a statement, on 27 August, noting that it will postpone any further consideration of the development application until the review proceedings in the ERD Court have been determined.

Ultimately, the development application will be assessed by an independent assessment panel established by the council. South Australia’s planning minister Stephan Knoll advised in May that the council was the appropriate planning authority for the development, despite it holding a contractual relationship with Seppeltsfield through the Bunyip Water Scheme and planning a potential future public-private partnership with the winery.

Should the hotel be approved it will house approximately 70 rooms, a “sky bar,” day spa, restaurant and boardroom.

Seppeltsfield owner Warren Randall said, “We wanted to create a national icon for South Australia – a Sydney Opera House for the Barossa.”

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