Prime coastal real estate selling at 'bargain basement' prices

UP to $10 million worth of prime Port Campbell real estate will be sold at "bargain basement" prices as high-profile property developers turn their backs on the town.

Twenty-one properties, including the site earmarked for the controversial Southern Ocean Beach House, will go under the hammer next month in Port Campbell's biggest-ever auction.

Developers Peter Barraclough and Richard Alston have decided to pull their money out of the coastal town and concentrate on projects in Melbourne.

"It's a reluctant thing we're doing," Mr Barraclough told The Standard yesterday.

"In our business, you just can't do everything and at the age of 60 you should be starting to slow down."

He admitted that their decision to sell had come as a surprise to many locals, with plenty of talk around town when the auction boards went up this week.

The properties include 12 three-bedroom units which are part of the Southern Ocean Villas on McCue Street, the 27-unit Southern Ocean Motor Inn, a vacant business-zoned site and a huge residential block, all on Lord Street, a new three-bedroom house on Morris Street, two beach cottages on Hennessy Street and three vacant residential lots on Pitcher and McCue streets.

The pair began their foray into the coastal town 10 years ago and Mr Barraclough denied it was a disappointing investment. "Business is actually getting stronger recently. Asian tourism was non-existent in 2003 and it has grown in the past few years. It's a big market."

The proposed Southern Ocean Beach House, overlooking the town's beach, was designed in 2006 as a four-storey, 97-room resort with 10 shops and a 200-seat restaurant.

The plans met with strong opposition from environmentalists and were twice blocked by Corangamite Shire Council but approved by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The developers gained two further two-year extensions of the permit, but work never progressed and it finally expired last September.

Mr Barraclough said the council had advised him it would be reluctant to support another extension and after six years the project would have needed a major review regardless.

He said he appreciated there were people who had a different view of the development: "You can never keep everyone happy."

Real estate agent John Castran has previously been involved in a similar fire sale, with a mass auction of 26 Mount Buller properties for Melbourne property identity Rino Grollo last year.

Mr Castran said Mr Barraclough, who worked with Hudson Conway on the Crown casino development, and Mr Alston, the head of property acquisitions with the Mirvac group, were very experienced developers. "They picked all the best sites," he said.

Mr Castran said the aim of the mass auction, to be held in Warrnambool on Friday, October 18, was to achieve a quick result.

"The process of getting rid of them quickly appeals. They don't want to walk away from this auction with any properties left," Mr Castran said.

"There's $9-$10 million of property to be sold. It's the most significant auction ever in the area. Anyone wanting to own a bargain coastal property better turn up on the day because there's going to be 21 people walking around that afternoon with smiles on their faces."

Mr Barraclough said he hoped there would be 22 smiling faces after the October 18 auction, "one being me."

malexander@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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