A forum held to discuss the location of the city's art gallery has heard an "overwhelming majority" are opposed to it moving from its current site to Cannon Hill.
The Warrnambool City Council hosted a public forum on Tuesday night to gauge opinion on two site options for a new gallery which The Standard revealed in April would cost about $40 million.
A whole new facility overlooking the foreshore at Cannon Hill was the preferred option in feasibility plans drawn up for the council.
The alternate option of rebuilding a facility complete with an architectural "wow" factor on the current site would be about $1 million more.
Extending the existing building was ruled out because it could not hold up a second storey, and meant spilling out onto too much of the neighbouring car park.
Warrnambool solicitor and nearby resident Tony Robinson said he wanted Cannon Hill, a city icon, to remain in its current state and said many of the attendees felt the same.
He wants to see the existing gallery site developed and said the location made sense as it was within the theatre and restaurant precinct.
"I really don't fancy such a big structure of any description being put up on what is a really well-used green and open space, but I respect the reasons for people thinking that should be an option to consider," Mr Robinson said.
"I'm a nearby resident but my opinion would be the same whether I lived there or on Hopkins Point Road."
He said it was "very obvious" the majority of attendees "were overwhelmingly opposed to the gallery going to Cannon Hill".
"I can understand why it was put up as a proposition but I wouldn't want it and that was the very clear view of the vast majority of those that attended the meeting."
He said it only being a concept plan at this stage was also a cause of concern for forum attendees.
"People were saying the plan just doesn't bear reality to what's up there. It was a frustration when it was explained 'This is just a concept plan. All that's going to be decided at this stage is the site. Is it going to be there or on the existing site?'" he said.
"People were clearly troubled by the fact they don't know whether it's going to be one-storey or two-storeys or how big it's going to be and the parking.
"You're being asked to give your opinion on which is going to be the better site without any definition about what's going to go up there.
"That was something that was discussed quite openly. It was a well conducted meeting. I think some people came along with the impression that it would be more a forum for everyone to have a chance to have a say, but it wasn't conducted in that way."
Artist Rob Quick attended and said while it was ran exactly as it was promoted on the council website he noted some frustrations among participants. "There were people there that wanted to raise the issue of some other sites and they were able to do it but perhaps not as vocally as maybe they would have hoped," Mr Quick said.
"It's fair to say some people who live on Merri Street, between Liebig and Banyan street, were concerned and probably didn't get a chance to express their concern as much as they might have liked to have done."
Council's recreation and culture manager Ali Kemp said 34 people attended the forum, run by John Stevens from Dench McLean Carlson consultancy, and the process included a separate online survey which received 79 responses.
Ms Kemp said participants were asked to rate how they considered the two possible sites against a selection of questions that determined suitability.
She said "as expected" there were strong opinions on the locations and the forum was for people's voices to be heard. She said the consultant would collate forum feedback, written submissions and online surveys and provide a report to council.
"The report will not make a recommendation. Council will then determine which site will be used to develop a business case for a new gallery," Ms Kemp said. "This will include construction and whole of life costings based on concept designs, that could be used to attract external funding."
She said the surveys had not focussed on how the new gallery would look and council was "a long way off determining this yet".
She said the cost of the consultancy firm could not be revealed as it was commercial in confidence, however there was a formal request for a quotation process. The cost is covered by the Regional Victoria's Investment Fast Track fund.
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