Launceston’s first 5-star hotel still three years away after developers get council green light

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Council have approved plans to build a controversial nine-storey hotel in Launceston, despite fierce opposition from community groups and local residents about its height, noise and potential traffic problems.

The Gorge Hotel was first proposed seven years ago by proponents JAC Group.

The 145-room, 39-metre-high hotel will be built on the corner of Paterson and Margaret streets and will be the only 5-star hotel in Launceston.

Project continues to divide community 

Susie Cai and her husband Wei live on Margaret Street, just metres from the site. 

They fear the hotel will significantly block natural light reaching their home.

“The overshadowing will cause more damp and mould in our house, worsening health issues for two of our three children with asthma,” she said.

“It will also render our $35,000 solar system and battery backup we’ve installed almost useless, increasing electricity costs for our home and business.”

Public gallery at the Launceston Council meeting filled with people for and against the development
The public gallery at the Launceston City Council chamber was filled with members of the public both for and against the development.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

Victoria Wilkinson from community group Heritage not Highrise has opposed the development for years. 

“It may well be one of those properties that in the future people will say, ‘How did that happen?’ … hopefully not, but that’s the risk this council takes,” she said.

“I think the thing is we have no problem with a five-star hotel, of course have one, just not one that is so tall and so commanding of such a special area … it’s out of order really.”

Anne Layton-Bennett, from Hands Off Our Gorge, told the council chamber before a vote on the development that it was “simply too big”.

“It will dominate, dwarf and overshadow everything in proximity and will damage Launceston’s reputation for architectural elegance,” she said.

Earlier this year the Tasmanian Planning Commission approved an exemption to the maximum building height limit that meant the height of the project could no longer be an issue of objection. 

“Hands Off Our Gorge does not believe a concrete and glass, 39-metre hotel tower will either reflect or compliment the natural beauty of our gorge at all,” Ms Layton-Bennett said. 

“We consider the scale, height and proximity of this hotel will have an extremely negative impact on the gorge and on the daily experience of the Launceston community who love its natural beauty.”

Elderly man speaking into a microphone in the Launceston Council Chambers
JAC Group founding director Josef Chromy asked council to “please support” the plans after a seven-year battle for approval.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

‘Launceston needs a 5-star hotel’, proponent says

The managing director of JAC Group, Dean Cocker, said the hotel would be a significant boost for the region.

“Launceston needs a 5-star hotel, we also need the 280 to 300 jobs that this project will generate,” he said. 

JAC Group founding director Josef Chromy told the meeting that Launceston also needed more tourism.

“The height is permitted … and seven years is long enough, please support the Gorge Hotel,” he said. 

“Big hotels always have bars, restaurants, function areas, gyms or bottleshops … we really need this.”

Mayor Albert zan Zetten also addressed concerns from some attendees that the issue should be held over until after the upcoming local government elections.

He told the chamber any major development application must still proceed despite the council being in caretaker mode.

“Council cannot defer a decision,” he said. 

Artist's impression of lobby of proposed hotel development.
The hotel proposal has been the topic of much community debate.(Supplied: JAC Group)

Councillor Rob Soward later added to this sentiment and said he felt insulted to think members of the community felt the current council should not make the decision.

“If we had a new council with a significant number of new councillors considering this in their first or second meeting, the critics would then say well how are these people suppose to deal with this, they’re all new,” he said. 

At least three years to build

The hotel proposes 145 rooms (approximately 290 beds) with 20 rooms per level on levels 2-8 and five penthouse rooms on level nine.

Level 9 also includes a rooftop cocktail bar.

The development is proposed to be constructed over two stages and JAC Group said it would take at least three years to finish the project.

Stage 1 will include construction of the hotel, function centre, restaurant, bars and wellness centre, as well as 154 car parking spaces.

Stage 2 will see the service station and canopy demolished, as well as the decommissioning of the underground storage tanks.

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