Tasmania’s Tuscan tribute to undergo major expansion despite objections

A faux-Tuscan events venue has won approval for a major expansion despite local objections to its scale and incompatibility with the southern Tasmanian surrounds.

The luxurious Villa Howden overlooking North West Bay will grow from 10 to 52 rooms and encompass a function centre, new dining area and bar following approval by the state’s planning authority.

Chinese investor William Wei, who owns the Australian Travel and Culture Group, bought the property in 2017 and was granted approval for the extensions by the Kingborough Council in February, against the advice of council officers.

An appeal lodged by local residents against the approval in the state’s Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal was turned down this week.

Extension designer Marco Linardi argued there were limited accommodation options for visitors in the surrounding Kingborough and Channel area.

“The beauty of this site is it is an isolated, well-hidden site. Our nearest neighbour is about 180 metres away,” he said.

“So it’s going to be well-hidden even though it’s an additional 36 suites.”

Nearby residents say the development fails to fit with the low-density rural character of the area and is at odds with local development guidelines.

“We’re very disappointed with the decision,” local Robert Pearshouse told ABC News.

“The style of the building is also a medieval, Tuscan, Moroccan-inspired villa. How that fits with the current characteristics of a bushland suburb of Howden is … absolutely amazing.”

The tribunal found none of the grounds of the appeal were compelling reasons for rejection of the plan.

“There is neither a unified character nor a consistent pattern of land use in the area, and the scale of the proposal simply cannot be said to be at odds with either or both,” it said in its decision.

Beijing-based Wei spent $20 million on the purchase of Villa Howden and two other luxury Tasmanian properties, Stanley’s Hanlon House and Beachside Retreat West Inlet, with plans to turn them into wedding retreats.

“In China, it is very attractive to get married overseas including the honeymoon,” he said following the purchase. “And with the strong tourism relationship between Australia and China, plus Australia’s beautiful environment, it will be attractive to weddings.

“The demand will be huge.”

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