WHEN Elise and her fiance Ryan first saw the barn at the Sydney Polo Club they knew they had found the perfect place for their wedding.
But just 11 days before their big day, Elise received the news no bride wants to hear. She would have to find a new venue after the polo club was forced to cancel bookings and close its doors after losing a dispute with the local council over noise.
“The polo club was the first venue we visited after we got engaged in 2014, and we decided not to go anywhere else because it was what we wanted for our wedding,” Ms Corrigan told news.com.au.
“The decision that we can’t have our wedding there is still so fresh. I wouldn’t say I’m angry, I’d just say I’m devastated. And disappointed.”
Elise is not alone. Almost a dozen brides have been caught up in the saga, which has been running for several months.
The club, which was featured in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and Channel Ten’s The Bachelor, has had to cease wedding functions on their property, after the local council officially cancelled their temporary development application, meaning such events were prohibited after March 27.
This follows a decision earlier this month by Hawkesbury City Council to knock back two DAs lodged by the club to host weddings on the property. After the meeting, several councillors put in a motion to rescind the decision, and allow those booked for weddings in 2016 to still have their special day.
But a meeting on Monday night rejected the motion, instead standing by the original cut-off date — meaning couples like Elise with weddings booked after March would need to find a new venue.
A scene from the Great Gatsby was filmed at the Sydney Polo Club, but don’t expect the house and gardens, because they were digitally added.
A scene from the Great Gatsby was filmed at the Sydney Polo Club, but don’t expect the house and gardens, because they were digitally added.Source:YouTube
When Elise and her partner Ryan Grdusiak booked the venue, there were no restrictions in place in terms of noise.
But last year, Elise received a call from the venue owners, Peter and Rebecca Higgins, about audio alterations that needed to be applied to all weddings taking place at the polo club.
“We were told we couldn’t have an amplified microphone at the ceremony or any music over speakers, it had to be acoustic. We were told we had to close the barn doors at the reception and couldn’t go over certain decibels. We thought ‘OK, we can’t have loud music that’s fine.’”
The reason so much emphasis was put on audio levels was because of a noise complaint, made by neighbours.
According to the council’s Director of City Planning, Matthew Owens, the approvals issued were the subject of a successful Land & Environment Court appeal by an objector in December 2015.
After the appeal was awarded in favour of the objector, “the Court allowed the Function Centre
use to operate only until the end of March 2016,” Mr Owens said in a statement.
“The Polo Club submitted subsequent applications for Temporary Use of the land for a Function Centre and Councillors, when considering the Court judgment, refused these new applications.”
In an interview with the Hawkesbury Gazette, one councillor, who was in favour of letting the weddings be held at the polo club, expressed his disappointment at the decision.
“We have someone who is willing to put their money where their mouth is, and create jobs and bring people into the Hawkesbury and Council has said no,” Councillor Mike Creed said.
Ryan, who went to the council meeting on Monday to see if he would still be having a wedding at the polo club or not, was left disappointed and annoyed by the news.
“We thought it would be fine, and the club went to extreme lengths to try and make it work, but it wasn’t enough. Some of the reasons they banned the weddings is a bit unfair, I think,” Ms Corrigan said.
“When we were told about the new restrictions, we wondered whether to still have it there. We loved it so much, we stuck with the club. Around the same time [as the noise conversations], we asked questions, and that’s when we were told about court and council problems with the noise levels and neighbour complaints.
“We felt it was their [council and venue] issue, and it was going to get resolved. It’s such a huge property, which had a decibel machine installed, we weren’t too worried it would impact our wedding. We didn’t think it would mean we couldn’t have a wedding there, especially on short notice.”
Having a little over one month to secure a new location for the big day, bride Chelsea O’Connor has also been left devastated by the council’s decision.
“It’s a stressful and emotional time for anyone planning a wedding, and to have this dumped on you five weeks out is devastating,” Ms O’Connor told Channel 7.
“Brides come from all over to get married here. It’s the feel of the place, it’s just beautiful.”
The owners of the 180ha property, Peter and Rebecca Higgins, said they were “distraught” at the closure of their venue for wedding purposes.
The Higgins are now desperately working with the couples effected, and concentrating on how to best manage the upcoming weddings in April.
“The brides have been amazing. I talk to them once a day about what is going on,” Mrs Higgins told news.com.au.
“They have known what has been going on, and decided to stick with us. We have a huge list of people who have wanted to have weddings in the future, but we haven’t taken them.”
Mr and Mrs Higgins, who have owned the property for 20 years, were able to cater weddings with a maximum of 200 guests. Their venue closed by 11pm, and “every avenue was taken to ensure the noise levels were kept to an acceptable level”.
“The biggest problem and the one that neighbours complained about was the noise,” Mrs Higgins said.
“Part of the DA condition was that I had to have a noise monitoring device on each wedding. I have a very reputable audio engineer, they would translate a report for me after each wedding, and I would send across to the council each Monday.”
Twelve couples have been told they can no longer have their wedding at the Sydney Polo Club. Picture: GM Photographics.
Twelve couples have been told they can no longer have their wedding at the Sydney Polo Club. Picture: GM Photographics.Source:Supplied
While Elise and Ryan have been provided with a new venue to celebrate their big day, they are still disappointed about not getting married at their venue of choice.
“It’s been a real shock, and very emotional for us,” Ms Corrigan said.
“Ryan and I know we will work it out and still get married and have a great day, but it’s just really disappointing we don’t have the venue we chose.
“It’s going to be very different day, but we are trying to keep it similar as much as possible. We have hired decorations, and the flowers will still be the same.
“We were so happy with the venue, we just can’t believe we aren’t getting married there now. We still think we will have an amazing wedding, but it won’t be the same.”
The Sydney Polo Club will no longer be used as a wedding venue, leaving a dozen couples in the lurch, with some just having weeks to find new venues.
The Sydney Polo Club will no longer be used as a wedding venue, leaving a dozen couples in the lurch, with some just having weeks to find new venues.Source:Facebook
The Hawkesbury City Council have told news.com.au that the matter is out of their hands.
“Council is working with all parties involved in an attempt to come to a resolution of these issues,” Mr Owens said.
“The resolution will require the Local Environmental Plan to be amended and this will require the support of the State Government via the Department of Planning and Environment.
“This process has commenced but will take at least 12 months to complete. The Sydney Polo Club will then need to lodge a development application with Council to obtain the necessary approvals,” he said.
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