THERE may be more to the deplorable conditions at Blakehurst Motor Inn than meets the eye.
The motor inn has been described on national television, and a leading accommodation website, as a ‘‘motel from hell’’ amid calls for it to be shut down by regulatory authorities.
But it also happens to be a very lucrative development site waiting for Kogarah Council’s’s New City Plan to be approved.
Members of the United Kogarah City Residents Association (UKCRA) believe the motor inn had been allowed to run down, with the owners doing the bare minimum to cover costs, until the new zoning came into force when the New City Plan was approved.
If approved the 52-room motor inn site will be rezoned to five storeys with a generous floor space ratio, allowing for a large apartment development.
‘‘The owners of a property which is a prospective development site can’t have their cake and eat it too,’’ UKCRA spokesman Tony Soubris said. ‘‘They should either run the property properly or close it.’’
Mr Soubris said UKCRA members were disappointed with the council for not doing its job in keeping the motor inn habitable, according to normally expected standards.
‘‘If so disposed, the council could have developed a more jaundiced view of the motor inn and come down much harder,’’ he said.
‘‘If the council does not have the ability to insist on fire safety and health regulations, who does? It’s fairly typical of the council which is not too receptive to listening.’’
The site is owned by a company registered as Borina Pty Ltd which has a number of shareholders.
It is rumoured the site has been offered to developers for more than $12 million.
UKCRA is against the New City Plan in its current form, claiming the council has gone way beyond what is necessary — and what the state government requires — to meet future population needs.
Mr Soubris said UKCRA was also against rezoning of the motel site as it was at least one and a half kilometres from the nearest station.
‘A QUIET, TIDY PLACE’
When the Leader visited the motel last Thursday the reception area appeared clean and freshly vacuumed, albeit a little shabby.
A senior staff member, who was on his way out, and Ray the new casual receptionist, were friendly enough, although we were not permitted to look at the rooms.
A couple who had pre-booked arrived for their keys and to pay their $100 a night.
Former Engadine dwellers, the retired couple had driven down from Coffs Harbour to catch up with family and friends. They said that for the past eight years or so since moving north, they had been staying at the motel three or four times a year.
‘‘All we need is a quiet, clean and tidy place with respectful service,’’ they said.
Professor Mark Ferson, Director, Public Health Unit, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District said that since February 2015, the health unit had received five complaints from individuals who had stayed overnight at Blakehurst Motor Inn, alleging generally poor standards of cleanliness, including stained sheets, carpets and curtains, a cockroach infestation, and worn out furniture and furnishings.
‘‘All complaints have been investigated by the Unit’s Environmental Health Officers and on two occasions investigation was carried out in conjunction with Kogarah Council,’’ he said.
‘‘On all occasions, the premises were found to be in a very rundown but not unhealthy condition.
‘‘Despite the poor standards of the premises, they did not meet the threshold of legislative action provided for in either the Public Health Act 2010, which requires a risk to public health, or the Local Government Act 1993, which requires premises to be ‘unsafe or unhealthy’.
‘‘The Public Health Act 2010 and its accompanying regulations do not make provisions relating to cleanliness of rooms in hotels, motels and motor inns.
‘‘Under legislation, the Public Health Unit does not have the power to close premises.’’
Images of the Blakehurst Motor Inn posted on accommodation website Tripadvisor.com.au
CHANNEL 9’s A Current Affair described Blakehurst Motor Inn as one of ‘‘the most disgusting motels you’re likely to ever see’’ with broken electrical wires, faulty fire alarms and bathrooms filled with mould.
According to information on the program’s website the segment generated a storm of feedback from angry previous customers and sparked one of ‘‘the greatest buck-passing exercises in history – with council and various government departments all pointing the finger at each other for shirking responsibility’’.
The website includes statements from Kogarah Council, Fire and Rescue NSW, and from Professor Mark Ferson, Director, Public Health Unit, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District.
Broadly, the statements agree that the motor inn is run down but not badly enough to require intervention.
In a statement dated September 11, Kogarah Council said: ‘‘With regards to cleanliness and hygiene issues, a council Environmental Health Officer undertook an inspection of the premises.
‘‘The officer inspected 31 rooms that were vacant. A further nine rooms were occupied and 12 were closed and not available to let and were accordingly not inspected.
‘‘Of the rooms inspected there were no health issues identified.
‘‘Council’s co-ordinator Building and Compliance has also inspected the 31 vacant rooms at the premises with regards to fire safety standards.
‘‘The council officer reports that no fire hazards were identified by him and understands that the inspection by the officers of NSW Fire Brigades resulted in the same conclusion.’’
The council statement went on to say that Fire & Rescue NSW’s (FRNSW) authorised officers inspected the premises with Kogarah Council officers on September 9.
‘‘As a result of the inspection, FRNSW will prepare a report for the council detailing a number of minor fire safety breaches that require rectification,’’ it said.
Have you stayed at the Blakehurst Motor Inn? Tell us what you think.