Our railway station precinct needs thoughtful sustainable development that supports our transport hub.


The Courier March 16, 2016

I was also an attendee at the Ballarat Railway Station Precinct Advisory Committee Hearings on 8, 9 and 10 March.  What was disappointing was that no councillors attended. Why?

Council’s desire to abdicate its responsibility for planning on this site to the state government, as it has done with the Eureka Stadium Precinct, is not in the best interests of the community as the station as it is the the local planning authority. Ballarat must own its future, Councillors are elected to ensure this happens.

Whilst I believe all submitters were heard, there are issues that need further clarification.

As I stated to the Advisory Committee, the majority of concern from the community is that the hotel project is being considered in isolation from the future needs of the station precinct and, in turn, the CBD precinct. There is this obsession from the powers that be that there must be commercial development of the site and that is going to be in the form of a hotel and convention centre.

As I have mentioned previously, the station precinct is first and foremost a railway station and a transport hub and those functions must not be compromised by any future commercial development of the site.

Car parking and traffic flow (ingress and egress to the site) is a serious concern for the proposed commercial redevelopment of the northern part of the precinct, which will particularly affect residents immediately north and west of the station. The plan is to have an exit from the proposed redeveloped site onto Nolan Street. The increased traffic will affect the quality of life of residents in Lydiard, Seymour, Neill, Ligar and Havelock streets, with many people no doubt parking their cars outside residents’ homes at all times of the day as they don’t want to pay fees to park in the precinct or the precinct’s limited number of parking spaces are full.

Connectivity between the station and the CBD via Mair Street is another matter that is not being addressed.

Submitters have recommended several alternative options for the redevelopment of the site that take into account its historical nature. They include a rail museum and/or creative industries occupying the heritage-listed old goods shed, and the relocation of the visitor information centre to what will become Ballarat’s premier meeting place: the station. Much has been said about the need for more public open space in the CBD. Such space could be included as part of the redevelopment of the broader station precinct.

The advocate representing Regional Development Victoria (RDV) at the hearing stated that RDV wanted the best outcome for the government, and then quickly qualified his statement by saying he meant in terms of land clearance, which was puzzling. I wish to remind everyone that we (the community) want the best outcome for Ballarat.

In talking about the community, we are yet to be advised if there will be any costs for Council, particularly initial capital outlay and annual recurrent maintenance costs for maintaining areas immediately adjacent and surrounding the redeveloped precinct, which I believe will be excessive for the community purse and not be borne by commercial developers operating within the site.

Most of the people who made submissions to the hearing are informed on the issues. I offered comment that we are collectively stating that we are not anti-development; in actual fact, we are pro thoughtful development and adaptable re-use of the old goods sheds at the precinct that is viable and sustainable into the long-term future for a connected CBD.

Interestingly, none of the authorities involved with the precinct – RDV, VicTrack, VLine, the Public Transport Authority or Council – have considered the future public transport (rail and bus) requirements through a needs analysis, particularly in light of future capacity needs for commuter trains (Ballarat’s population in 2040 is expected to be 160,000) including an extension of services that must include a Bendigo/ Ballarat /Geelong link and future demands for freight transport.

My final comment: ‘Why a hotel on this site and not in the prescribed CBD precinct, perhaps at the Civic Hall site?’  Some of the designs for the redevelopment of the Civic Hall site included a hotel not to mention an earlier proposal at Sovereign Hill. You can’t have them all – one at the station, another at the Civic Hall and at Sovereign Hill. As was pointed out in the hearing, the CBD’s northern boundary is Mair Street! The notion of RDV using the Vibe Hotel development at Marysville as an example of a successful redevelopment by the state government is misleading for the station precinct redevelopment and not at all applicable to our city or CBD.

Ballarat’s central business district needs careful planning and a strategy that will produce a commercially vibrant heart to Ballarat of which the station will play a significant future role, with a centre for the arts, entertainment, hospitality and inner-city living. Any development at the station should not detract from that vitality but complement it.

I congratulate the members of the Advisory Committee for their attentiveness and the chairman’s conduct of the hearing, and the submitters for the thorough research they undertook in preparing their submissions and the professionalism of their presentations.

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This post was written by , posted on May 29, 2016 Sunday at 6:10 pm

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