HEATED debate over two notices of motion held up last night’s Ballarat City Council meeting by nearly three hours.
A call by Councillor Cheryl Bromfield for the council to protest state government TAFE cuts was knocked back, along with a Councillor Samantha McIntosh motion to conduct a Bridge Mall consultation process, including it possibly reopening.
However, the debate and several public representations held up the ordinary agenda items until 10pm, with no decision made on the November public holiday by The Courier’s deadline.
Speaking to her notice of motion, Cr McIntosh said she just wanted to “start a conversation between the community and the stakeholders”.
“It’s clear we can’t sit back and relax and think everything’s buzzing in the middle of town,” Cr McIntosh said.
“We don’t want everything sitting around the outside, leaving the centre empty.
“I just wanted to start a simple conversation over a short period of time. I’m just talking about helping the future council be prepared.”
But several of the other councillors criticised Cr McIntosh, claiming it wasn’t appropriate timing to bring the issue up.
Councillor Judy Verlin agreed the council must make sure the CBD was protected but a possible Bridge Mall reopening was not on its agenda.
“It’s disappointing council is being distracted unnecessarily by a debate we have no control over,” Cr Verlin said.
“A Bridge Mall reopening should not be seen as a major part of the works to be done in the next few months.
“We’d have two months of consultation and then hand a poisoned chalice over to the next council.”
Councillor Des Hudson said the motion put “the cart before the horse” and it wasn’t the appropriate time for the discussion while Councillor Cheryl Bromfield said the council needed to work collectively for the community good.
“You’re not able to achieve greatness by working in isolation,” Cr Bromfield said.
But Councillor Ben Taylor said it was a good opportunity to stop and look at the CBD strategy and assess where it was at.
Speaking at the meeting, Bridge Mall Trades Association president David Maloney said the mall was functioning well, only had two empty stores and employed about 1000 people.
He was said he was also disappointed at Cr McIntosh’s notice of motion, claiming she was “grandstanding”.
But Cr McIntosh said she just wanted to “have a conversation before we’re into a position of planning for something we don’t even want”.
Councillor Craig Fletcher’s motion to undertake a Bridge Mall design and feasibility study was carried instead.
Parts of Cr McIntosh’s motion recognising the CBD Strategy and Activity Centre Strategy, confirming the council’s strong support for the CBD and beginning the precinct planning process for the Coles/Safeway car park were also carried.