The SAVE Civic Hall group has described the planning permit application to demolish the 58-year-old building as farcical.
Committee secretary Merle Hathaway said having a legal firm lodge the application on the council’s behalf was unlikely to mean planning officers would be objective in assessing the application.
Harwood Andrews Lawyers lodged the planning application on Friday. In a prepared statement the council said the process meant the application could be assessed without undue influence. The statement reiterated the council’s position that it was yet to make a decision about the hall’s demolition.
“If the council has commissioned the report with a view to demolition, how can they (planning officers) assess it objectively? It is farcical,” Ms Hathaway said.
“It is irritating to hear them say they haven’t made up their mind. They have twice voted for demolition already.
“The council has been wasting money left, right and centre. Council has been hiring consultants so we are not surprised they have lodged the application through a legal firm.”
Ms Hathaway said Save Civic Hall was still examining ways to save and restore the building, but was being thwarted by the council.
She said her group and its supporters had not given up the fight to save Ballarat’s Civic Hall and would prepare further submissions as part of planning application process.
“We have a lot of experts involved in Save Civic Hall, which is a sub-committee of the Ballarat Residents and Ratepayers Association,” Ms Hathaway explained.
“We will make a submission and we have a group working on the legal and town planning issues with it. We will also encourage our supporters and members to put in their own submissions.
“We have six weeks to respond and then council votes on it. They will have their vote and then we will take the matter to VCAT.”
Ms Hathaway said she took exception to some of the wording of the planning application, including a statement that the Civic Hall made a “minor contribution” to the heritage values of the broader Lydiard Street Heritage Precinct.
“That’s absolute nonsense. The hall is a major building and was built to be impressive,” Ms Hathaway said.
“It might not be the traditional idea of a heritage building because it is built in a modernist style from the 1950s, but modernist buildings are now quite trendy.
“The biggest disappointment is the council still doesn’t have a vision for what might go there. The last vision they had was to build the $40 million office block. Now the only vision is to level the block and sell it off to developers.
“There is a complete lack of confidence in this community with this council. Putting the application out to a legal firm will do nothing to help that that.”
Five planning documents covering Civic Hall can be viewed on the council’s website at www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/pbs/major-projects/civic-hall.aspx