RAIL CONCERNS: Ballarat historian Dr Anne Beggs-Sunter, Lorraine Huddle, Hedley Thomson and Karen Sydow are concerned about plans for the historic railway precinct.

RAIL CONCERNS: Ballarat historian Dr Anne Beggs-Sunter, Lorraine Huddle, Hedley Thomson and Karen Sydow are concerned about plans for the historic railway precinct.

Serious concerns have been raised about a state government plan to build a hotel and exhibition centre at the heart of the historic Ballarat Railway Precinct. 

Long-time advocate for Ballarat's rail history Hedley Thomson said to date, no heritage management plan had been released for the site. He is part of a group of residents pushing for the precinct to be protected as a transport hub.

“We want to see its heritage both built and cultural heritage preserved,” he said. 

Mr Thomson said the construction of a multi-million dollar hotel at the site was “completely unviable.”

“There are real doubts about the viability of a hotel and the pressure it will put on other facilities that already exist,” he said. “There is a short-term view that this land is regarded as surplus and therefore it can be disposed of out of the public realm and this includes the very historic Goods Shed.

“The immediate concerns are that there is a pretty rudimentary master plan for the station area which does not take into account the growth of Ballarat and the growth of rail use.” 

He also questioned the need for an international convention or exhibition centre with the Civic Hall and Mining Exchange exhibition centre positioned so close by. 

In a written statement to The Courier Victorian Regional Infrastructure and Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said the council and state government released a Ballarat Station Precinct Master Plan in 2014, identifying the need for a minimum four star hotel.

It proposed the hotel was co-located alongside an exhibition and conference centre, leveraging the refurbished heritage Goods Shed.

The statement said the masterplan was created off the back off the council’s Ballarat Activity Centre Strategy in 2012 and the Ballarat Railway Station Master Plan in 2002.

“These planning and investigation work identified significant infrastructure, economic, cultural and social constraints at the Ballarat Station Precinct,” it read.

A state government announcement about the future of the precinct is expected on Tuesday.