Letters to the Editor

The aim is still about connecting missing links

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the community for the strong interest shown in the Ballarat Safer Cycling Connections project.

VicRoads and the City of Ballarat are currently developing plans to upgrade key roads, intersections and cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to make our roads safer. It was pleasing to see so many passionate members of the community attend this week’s council meeting to debate the merits of the project, and express their views. Sturt Street is recognised as an iconic boulevarde in Ballarat, so it was not surprising that this project attracted a range of views on the night.

It was good to hear people excited about the possibility of connecting the missing links to the city’s bicycle network and encouraging more people to ride to work or school plus recreational use. I also understand the concerns of some traders who were worried about losing business while other concerns centred around the merits of a central median shared path in Sturt Street.

 PLANS: the need for alternative  modes of transport that are safe and also preserve heritage values are at the heart of the cycling debate

PLANS: the need for alternative modes of transport that are safe and also preserve heritage values are at the heart of the cycling debate

There was always recognition that making changes to Sturt Street was going to be a sensitive issue and in recent weeks we (VicRoads) have been talking to traders to find out what their concerns are in greater detail.

More than 70 traders attended a meeting with VicRoads on 6 February in addition to 350 members of the public who visited our week-long pop up shop and public information sessions plus 1700 people who engaged online.  We have also been speaking with representatives from local emergency services, hospitals, schools, heritage groups and the RSL.

It is clear that although we have undertaken extensive community consultation over the past months, we still need to do more. As has been recently reported, the Victorian Government has asked VicRoads to identify other options to address safety concerns at the Sturt Street intersections rather than closure, while the proposal to put a shared path down the middle of the central Sturt Street median will not proceed.

The plans approved by council this week allow VicRoads and the City of Ballarat to proceed with elements of the project that enjoyed wide community support while working further with the community to address the more contentious elements around the CBD.

In coming months, VicRoads will go back to the drawing board and undertake further consultation, speaking to people about other parts of the project including refining designs for Drummond and Doveton Streets. VicRoads remains committed to working with the local community to make Ballarat a safer city for everyone to enjoy.

Mal Kersting, Acting Regional Director Vic Roads 

The need for proper consultation

While I am pleased the government has sent the plans for Sturt Street back to VicRoads to come up with a better arrangement, I am concerned that VicRoads together with the Council will come up with no commonsense plan/decisions.

I have lived in Ballarat all my life, as did my parents. I have seen such mistakes as abolishing trams throughout the city, turning Bridge Street into Bridge Mall, giving off important land to Big W for car parking, and encouraging businesses to leave the CBD in favour of the Stockland/Delacombe (and similar) shopping centres.

Now you go to Stockland and there are no vacant shops but walk down Sturt Street and the Bridge Mall and every second shop is vacant. One of the biggest current mistakes is diverting traffic from Sturt Street into Mair Street.

To me, Sturt Street is our grand boulevard and should be the street through which visitors to our city travel along (and ideally via an opened up Bridge Mall).

 Last year, VicRoads and Council met with business owners in Mair Street. At this meeting, Council paid little attention to the comments business owners made, and clearly indicated by their actions and responses they did not want to hear any concerns from the business owners. They were sticking to their plans, not matter what opinion or valid argument anyone else had. 

My concern is that this will happen to Sturt Street. I have found, in the past, it is a waste of time attending information/public "consultative" meetings with Council as they simply run these functions to enable them to claim they went through a public consultation process. Please, Counsellors and VicRoads, use commonsense in future and do not make radical changes that are detriment to our city and will be regretted in the future.

Ron Morrison, Licensed Real Estate Agent