Ballarat City Council to consider new laws for derelict buildings

A building at the former Ballarat Orphanage site in a state of disrepair. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
A building at the former Ballarat Orphanage site in a state of disrepair. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

Derelict and rundown buildings are set for a shake-up when Ballarat City Council considers new laws to enforce responsible ownership of empty properties.

A local laws draft will consider penalties for dilapidated buildings that are unoccupied, unfit for occupation or normal use, or not occupied most of the time.

Council infrastructure and environment director Terry Demeo said the draft will be available to the community in the coming weeks.

The new laws ensure property owners;

  • Must not permit any structure to become dilapidated or further dilapidated.
  • Take all reasonable steps to secure the building and land from unauthorised access.
  • Maintain any building in a state of good repair and appearance, including undertaking temporary repairs as required to ensure on-site safety and security and to avoid the appearance of neglect out of character with other allotments in the vicinity.
  • Must not allow any graffiti to remain on any building, wall, fence, post or other structure or object erected on that land.

Council will continue to enforce the law on properties each month if breaches continue or if work has not been done to fix a breach.

Members of the public have regularly raised the issue of dilapidated properties at council’s ordinary meetings.

The former Ballarat Orphanage was the latest target after a Ballarat resident said the rundown site on Victoria Street presented a poor first impression of the city.

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said it was up to council to do everything it could to protect he city’s many heritage buildings from being neglected.

“If it means introducing new local laws then that is something we need to consider,” she said.

“It has been a concern for people over a long period of time, watching our fantastic heritage buildings being neglected.

“It is important for us to set good guidelines and standards.”

Cr McIntosh said council had already had the power to place orders on neglectful owners where there were significant heritage overlays, but they do not cover all the historic buildings in Ballarat.

Plan were approved to transform the Unicorn Hotel on Sturt Street into a retail centre in 2006.

The site had suffered years of neglect before finally reopening in 2012 following a number of false starts.

Council worked with Heritage Victoria to force the building’s developer to stop site from becoming more dilapidated as the planning process dragged on.

The same heritage overlays do not apply to the Ballarat Orphanage site.