Tourism is business: Our future depends on preserving our heritage

 Tourism is business Our future depends on preserving our heritage

The headline “ Tourism is business “ (Courier 19 June 2018) is certainly a true statement and,as one would expect,it features a photo of one of our major Heritage attractions.In this instance it is the Ballarat Railway station.

Indeed, it seems inevitably the case that an item of what remains of our wonderful Heritage architecture is featured when promoting our City in one way or another. Significantly, resort for this purpose is never had eg to the Glasshouse or the Court/Police complex or others of that ilk. It is difficult to find aesthetic charm in straight lines, aluminium/stainless steel and reflective glass and if this is to become the architecture of our City,why would a tourist from a major city elsewhere want to visit if just to see “ more of the same”?

In this context,the architectural style proposed for GovHub and Grenville street is totally out of character with this City,thus it affects adversely a major aspect of its commercial activity  (tourism)and  is therefore a threat to its future prosperity. Similarly does the proposed Railway Station development run counter to our City’s long term interests in all practical and aesthetic respects. It gives us a block of flats and a ? convention centre with a couple of extra shops, which we don’t need and a car park,which we do,but……

The Civic Hall is the ideal convention centre venue and personal observation over the past 3-4 years shows, facing in the CBD onto Sturt and Bridge streets alone, a chronic 18-20 empty shops. As to flats, refer Courier 5 May 2018 “ Why are so many CBD flats empty?” and ask why Commerce Ballarat or a like organisation cannot develop with the relevant property owners a scheme for utilising the upstairs parts of their properties accordingly?

Car parking is an issue for which there is no quick fix and in the long term interests of the environment, access to the CBD and its continued commercial viability, a comprehensive electric tram service must be re-established. Certainly,the expense associated with doing so is likely to be enormous,but unlike most aspects of the Railway Station development, it is unlikely to be wasted,especially from a long- term perspective  and will serve, not only the amenity of our City but its ability to provide employment in trade and industry and thereby further augment the future prospects for all aspects of its economy.

Further to that,why not consider placement of a tram depot within the current and as yet undivided precincts of the Station? And it is worth noting that Melbourne Trams have several hundred superseded trams going free ( more or less ) to a good home. Consider the boost to Ballarat trade and industry if our tradespeople and associated industries were to undertake their refurbishment/ repair and maintenance, once in use.

Ballarat has, by virtue of its history and accomplishments, enormous tourist appeal and the plan to rebuild the Gothic styled fernery in our Gardens is a wonderfully progressive step. It reinstates a hitherto lost aspect of our City’s heritage and congratulations must go to all concerned. So must the Save Civic Hall group  be commended for their continued efforts to maintain the integrity and utility of this great tribute both to brick construction and to those who did the work.Similarly,it is a welcome change to observe our Councillors’ recognition on 4 July 2018 of the extent to which the proposed Grenville street office construction gives offence to our Heritage overlay.As proposed, it is totally out of character and, while the proposed use may be beneficial,it is quite capable of taking a form similar to the new offices in Sturt st opposite the Base Hospital and should be required so to do and to not otherwise breach our Heritage regulations. It is regrettable indeed that the Courier ( 5 July 2018) chose to headline its report “Heritage outlook hinders” because it does our Councillors, or most of them, an unwarranted injustice and fosters an undesirable underestimation of the importance and economic value of Heritage issues to our City.

It is suggested that Ballarat’s future from both its long term economic and its aesthetic prosperity is presently at the crossroads. Much development is in the offing and there is the usual rhetoric about jobs and red tape, but improvement/ betterment in a real sense is not the automatic result of “development.”

Vision is required. The Railway Station development, in its present form, is misconceived and token-ish and must be re- worked .Fundamental improvement  to public transport capability must accompany and not simply be a distant sequel to the establishment of more Government offices.

Governments and local Council officers need to be more sympathetic to our Heritage requirements and, from a local Council perspective, must avoid the incongruity of such forms of development as those referred to above and that proposed for the old Humffray street Primary school.

The future prosperity of our City depends upon it.

Peter McCracken, Ballarat