At the first live broadcast council meeting last night, councillors approved the injection of $15 million over three years to regenerate the struggling Bridge Mall retail precinct.
It would, said the City of Ballarat Mayor Samantha McIntosh, be "an opportunity to make Ballarat more beautiful."
There were three public submissions in support of the funding, including one architect who argued that the revitalisation plans offered the chance to create something "meaningful and memorable".
The City of Council revealed plans for the investment last week, which would allow initiatives to beautify the shopfronts, increase the greenery of the area, draw more attention to its heritage attractions, as well as re-open it to traffic.
Long-serving councillor Des Hudson reminded those present of a previous time change has been suggested for the Bridge Mall precinct, recalling a 23,000-strong petition back in 2003 against allowing traffic back.
Cr McIntosh acknowledged that the process was likely to have its difficulties and would involve "a lot of conversations and debates." She said that there would be a need for "continued collaboration" as the plans progress.
The funding is part of investment for the entire Bakery Hill area, which also includes Little Bridge Street and Curtis Street.
More contentious was the planning application for a three-storey development overlooking Lake Wendouree. Peter Vernon of Peter Vernon Architects was at the meeting to argue in favour of the development at 203 Wendouree Parade, which is on the property once owned by his grandparents, saying the designs were "aligned with the Ballarat Strategy".
Several councillors said they were not happy with the plan but felt compelled to vote in its favour as it fell within the Ballarat Strategy guidelines and would likely be approved by Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) if it went to appeal.
An appeal would cost the council between $5,000 to $10,000.
Cr Mark Harris in particular strongly urged for a review of the Ballarat Strategy, which sets out the long-term vision for development and growth for the city.
Planning permission first went in front of councillors in 2015, who voted against it, but their decision was later overturned by VCAT. Revised designs to increase the number of dwellings to 17 meant the plans were once again referred back to the council for consideration.
The application was approved, with Crs Grant Tillett and Samantha McIntosh voting against.
CREATIVE CITY STRATEGY APPROVED
Council was urged to lead by example last night in ensuring artists were paid fairly as a comprehensive strategic plan to encourage creativity in Ballarat was unanimously approved.
The stats for fair pay [for artists] are really not great - this is where Council can lead by exampleEsther Anatolitis
Making a public submission, Esther Anatolitis, the chief executive of NAVA, which promotes the professional interests of the Australian visual and media arts, praised the depth and detail of the Creative City strategy. She also urged council to be mindful of the financial difficulty many artists face: "Things aren't looking great for artists. The stats for fair pay are really not great - this is where Council can lead by example."
Councillor Belinda Coates spoke in support of the strategy, calling it "terrific" and one that involved the whole of community. "For a city of our size, I really do think we punch above our weight [in the creative industries]," she said.
In 2016, the sector was estimated to be worth as much as $747 million in the city in terms of economic output, and employing around 1,940 people.
MORE DETAIL ON DRAFT BUDGET
More details of the big projects backed by the Council's draft budget were revealed last night.
As well as plans to regenerate Bridge Mall, the second stage of works at Civic Hall would gain $2 million, restoration of the Town Hall's ballroom would have a $1 million windfall, while refurbishment of the Ballarat Central Library would receive $1.9 million over two years.
The plans to introduce LED lighting would be funded by $3.5 million over four years, while the council's urban forestry action plan would also receive financial backing, with $500,000 put aside to plant new trees over the next year. There will also be significant investment in Miners Rest.
Several councillors sharply criticised the delay of a $10m loan from State Government, which will now no longer be able to be included in the budget for the coming financial year due to a reported delay in paperwork.
The budget, which will open to public consultation next Monday after being approved by councillors last night, would be facilitated by a 2.5 per cent rate increase.
SOUTH STREET SOCIETY FUNDS APPROVED
Councillors approved funding of $240,000 for the Royal South Street Society over the next four years to help it increase its audience and draw more participants.
Numbers at Australia's oldest and longest running eisteddfod dropped by 18 per cent last year, with the event affected by the closure of Her Majesty's Theatre. The event, which has had around million performers since its inception in the late 19th century, brings in more than $5.5 million into the city's economy annually, with around 34,000 spectators.
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