Local residents fear Ballarat Clarendon College's expansion plans will destroy the heritage value of their neighbourhood and restrict their access to Sturt Street and Lake Wendouree.
Dozens of residents outlined their objections to the Ballarat Clarendon College Sturt Street Campus Master Plan 2017-2030 at a special council meeting last week, ahead of this week's ordinary council meeting where councillors are expected to refer the matter to an independent Planning Panel due to the complexity of the issues.
The school is locked in dispute with local residents about expansion plans which involve the proposed closure of the pedestrian easement between Ajax and Sturt streets, partial closure of Ajax and Murray streets, demolition of heritage buildings and provision of on-site car parking.
The school plans works to expand sporting facilities, improve student safety and increase car parking.
Council received 29 submissions from individuals and groups within the community in response to the masterplan, which was advertised early this year.
Common themes of concern involved traffic management, volume and congestion which was referred to in 25 submissions, the proposed closure of the public walkway between Ajax and Sturt streets which 20 submissions covered, demolition of heritage houses, inadequate on-site car parking, 'organic growth' or 'creep' of the college in to residential areas, adverse impacts on the surrounding residential area, and growth in student numbers.
The proposed closure of the public walkway struck a particular cord with locals because they have fought to maintain access twice previously - firstly in 1990 when council sold the 102m of land, a discontinued length of Murray St, to the college on condition that a 2m wide easement be created along closed road for pedestrian access, and again in 2000 when the college appliced to have the pedestrian easement extinguished.
"Closure of the pedestrian easement constitutes a 'precedent of a powerful monied private organization imposing their demands to the detriment of residents, tenants and landlords which choices of property in these surrounding streets now face the expanding ambitions of a wealthy business group'," one objector wrote.
Objectors included seven-year-old Esther, who stayed up past her bed time to attend the council meeting and present a handwritten letter outlining her objections.
"I think that the short-cut shouldn't be closed. My family and I take my dog Bowie for walks through the short-cut," her submission read.
Democracy in action! Super impressed with this chutzpah from 7yo Esther who also presented in person last night to Councillors and a room full of members of the public to share her views on a proposal being considered by @cityofballarat at our next Council meeting. pic.twitter.com/TDKaSSM1L5— Belinda Coates (@BelindaCoates) June 26, 2019
In February, BCC principal David Shepherd said the public thoroughfare through the middle of the school raised security concerns.
"It goes past the girls' boarding house .. and we can't ask people to move on if they're on a public thoroughfare so it's a security issue for the kids," Mr Shepherd said.
"New child protection legislation means we've got a responsibility to make it safe for children."
But locals said the school could do more to ensure student safety while maintaining access.
"Pedestrian easement was granted to the community as a small concession for the loss of vehicle access when the College was granted the closure of the road the title to the previous roadway," one objector wrote. "Removal of the easement will not necessarily enhance safety for students, especially given the number of entry points to the school. School should consider other safety measures, other than the closure of the pedestrian access, such as CCTV cameras and enhanced lighting."
Others said the proposed demolition of heritage homes in Ajax and Murray streets were a form of neighbourhood vandalism.
"Houses to be demolished are perfect examples of the residences which form the neighbourhood ... that aspect of the application that calls for the demolition of three contributory dwellings will "rip the heart out of this lovely neighbourhood and open the door for more similar vandalism".
In their report, council officers said the loss of dwellings and heritage assets would damage the heritage value of the city.
"There is limited demonstrated net community benefit beyond the future College community provided to counter the loss of heritage assets, road closures and pedestrian access," the report stated.
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