At a tumultuous Council meeting on 25 September 2013 (extending into 26 September 2013) , Ballarat City Council voted 6-3 to instruct its officers to prepare an application for a permit to demolish the Civic Hall, a significant heritage building in its Lydiard Street Heritage Precinct. This of course is at odds with its own Planning Policy, which requires under Section 21.5, and 22.5, that a simultaneous planning application for what will replace the demolished building must be provided, that is ‘in keeping’ with the heritage place.
The vote was taken after 1.00am in the morning, after more than five hours of questions and submissions by 50 members of the public, with all but four of the submissions objecting to the Council’s resolution.
It was an amazing meeting, with 150 people crowded into the public gallery, which had to be extended into extra space. Throughout the evening, the gallery erupted into applause for points made by the many expert speakers, including architects, planners, historians, musicians, events programmers and users.
The big message that came through was the need for a big flat-floor venue in the Ballarat CBD to cater for music, dance and exhibition events. The Civic Hall is that venue; it fulfills all the aspirations of the ‘giving Ballarat a heart’ concept, articulated in the ‘Ballarat Imagine’ consultation of early 2013 to determine what citizens of Ballarat value about their city.
Most of us argued that all the Council had to do was vote to ‘paint, polish and program’ the existing Civic Hall. Instead Council has voted for the rocky path of demolition, and an unknown building program in the future. The environmental impact of such demolition is enormous, but totally ignored in this decision! Shame on a Council that claims to value environmental sustainability.
Congratulations to three fine women on the Council who opposed the motion – Councillors Samantha Macintosh, Belinda Coates and Vicki Coltman. Their clear-headed judgements stood in stark contrast to the other Councillors, who appear as slaves to the Committee for Ballarat, whose executive officer John Kilgour was one of the only supporters of demolition.
How amazing, that after the December 2011 decision, we have to gear ourselves up to another fight.