Published 28 February 2015, The Courier, Ballarat
The development of a major sports and entertainment precinct in North Ballarat has started. $30 million in funding has been committed by the Andrews Labor Government and planning is already under way.
But we don’t have a united vision and we don’t have an integrated master plan.
We have key players working collaboratively but also in isolation due to the lack of a united approach to planning.
And while we support these individual plans, as things stand we face the risk of fragmented development that will result in the site not achieving its full potential.
To deliver something special for our community and for future generations, Committee for Ballarat is calling for action on three critical things.
Firstly, we need Council and our Councillors to deliver a master plan for the whole precinct that gives us a vision for what we want now and in the future and a road map for how to deliver it.
We need the key players in the precinct to be supported in their efforts to work together to achieve the best outcome for the overall precinct.
And we need development to be staged in “bite size chunks” that are palatable to the government of the day so that we have the best chance of attracting funding from successive governments.
With the right planning this precinct has the potential to bring huge economic and social benefit to our region.
It is vitally important that any development caters for a range of community interests.
This includes supporting the needs of current and potential users such as VFL football and a range of community sports such as basketball, netball and football. It includes catering for elite sports such as AFL football. And it includes developing facilities so that Ballarat, as the Regional Capital of Western Victoria, can host major sports and entertainment events.
We already have great examples of what can be achieved – the Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility, the Prince of Wales Park and the Equine Precinct at Dowling Forest are all world-class community assets that we can be truly proud of.
And Ballarat already has a reputation for attracting national and international events – the cycling, rowing and soccer come quickly to mind.
The key players in the precinct – the North Ballarat Football Club, the Ballarat Basketball Association and the Ballarat Agricultural & Pastoral Society – have each already developed individual master plans and this work must be allowed to continue. But it must also now be brought together by Council into an integrated master plan to maximise the opportunity for the whole precinct.
Of these key players, the Ag Society is a critical one.
We congratulate them on their proactive approach to planning for their future. Having secured $5 million in state funding in late 2014 they are currently assessing the ideal location for their long-term requirements.
The proposed relocation of the Ag Society to Victoria Park has been well reported in the media.
Any such move needs to be carefully managed and planned so that it addresses issues raised by the community as part of an extensive community consultation process that fed into the development of the Victoria Park Master Plan.
Overwhelmingly the community feedback recognised the unique opportunity of having a huge green wedge in the middle of Ballarat as our city grows to the west – our own version of Central Park!
But the loud and clear message from residents was that Vic Park must attract more community use in order to improve amenity and safety in the area.
With good planning, the potential move of the Ag Society to the south-west corner of the park would result in increased community use and enjoyment without compromising the integrity of this unique community asset.
We can already see an excellent example of this with the new inclusive playground on the Sturt Street edge of the park.
We call on Council to reassure the community that this significant heritage asset will be respected, that any proposed development will not impact the protected native grasses and heritage trees, and that much-loved parts of Vic Park will not be compromised.
With the right planning we can get great outcomes.
It\\\\\\\'s about getting the master plan right, respecting the key players as part of the process, and then managing a staged development process.
Finalising the master plan for the major sports and entertainment precinct at North Ballarat, as documented in the 2013-17 Council Plan, provides the starting point.
It is critically important for Ballarat that we embrace the opportunities provided by population growth in our region and build a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment precinct that people expect of a capital city experience.
It’s equally important that we go about it in the right way to make sure we deliver what our community has said they want while respecting the integrity of our unique and much-loved assets.