The Miner. 28 September 2017, featured the following article.
“Meeting calls on Premier to abandon rail station commercial proposal
Ballarat’s Save Our Station Group held its sixth public meeting at the Provincial Hotel on Saturday the 16th of September.
It was a full house, with over 70 people attending. They all agreed that we must continue to lobby the Premier to abandon his government’s proposal for self-contained apartments, a small conference centre and some shops.
“The government’s proposal sees it selling half of the station precinct’s land for a development that compromises the site as a transport hub, which undermines existing Ballarat businesses in the accommodation and conference market, and which very few locals thinks is a good idea,” said SOS member Ron Egeberg.
The developer’s proposal is currently being considered by Heritage Victoria, which has received over 40 submissions. “Most submissions oppose it. People are protective of their unique rail heritage, which this development does not respect, and they don’t want a modern five-storey building in Lydiard St that will be out of character with the area,” said Mr Egeberg.
A decision from Heritage Victoria on whether it will issue a heritage permit allowing the development is imminent.
Following on from the meeting, a letter was sent to Premier Daniel Andrews seeking his pledge that the $32 million promised for the station redevelopment was secure even if the current proposal is rejected by Heritage Victoria. Western Victoria MLC, Joshua Morris, who was the only local MP to attend the meeting, subsequently asked a question in Parliament on Tuesday 19 September: “Will the government commit to ensuring that the $32 million already committed to the railway station precinct will be spent on the precinct irrespective of the recommendations coming from Heritage Victoria?” The Premier has 30 days to respond.
The meeting raised fundamental questions about car parking and access. Current public parking will be reduced by 80 spaces, with no provision for future growth. Access for people with mobility issues is missing entirely from the government’s proposal. Despite spending a combined $550 million on upgrading the line between Ballarat and Melbourne, and Stage 1 of the Ballarat Station Master Plan, our central station will be the only one on the entire line not to be Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant at the completion of works in 2019.
“Ballarat is being treated worse than smaller country destinations. Ballarat is a key regional transport hub. It should have the highest priority for upgrading,” said Mr Egeberg. “The Andrews Government must reinvest the funds ($32 million) into developing the station as a 21st-century, fully integrated, all-abilities accessible transport hub with adequate commuter parking for the long-term future.”
As Committee for Ballarat highlighted last week with its campaign for a 59-minute service, Ballarat’s future is predicated on fast, efficient train services, and, as SOS reaffirmed, the station platforms and associated facilities must be brought into line with 21st- century commuter facilities.”