National Trust of Australia expresses concerns about the proposed hotel and convention centre at Ballarat Rail Station THE National Trust of Australia (Victoria) Board met with representatives of the ‘Save Our Station Ballarat’ SOS Ballarat Group and was briefed on the group’s heritage concerns regarding the proposed development of the Ballarat Railway Precinct. Following the briefing the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) Chief Executive Officer Simon Ambrose said “The National Trust Board and Ballarat Branch have expressed great concern regarding the proposed development, and we were grateful for the opportunity to meet with representatives of Save Our Station Ballarat to discuss the community’s concerns. I can confirm that the Trust will continue to advocate for the protection of the exceptional heritage values of the Ballarat Railway precinct.”
During its presentation to the Trust SOS Ballarat noted that subdividing off more than half the precinct into private ownership, which includes the 1862 mostly intact, bluestone Goods Shed and weigh bridges on both the north and south sides, into private ownership, chips away at the significance of the precinct as a whole. Other concerns are the proposal to convert half the interior into a convention centre with a wall dividing it off from the other half in which retail is proposed. It was further noted by SOS that these proposed interior changes will see the historic good shed as a mere bluestone shell. The interior consisting of the original large timber roof trusses supported by square timber columns, bluestone walled platforms either side of the lower bay which consist of three railway tracks for the goods vans, exposed bluestone walls with arched bluestone door openings and timber sliding doors to the 80 metre long north and south sides, which is mostly intact, being boarded up with new plaster walls, ceilings etc. to provide the necessary soundproofing, heating and air-conditioning needed for a convention centre.
Other concerns expressed were the absence of any funding from the government’s $25m budget for the site, being directed to the restoration of the heritage places on the site, such as the weigh bridges, signals, gates, and signal boxes, (other than the Goods Shed) which have been falling into disrepair due to a lack of maintenance of the past few decades. SOS advised the Trust that Heritage Victoria have been in consultation with the private developer for many months, but they have not sought to engage with the community about the heritage issues on the site regarding the proposed development. SOS also presented the alternative plan in which the Goods Shed would remain in public ownership and used for an integrated bus hub, which is a superior heritage outcome as the design of the structure and materials of the interior will remain mostly unchanged from the 1862 design, and retain a transport use.
Furthermore, there is great concern that the architectural design is so contrasting with the historic railway precinct and the historic residential area of Soldiers Hill, that it will destroy highly valued views of Ballarat’s historic townscape and streetscapes visually connected to it. Heritage Victoria is likely to focus on the site only and not the impact new works will have in the Heritage Overlay precincts. The State Government plan will continue to see the construction of the large intrusive hotel/apartment block, as devastating an impact to Ballarat’s heritage as the demolition of the 100 year old Commonwealth Bank in 1968, on the corner of Lydiard and Sturt Streets. The bank was demolished prior to heritage controls which are designed to prevent inappropriate development of heritage places in Ballarat; however, the Minister for Planning has the power to stop this inappropriate building being constructed.