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Submission to the City of Ballarat's Preliminary Ballarat Strategy

13 Jan 2015

The Committee for Ballarat is a visionary membership body that provides progressive and innovative leadership, enabling long-term social and economic benefits for an improved quality of life throughout Ballarat and the greater region.

Our membership comprises most of the leading companies and organisations from across the region including local government, manufacturing, health, education, construction, professional services and tourism / hospitality sectors.

Released for public consultation in November 2014, in principle the Committee for Ballarat supports the City of Ballarat’s Preliminary Ballarat Strategy, a document that will underpin land use decision-making in Ballarat over the next 30 years.

A key element to the strategy is to ensure that a new approach to managing change in our historic city is adopted and that policy direction is set to deliver a productive, accessible, connected and highly liveable Ballarat.

The Ballarat Strategy is respectful of our historic streetscapes’ and enviable lifestyle while allowing for planned and sustainable development to support a growing population. Importantly, the consultation process has allowed the community to contribute to the development of this strategy and share their views, hopes, aspirations and concerns for the future.

It is not surprising as part of this feedback that the community strongly values those things that make Ballarat unique. From our history and heritage, Lake Wendouree, the historic CBD precinct to our parks and bushlands; the community strongly values these elements, together with the quality of life in Ballarat.

The Ballarat Strategy acknowledges this, however, at the same time provides a framework and guiding principles to ensure these important elements are enhanced and protected. The strategy sends a strong message to the community that council is committed to growing the whole community with a strong emphasis on the CBD.

Committee makes the following further comments and observations as part of this community consultation process.

Guiding Principles

Each of the five (5) guiding principles, together with the council’s commitment to these principles, is supported.

Council will be held accountable to deliver these principles during the plan period and it is envisaged that appropriate KPI and metrics are captured to ensure these deliverables are measured and monitored.

The principles of the strategy must be embedded with the Ballarat Planning Scheme and MSS. This will give council and officers the discretion and power to make timely, efficient, effective and consistent decision making. It will also give developers a clearly articulated structure to work within and the confidence to invest.

In bringing more activity and life to our CBD, Committee has strongly advocated for revitalisation of the CBD Precinct, including investment in the Civic Hall site and Ballarat Railway Station. Combined with planned development to create a Major Sports & Entertainment Precinct at North Ballarat (Eureka), this will ensure we continue to bring more activity to Ballarat through investment in underutilised public spaces and deliver major events that will create jobs and stimulate the local regional economy.

It is pleasing to note, the strong commitment by Council in the strategy to create and develop strong transport linkages to match or exceed public growth. This includes the provision of parking, public transport, walking, cycling and roads.

The planned linkages between residential developments, jobs, shops, schools, community and services are critical deliverables in the strategy.

Regional Capital Precincts

A new hierarchy of “Regional Capital Precincts” and the infrastructure needed to support their growth within the strategy is supported.

This new hierarchy recognises the importance of elevating these precincts in decision-making and embedding these in the Ballarat Planning Scheme as a cohesive policy hierarchy for the city. We envisage the adoption of this hierarchy within the strategy will act to preserve the integrity and opportunity created by establishing clearly defined precincts that will support the overall planning process.

Committee fully supports the precincts currently identified for growth / investment and request council to implement policies to prevent continued urban sprawl.

We encourage the full activation of identified under-utilised vacant land within the city boundaries.

Public Transport and Connectivity

The strategy promotes bicycle friendly corridors and encourages residents to support a well-designed and efficient public transport system.

The benefits of a 10 minutes city cannot be underestimated and we fully support councils desire to create a vibrant city heart which is well planned, has effective transport linkages and encourages a healthy active lifestyle.

A future spine network of frequent, logical and convenient public transport, and land use decisions to make this viable will continue to be an issue for council. This is due to the fact that we have diverse stakeholder groups, with varying economic drivers, that impact on council’s ability to deliver. Adoption of the strategy by PTV (Public Transport Victoria) and the State Government will be critical to the success of delivering an integrated plan as the city grows.

New growth corridors must have access to better public transport options, which will drive a cultural shift within the community to embrace greater use of public transport. Frequency and the connectivity between key nodes, is critical to achieving this outcome.

Investigation of additional railway stations, potential offerings of improved park-and-ride access east and west of the city, is also supported. This includes investigation of an expanded railway network for new stations at Warrenheip, Lucas and the Eureka Stadium Precinct.

Housing and in-fill development

The strategy recognises the changing demographic of our community and the need to provide a variety of commercial and residential options.

Guidance on future in-fill development must be managed with higher density housing in the CBD stimulating inner city renewal and retail economic growth. This inner city development must be underpinned by direct employment within the CBD precinct.

Housing and in-fill developments are often subject to objection and resolution through VCAT. Policy Direction 3.1 (page 71) identifies the opportunity and initiatives underpinning delivery. In drafting the strategy, council must satisfy itself that this risk is addressed and initiatives introduced support the overall Ballarat Planning Scheme process. Car park dispensation must also be recognised and supported.

Planning guidelines must enable inner city development to occur. The Ballarat Planning Scheme guidelines must find the balance between protecting our historic streetscapes whilst creating an environment for inner city living.

Economic tension between new development funding and developer contributions is inevitable. The document endeavours to ensure that this funding is fair and equitable. Council must create an environment that encourages investment in new and in-fill development sites, that the approval process is streamlined; and developments are planned in accordance with the guidelines and initiatives outlined in the strategy.

Supporting for rural and township communities

Whilst a diverse range of council services are not proposed for each township area, the City of Ballarat will increasingly be asked for the provision of appropriate services across Ballarat and into the broader region.

This includes bordering shires and councils and while not included within the Ballarat Strategy, the potential for a further amalgamation of councils for services during the plan period is real.

Summary Statement

We commend council on this Ballarat Strategy document.

Following an extensive consultation process with the community, the Ballarat Strategy document must be now positioned as policy direction for council. Delivery of the strategy will require strength and continuity of leadership at council level.

There is a real risk that this document is not adopted or enacted. Therefore, it must be embraced by council as a “living document”, with the strength and courage in leadership to act on it.

For continued and sustainable social and economic growth in our region, it is important that this document is actioned by council to underpin all future policy directions and planning decisions ensuring that projected population growth for Ballarat is strategically planned and supported.

Yours sincerely

John Kilgour

Chief Executive Officer