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CBD vitality diminishes with every dud plan

The Bendigo Bunch is jumping the gun again. This time being rushed into a decision to release the Bendigo CBD plan that will change how historic buildings are viewed in future planning before the CBD heritage study is even completed.

Talk about putting the cart before the horse, the bumbling bunch are fast heading to another finish line disaster as they did with the myriad of costly projects in redeveloping the Hargreaves Mall in futile attempts to “revitalise the CBD” or the debacle that was its now aborted decision to acquire the Carter Family farm at Marong.

And just as they are doing with announcing deals on the dud GovHub project before a firm decision has been made to sell our land and buildings in Lyttleton Terrace at a bargain basement price to the State Government, see them demolished and then pay big rent to the government or some overseas property investor for years to come.

They’re just not interested in the detail needed to make good decisions. Only three of the remaining eight councillors had the foresight back in February to avoid the vortex coming from Spring Street, not being sucked in on a second-class GovHub concept where the figures don’t add up.

At tonight’s council meeting, the Bunch will be at it again, likely to embrace another flawed CBD plan from the staff we pay.

Former mayor Peter Cox has been among the first the call out this appalling approach to decision-making that muddied the minds of many councillors.

"The National Trust branch has been requesting the release of the CBD heritage study for over 12 months but it has not been completed after three years," he said. "While council is requesting a formal 28 days for submissions from the community on the (CBD) plan, it needs to be postponed until the CBD heritage study is considered by all."

Now council is saying the economic considerations and the net community benefit of a development need to be carefully considered, just as heritage is. “In saying this, we do need to take a conservative approach to heritage, as once it’s gone it’s gone.”

Every dollar spent on the Mall was to have economic benefits. Every mall project has seen the once-prime retail hub of Bendigo become a jaded, tarnished and discarded star for businesses.

They even try and tell us that “major improvements over the last 25 years in particular have made a big impact.” They’ve got that one right – empty shops, less jobs, a CBD without a heartbeat.

And ohhhh how hypocritical to acknowledge that buildings of historic importance once gone cannot be brought back. They are hell-bent on seeing iconic 1970s architecture wantonly demolished.

They talk about vibrancy in the CBD but this new plan calls for the reduction of “public subsidies for car parking” and less “ground level” parking. Guess that code for higher parking fees as car parking spots are taken away. We might well need the horse and cart!

At least the Bendigo Bunch is talking about some community consultation on this draft plan, something they couldn’t be bothered with before the in-principle decision on GovHub.

By the way, how much did this Draft CBD plan cost ratepaters? You guessed it - $90,000, the same the Bendigo Bunch paid out for the PriceWaterhouseCooper report on options for future office accommodation for council staff. That report was rejected by the Bunch when the recommendation they wanted was not received.

In the murkiness of Bendigo Bunch decisions, one thing is ever so clear: every time they talk about revitalization of the CBD, we know another costly disaster is coming our way.

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