Planning panel sets date to decide Goulburn's performing arts venue

Architect Brewster Hjorth's artist's impression of the 400-seat performing arts centre.
Architect Brewster Hjorth's artist's impression of the 400-seat performing arts centre.

The Joint Regional Planning Panel may next week decide whether Goulburn’s performing arts centre goes ahead.

An assessment report forwarded to the panel has recommended conditional approval.

The panel, chaired by former State Environment Minister Pam Allan, will meet on Thursday, July 27 at 10.30am in the council chambers. She and members Renata Brooks and Mark Grayson will hear both sides of the debate on the $12.1 million council proposal. They will be joined by council appointees, growth, strategy and culture director Louise Wakefield and Cr Denzil Sturgiss.

A JRPP spokesman said it was unknown at this stage whether the panel would decide the project on that day or reserve a decision. 

The plan to convert the McDermott Centre into a 400-seat venue attracted 19 public submissions. Eight supported the project but 11 objected, mainly on the basis of heritage and the lack of parking provision. One of these was a 529-signature petition which also raised concerns about any move to close off CBD streets to traffic.

Following a site meeting in March, the JRPP requested an independent heritage assessment of the 1887 EC Manfred-designed building. It also wanted more details on the materials to be used in the rear addition, “more clarity” on what what walls would be demolished and an update on how McDermott Centre users would be accommodated.

Minutes showed the panel asked that “the broader context of parking and accessibility should be part of the (assessment) report.” 

The council is working on a parking strategy for the CBD and argues there are more than enough spaces to provide for the centre. Fifty-six spaces would be required under its development control plan but the council has requested a variation.

One of the recommended consent conditions is that it furnish a traffic management plan for approval before a construction certificate is granted. It must identify how delivery vehicles are to enter the property and offload, traffic controls and temporary parking restrictions in Montague Street, demonstrate how bus and coach set-down and pick-up will be managed for weekday matinee events and provide details of any proposed drop off zone.

The hearing is open to the public. Those wishing to speak at the meeting must register by 4pm on Tuesday, July 25 by contacting the Planning Panel’s Secretariat on (02) 8217 2060 or email enquiry@planningpanels.nsw.gov.au

All associated documents have been posted on the JRPP’s website.

Meantime, the council in April applied for $2 million for the centre under the State’s Regional Growth Environment and Tourism Fund. It is also preparing an application for the recently announced Regional Cultural Fund.

In addition, the government also recently announced a $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, for which expressions of interest are expected to open soon.

Mayor Bob Kirk said the council would await the outcome of the former two before deciding whether to pursue opportunities through the latter.

He criticised the two-staged process for the program, whereby proponents of shortlisted projects were required to lodge a second application.

“That process came in for criticism by Ken Gillespie (the State’s appointed regional infrastructure coordinator),” Cr Kirk said.

“You go through the expression of interest and then have to submit exactly the same information in a second round. It drags out the delivery and implementation and it’s an obvious deterrent to progressing projects...Why not just put in one application and have them say yes or no? Do it once and do it right.” 

The Federal Government has also granted $1 million towards the centre under the National Stronger regions fund. Work is three months behind in timelines linked to the funding. 

“We’ve flagged that as a potential problem (with the federal government) but like everything else, if you keep stakeholders in the loop, I’m sure reason will prevail,” Cr Kirk said.

“We know (federal Hume MP) Angus Taylor is keen for this to succeed and I’m sure we will have his support as long as it is reasonable.”

Architects Brewster Hjorth and quantity surveyors are reviewing the $12.1m cost and whether it can be reduced to the original $11.4m budget allocation.

Cr Kirk said “the proof would be in the pudding” when and if the council called construction tenders. If it was more than estimated, councillors could reassess the project.