Community welcomes Goulburn's performing arts centre approval | PHOTOS

BIG DECISION: Joint Regional Planning Panel members Renata Brooks, chairman Alison McCabe and Louise Camenzuli at Wednesday's hearing.
BIG DECISION: Joint Regional Planning Panel members Renata Brooks, chairman Alison McCabe and Louise Camenzuli at Wednesday's hearing.

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Construction will start on Goulburn’s new performing arts venue in the first half of next year, following its approval on Wednesday.

The three-member Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) unanimously approved the $12.3 million project during a sitting at the council chambers. The development, adaptively re-using the McDermott Centre for a 400-seat venue, was granted conditional consent, taking community concerns into account.

Performing arts working party chair and Deputy Mayor Alf Walker said the project had been a long time coming.

“I’m very pleased,” he said.

“It was quite an exciting result especially after all the hard work by the working party, the staff and all those pushing for a performing arts centre. It was very good that staff were able to address concerns raised by the community. At the end of the day this will be a community owned facility.” 

Fellow working party member, Chris Gordon, who spoke at the meeting, said he was very relieved.

“I think most of the people who were hoping this would be approved felt the same way,” he told The Post.

“I don't know where it would have left the quest for a PAC if it had been rejected. The conditions attached should address any of the concerns raised and hopefully now we can start looking forward to this incredible facility.” 

Some 40 people attended Wednesday’s hearing.

The panel deferred the matter in July for more information on car parking and access, heritage impacts, particularly excavation and the effect of demolition on surrounding structures, justification to vary the building height and disabled access.

Since then, the council engaged independent consultant Purdon Planning to review all these aspects  It also undertook a parking survey, reviewed the council’s CBD strategy and parking arrangements and met with those who spoke at the July JRPP meeting.

A report by Purdon Planning associate director Trevor Fitzpatrick said onsite parking was not possible without a total building redesign. He detailed 604 parking spaces within five minutes’ walk and over 1000 spots within 10 minutes.

He stated the most appropriate solution was “a combination of parking supply, demand and management.”

The McDermott Centre will be adapted to accommodate the performing arts centre.

The McDermott Centre will be adapted to accommodate the performing arts centre.

Venue to ‘add vibrancy’

Mr Fitzpatrick detailed a host of other work, including an independent heritage assessment, carried out since July.

It was enough to convince the JRPP to approve the performing arts centre.

But Joint Regional Planning Panel chair Alison McCabe added another reason at Wednesday’s special hearing.

“I grew up in a small town and I think it’s really important that town centres are maintained as vibrant areas. I think this use is important to this vibrancy,” she said.

“Goulburn has a lovely town centre and a wealth of history and architecture. I think it’s vital that old buildings are used and adapted, provided we can strike a balance between heritage and ongoing use. This is another evolution of this building.”

The project was approved subject to more than 50 conditions recommended by an independent consultant. The panel tightened up some of these and included some extra conditions.

They included:

  • That a car parking and access management plan be implemented before an occupation certificate is issued and that they apply during ongoing operation;
  • A traffic management plan be submitted before a construction certificate is issued and include a bollard to protect a sandstone pylon at the rear laneway delivery entry;
  • Lighting for safe access to council carparking at the rear;
  • That a dilapidation report regarding adjoining buildings also includes the courthouse and post office;
  • That retained elements from the 1937 art deco council chambers are curated into a design in the foyer.

An interpretation strategy will also be prepared, with images of ‘major players’ throughout the building’s history to be displayed in public art around the centre. This is on top of an archival record.

“I’m aware there’s been some angst in the community but I believe there are ways they can be managed,” Ms McCabe said.

The panel heard from six speakers, four of whom were opposed to the location and impacts.

Community concerns

Tempe Hornibrook argued the building’s conservation was uppermost.

“It is our responsibility to adhere to to the integrity of historical architecture and not gamble with the possibility of damaging it through unnecessary demolition of an 80-year-old extension,” she said.

She predicted “bedlam” from dust, noise and disruption to the city centre.

Ms Hornibrook questioned whether the council had permission from the Justice department to remove a sandstone bollard and branches from a camphor laurel tree at the rear delivery entry laneway to the PAC.

However the council’s operations director Matt O’Rourke said the pylon’s removal was not necessary and there was no intention to “decimate” the tree. An access protocol had also been developed with the courthouse staff.

Moreover, in response to a panel question, he said heavy machinery would not be used during excavation, which would be supervised by an archaeologist.

Business owner Kim Gann said the plan would take away parking from the CBD and that the council was not treating the issue in a “practical manner.” A CBD Strategy was creating more spaces in some areas but removing them in others, she argued.

Tempe Hornibrook feared for the impact of demolition, excavation and construction on the front section of the McDermott Centre and nearby buildings.

Tempe Hornibrook feared for the impact of demolition, excavation and construction on the front section of the McDermott Centre and nearby buildings.

Jacki Waugh spoke on the same issue, claimed the parking was inadequate and that the council had simply moved parking spaces around.

“It’s in the wrong spot and Council should go back and look at another site,” she said.

But Southern Tablelands Arts executive director Susan Conroy told the panel there was no facility for contemporary standards of performance. They were currently spread around numerous venues, most of which had access problems and other constraints.

“One thing that’s lacking is a stepping stone for our young people. They don’t have a central stage where people can celebrate the quality of their work,” she said.

Ms Conroy said a Facebook page started after the performing arts controversy broke attracted almost 200 supportive messages in a fast period. She was confident the facility would be strongly supported. 

“I think it is fantastic for the future of arts in this city,” Ms Conroy said after the meeting.

“The whole point of having a Performing Arts Centre, right in the centre of town is if you go there on a weekend, apart from one cafe there, it is dead. This will open up opportunities for people to have a life consistent with a rural-regional centre.”

PAC working party member Chris Gordon also argued the city was “screaming out” for a performance venue. The Rocky Hill Musical Theatre Company, of which he was a member, had struggled to find suitable venues for their productions.

“A lot of people are waiting on this decision...(The PAC) has a huge amount of support outside this room,” he said.

The approval means the council can start preparing construction tender documents. A recommendation on a successful tenderer is expected to go to councillors in early 2018.

Mayor Bob Kirk said the project was a significant development for Goulburn.

“The community have to be excited and happy about it because it presents an answer to something that’s been in the mix for at least 18 months,” he said.

Trevor Fitzpatrick, associate director of Purdon Planning, undertook an independent assessment of the council's development application for the performing arts facility.

Trevor Fitzpatrick, associate director of Purdon Planning, undertook an independent assessment of the council's development application for the performing arts facility.

Funding flowing in

The council will now prepare construction tender documents with a recommendation due in early 2018.

The council received welcome news on Wednesday on top of the performing arts centre’s approval.

Its $4.5 million application to the State Government’s Regional Cultural Fund has been shortlisted. A council spokesperson said Goulburn MP Pru Goward was “strongly supporting” the bid and had “worked tirelessly” behind the scenes.

Mayor Bob Kirk said he held great hope for the funds, which would reduce the council’s contribution.

“It would allow us to direct that money to other areas,” he said.

Other funding sources are:  

  • $2m grant from Veolia Mulwaree Trust; 
  • $1m from the Building Better Regions Fund;
  • $300,000 from NSW Government ClubGrants;
  • $100,000 from Heritage Near Me (NSW Office of Environment & Heritage); 
  • $1m from the council’s general fund;
  • $800,000 – Lilac Time Hall reserve; 
  • $240,000 from the council’s Section 94 reserve account.  

A low-interest State loan for $2.16m could also be taken out.