Why are Goulburn people often defeated on planning issues as the city develops? Why are weatherboard cottages bowled over to clear the way for harsh concrete service stations? And why are rambling old homes that have stood for a century likely to be crushed for modern mansion monstrosities?
The answer: because we lazily leave the heavy lifting to a few others.
No wonder developers are licking their lips, whacking up units carelessly and paying little attention to the future of neighbourhoods in new estates.
But occasionally a glimmer of hope pops up in front of your face. Someone who is qualified and in authority makes a decisive statement on Goulburn’s history and the aesthetics that spring from it.
The council officer’s well chosen words are contained in Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s strong support for an $84 million chicken processing plant on the city’s eastern outskirts. The council’s submission, in response to the proposal, raises concerns:
“The main issue that has been lightly addressed is the view from Rocky Hill Memorial and Museum, which is a public viewing area and is associated with the history of the area, as well as being a war memorial and tourist attraction,” writes the council officer.
“The view from the memorial is arguably one of the more important views for consideration. It is stated that the impact on this view is moderate, and that viewer’s time is short.”
The officer says the proponent’s application downplays the importance of the use of the site and history. Choice of colour scheme, building height and landscaping would be important to mitigate the impact of the development from this view. The submission sets out what’s wrong with the proposed factory’s roof material.
Such a submission from the council would have been unthinkable years ago in a city desperate for new, labour-intensive industries. Back then, city councillors made compromises.
Consequently, beautiful buildings were bulldozed and the bricks and rubble hauled away forever. Views didn’t matter, either, and today the community is poorer for their shortsightedness.
One of many examples is in Sloane Street, which has outstanding old buildings, including Mandelson’s of Goulburn and the Southern Railway Hotel. Coming from the railway station, an ugly facade which runs along the Sloane Street side of Goulburn Marketplace spoils the vista. This bland concrete design may fulfil anchor tenants’ requirements, but blights the streetscape.
Some views along the main street spoil the city’s attempts at beautification. Rooftop structures such as redundant, rusting vents and air-conditioning units should either be removed or sufficiently screened to avoid distracting from the overall ambience. Locals walk past them daily, unawares. Visitors drawn to the city’s historic architecture are appalled.
Fostering a culture of “cooperative compliance”, as suggested by the council in a recent report in the Goulburn Post, has not yet had the desired effect. So the council is taking action against noncompliance, including issuing a stop-work order at a Church Street property belonging to former Goulburn Mayor Tony Lamarra because changes lacked consideration for the heritage conservation area.
Rising prices paid for character homes in the broad, tree-lined streets of inner-Goulburn lure out-of-town buyers with a keener appreciation of aesthetics.
Some of those buyers are leading an outcry over a proposal to demolish the first home built in Hurst Street. They realise destroying the existing setting of mature trees and a single-level sandstock brick home and erecting a double-storey home with enough parking to become a traffic-magnet will diminish one of Goulburn’s gorgeous neighbourhoods. At least 20 submissions objecting to the proposal have been lodged. A street protest is being talked about.
Rather than waiting to fight individual issues such as Hurst Street, the Goulburn community should be agitating for broad heritage overlays that cover entire streets. New policies need teeth to repel unsympathetic development.
Goulburn Mulwaree Council is reviewing residential planning guidelines, including height limits for sheds and ancillary structures which can impact on visual amenity, and duplicate dwelling designs which can also detract from visual amenity. The community must tune into the fine-grain detail of planning in old and new neighbourhoods, and weed out councillors at local government elections who do not care about our history or aesthetics.
If you feel strongly enough, step up, speak up and stand up for this exceptional place to live.
Do you believe entrenched indifference to Goulburn’s heritage needs to change?