HOW do you solve a problem like the old gasworks site in Russell Street?
The crumbling industrial complex was a strange sight when Bathurst was a big country town, but is even more incongruous now that Bathurst is growing into a major inland regional city.
The city’s residential expansion on its fringes is being accompanied by a wave of investment and development in the CBD and surrounds that is increasingly at odds with the old gasworks’ broken windows, graffiti and general air of disrepair.
The late Bruce Bolam’s passion and interest has transformed great swathes of George Street, where parking is at a premium these days on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Bathurst Bullet daily return train service to Sydney has breathed new life into the lower Keppel Street precinct, where council has spent money on beautification works and new car spaces in the nearby Neighbourhood Centre car park and where Tremain’s Mill owners Stephen and Glenda Birrell have an ambitious refurbishment and redevelopment program that includes a museum and marketplace.
The old Dairy Farmers site and the former TAFE building remain problematic, but, unlike the old gasworks site, there have been signs of progress in recent years.
Plans, rejected by council because of concerns about height and bulk, were submitted for a serviced apartment complex on the old Dairy Farmers site earlier this year, while the community has been given its say on the future of the old TAFE building, which is now under council’s control.
And then there is the old gasworks site, which is a bad news story without end.
Unattractive, unappealing and unloved, it’s little more than a magnet for vandals.
Energy company Jemena, which leases the land from the NSW Government, announced recently that it would improve security at the site after it faced criticism from councillor Bobby Bourke about the inadequacy of the complex fence.
But Jemena doesn’t want the old gasworks: it has made clear that it wants to hand back the site to NSW Crown Lands, which will simply transfer the problem.
So where does that leave Bathurst?
With an old gasworks no one wants and no one seems interested in doing anything about.
As the city centre changes, the old gasworks seems destined to become the broken tooth in the city’s smile.