Our Say | Does council need another CBD property?

AS the NSW Government gets close to making a decision on a new ambulance station for Bathurst, thoughts within Bathurst Regional Council must be turning, increasingly, to the future of the old one.

Member for Bathurst Paul Toole said last month that a decision on the station was imminent, though he wouldn’t confirm whether the current station in the CBD would be upgraded or a greenfield site would be chosen.

He didn’t need to do so, however.

Then health minister Jillian Skinner all but gave a guarantee that a new site would be chosen when she announced a $6.6 million election commitment on the eve of the 2015 state poll to deliver a new station for the city.

Asked last month if council would be interested in taking over the historic current station building in William Street, general manager David Sherley said council would be “interested in entering into discussions with NSW Ambulance”.

That’s hardly a hearty endorsement of the idea that council should take over the ownership of such a prize piece of CBD real estate – but, then again, that’s hardly surprising.

When councillors voted in 2013 to accept another William Street gem, the former TAFE building near the corner of Howick Street, from the NSW Government, one of the major concerns was that council had no obvious plans for its use.

Big, prominent, historic CBD buildings need a big, prominent purpose. In the absence of that purpose, they need regular maintenance while the right purpose can be found.

That’s been council’s experience so far with the former TAFE building, which, after a number of years and a period of community consultation, remains empty, unloved and, to the majority of those who walk past it every day, ignored.

Does council need a second major ex-NSW Government CBD building on its books when it has yet to work out what to do with the first? Is council obligated to take possession of these pieces of CBD history when they become available, regardless of the timing?

It’s a fair bet that these are some of the questions being asked in Russell Street as the announcement of a site for a new station gets closer.

Classes are no longer taught there, but the former TAFE building must still have some lessons to pass on.