IF one councillor gets their way, Bathurst could soon be building up, not out.
At Wednesday's policy committee meeting, councillor Warren Aubin said he wanted to see Bathurst Regional Council combat urban sprawl by building high-rise apartments in the central business district.
"Driving down George Street, you look out towards the mountains, all you see is a sheet of grey roofs, and it's going to go further, and further, and further. Our farm land is going, our food producing land is going, as can be seen with the Sunbright Orchard.
"It's really time we look severely hard at some medium density housing going up in our CBD area."
The high rise housing, Cr Aubin said, would not only address urban sprawl, but more importantly would make it easier for young people to afford to buy property.
"You go to a spec house out at Kelso and there's nothing under half a million dollars," he said.
"Young people have to have $80,000 or $90,000 in the bank to put a deposit down to buy a house. It is just getting ridiculous."
The current Local Environment Plan (LEP) permits buildings in the CBD to be up to 12 metres high, but Cr Aubin said he would want to amend it to allow buildings to exceed that height.
Council's director of Environmental, Planning and Building Services, Neil Southorn, said it was possible to amend the LEP, but it would not be a quick process.
He also said he agreed that Bathurst needed to have more varied housing.
"The city needs to look at housing choice, a greater range of housing choice to the market and those who cannot enter the market, I agree with that principle," Mr Southorn said.
"And also through the work that has been done recently with the housing strategy, increasing density is a feature that needs to be considered."
Speaking to the Western Advocate, Cr Aubin said the "high rise" buildings would only be three or four storeys and, as they would be in the CBD, he would want them to be dual-purpose.
"The apartment block would have to have shop fronts and car parking underneath," he said.
"They have to be quality units that young people can afford in the $280,000 to $300,000 bracket."
The existing heritage streetscape would have to be considered.
Cr Aubin said it was essential that apartment blocks complemented the CBD's heritage buildings.
"Heritage-wise, look at the post office building. It is right in the dead centre of town and it is a crappy looking building," he said.
"You've got to have something that matches the streetscape and has nice shopfronts underneath."
Cr Jess Jennings supported Cr Aubin, saying Bathurst needed more medium density housing in the future and agreeing that four storeys would be the maximum.
His preference was to build outside of the Heritage Conservation area, particularly near the Macquarie River.
"Anywhere that's close and accessible to the Macquarie River and the banks of the Macquarie, because for any medium density housing, you have to have decent amenity to go with it," Cr Jennings said.
"Bathurst has a very fortunate opportunity to utilise the Macquarie River banks as that recreation amenity area for a whole range of activities."
However, he said it would be essential to maintain the existing agriculture activities along the river and there would be enough space available to do both.
"Outside of the farming land there is still a huge amount of space that can be utilised," he said.