Eurobodalla Shire Council has rejected claims it is planning to demolish the Batemans Bay Community Centre but says plans to sell or lease the space are still being considered.
“I don’t know where this talk of demolition came from, it has no factual basis,” says Lindsay Usher, Council’s Director of Planning and Sustainability.
Talk about the centre’s future has prompted a community petition led by Sue Mackenzie, President of PerFex – Batemans Bay Performance and Exhibition Centre Working Group and one of the 700 local members of the University of the Third Age.
The petition states, “We the undersigned do request Eurobodalla Council to cease and desist from moving forward with any plans to demolish the present Batemans Bay Community Centre, and hereafter to retain and maintain it in perpetuity for the ongoing use of the community of Batemans Bay.”
Dr Mackenzie says talk of demolishing the Community Centre was raised during focus group discussions about the new Batemans Bay Regional Aquatic, Arts and Leisure Centre last year, a process supported by Council.
In response, Mr Ushser says the possibility of the Community Centre, the Batemans Bay Visitors Centre and the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site all being sold or leased has always been flagged in plans to develop the aquatic and arts centre at Mackay Park.
“We are looking at incorporating the functions of the Community Centre and Visitors Centre into the new Mackay Park centre,” he says.
“There are potential benefits on two fronts – it minimises costs and makes services more effective and it means there is the potential that we can generate income from those other sites and that money can go towards Mackay Park.
“That information has been publically available in our plans and included in the frequently asked questions section on our website for some time.”
Dr Mackenzie says the news has come as a surprise to many, and while the notion of demolition is dramatic, the idea behind the petition is more about keeping the space open and accessible to the community.
“There have been lots of rumours, but we were expecting to find the Community Centre facilities detailed within the Mackay Park plans but they are not there,” Dr Mackenzie says.
“We have been under the impression that we wouldn’t lose anything with the Mackay Park development.”
Dr Mackenzie says the centre is used by a range of organisations including the University of the Third Age and Meals on Wheels and acts as a place of refuge close to the Batemans Bay CBD for people looking for public toilets or baby change facilities.
“The big, clean, kitchen facilities at the Community Centre are an important part of this and a real asset,” she says.
“None of the three concept plans presented for the new Aquatic and Arts Centre give us confidence that we will have the space we have now – including a usable kitchen for community groups.”
Mr Usher says, “The concept plans do provide meeting and multi-purpose spaces in excess of that provided at the Community Centre.”
“It also contains a food handling and service area and flat floor area in the theatre plus the 350 seat capacity of the theatre. This is significantly more capacity seating than exists at the Community Centre, which requires seating to be set up and packed up for and after each time it is used.”
He says the final design is expected later this year with a start to construction in early 2020.
When it comes to the future of the Community Centre, the Batemans Bay Visitors Centre and the old Batemans Bay Bowling Club site, Mr Usher says that still needs to come to Council for further discussion and decision.
“The lease or sale of those sites has not yet been decided by Council and there has certainly been no discussion about demolishing the buildings, for all we know the market could be interested in the buildings,” he says.
“If Council does decide to go out to the market and sell or lease them, then there will be a competitive tender process.”
Mr Usher says those decisions and discussions are still some time away and that the community will continue to have access.
“Council is not going to dispose of those until we are able to provide an alternate site at Mackay Park, this will be tied to the development and opening of those new facilities.”
Dr Mackenzie says she hopes the petition will influence the discussions councillors will have in the future.
“Now is the time when we can actually have an influence, before its too late,” she says.