Great Western debates town's future

GREAT Western residents met on Tuesday night to discuss the town’s future.

Northern Grampians Shire Council is devising a Great Western future plan in anticipation of the Western Highway bypass.

Council’s director of economy and community Jim Nolan said about 30 business owners and residents attended the meeting.

“The primary purpose of the plan is to generate a vision and prepare for the future of the town in the knowledge that the community now knows where the Western Highway bypass is going to go,” he said.

The council has employed Ballarat-based consultants SED, which led Tuesday’s discussion, to produce a draft plan by the end of the month.

Mr Nolan said the bypass could have major effects on Great Western’s economy and business.

“The community was keen to retain as much of the business that they have once the bypass is constructed and create opportunities for new businesses to benefit the town in the long term,” he said. 

Great Western sculptor and co-owner of Toll Gate Gallery John Harris said he was unsure what effect the bypass would have.

“I’ve heard arguments both ways,” he said.

“Some say ‘yes the place can go ahead’, particularly now because it has sewerage for residential development.

“But I think some towns have really faded away or lost business and visitors once there’s been a bypass.”

Also discussed at the meeting was the location of the Great Western recreation reserve, home to the Great Western Football Netball Club. 

Relocation is being considered after council identified it as a potential site for residential development.

Mr Nolan said council was still considering all options, including moving the ground to near the racecourse.

“Certainly there are a number of options – staying where they are and developing the facility or relocating to the racetrack,” he said.

“There was no real consensus from the meeting about the recreation reserve as such, but it was certainly acknowledged as a high-use facility and it’s very accessible to the community.

“There are constraints on developing it in its current location, partly because of the size of the reserve.”

Mr Nolan said the meeting showed the community was ready to get on the front foot to ensure the town’s survival.

“What was positive about the session was that people weren’t necessarily going to wait until the bypass occurred,” he said. 

“They were keen to position themselves well and prepare for transition whether or not the bypass happens.”

Maps show the bypass swinging north around Great Western.

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