If we really want a Gosford centre to be proud of, Council will have to step in

Rod Fountain’s gloom about the Gosford City Centre is, on the face of it, well justified (“Rest in Peace Gosford”, CCN edition 195), given the procession of failed plans and the ineptitude of Council in setting development goals for the area.
Nevertheless, Gosford could have a very bright future, although it would not be the future of the past that he yearns for.
The first requirement, however, is to rid ourselves of absurd nostalgia for a place that never existed, to map out a realistic role for Gosford in our city structure, and to recognise that there is no no-cost solution to turning the present shambles into a workable precinct that can realise its potential.
The Government Architect’s plan is about as unimaginative as they come, and is obviously limited by the fact that it proposes none of the reshaping of the present layout which would be essential for a first-class outcome.
Possibly, that was a given in his brief, but it is a deplorable constraint to any ambition for creating a 21st-century environment in Gosford.
It will never do the job.
Rod Fountain waxes lyrical about the Gosford of his (faulty) memory, but the fact is that the centre was never better than ticky-tacky, and we should all be grateful that it has been replaced by Erina which is accessible, comfortable and capable of easy expansion, as the need arises.
Possibly, if the merchants of Gosford had had the foresight to collaborate on a revamping of the centre, it could have retained some of its facilities, but the usual head-in-the-sand mentality prevailed, and the decline of commercial activities became inevitable.
Nevertheless, if this enables the sweeping-away of obsolescent structures to open opportunities for new, well-designed buildings, the results are not all bad.
The authorities persist in the notion that Gosford is the “regional capital”, whatever that means, when it is obvious, first, that Gosford is probably the worst-situated location for a city centre, placed near the far southern rim of the city’s population, with poor access for most people.
The advantages of Gosford are proximity to the station and the access to, and views over, Brisbane Water.
Accordingly, any half-aware developer will immediately identify it as a location for high-density residential development.
However, the marketability of apartments here will depend heavily on offering a very high quality of accommodation, to compensate for the remoteness from Sydney.
Otherwise, the target group will more likely choose an inner-city location there.
If transportation to Sydney could be improved, some of the disadvantage would disappear, but this possibility is remote.
It will also be vital to create an urban environment attractive for new residents, whose desires may well be very different from those of people who already live here.
It is next to disastrous that three of the ugliest structures on the Central Coast, the Federal Tax office, the State Finance office and the Central Coast Stadium, have been allowed to disfigure the near-waterfront area.
Similarly, the short-sightedness of building the centre’s access road along the shorefront, which is Gosford’s greatest asset, thus cutting off pedestrian access to the water, is unforgivable.
To aim at a top-quality residential neighbourhood will be almost impossible, unless the road is sunk for a significant proportion of its length.
A goal of linking the centre to the waterfront is difficult enough to achieve, when the street patterns and topography are so adverse to this ambition.
As for the Government Architect’s plan, it comes down to 106 pages of minutely detailed regulations, straight-jacketing developers into preconceived building forms, without a single action initiative to bless itself with, unless one counts the re-landscaping of Leagues Club Field.
In this connection, one is left dumbfounded by the illustration on page 6.
Are there really going to be kangaroos in the undergrowth, and where do those quaint bridges go to, when there is no water for them to cross?
The task of a Development Corporation is to identify the highest priority need and to act on it, but this is almost a parody.
Finally, one wonders how long all the Government Architect’s intricate building restrictions will survive the first real proposal put forward by a developer.
The Central Coast’s history of approved variations and departures from principles and policies, to accommodate commercial expediency, suggests that, left to themselves, developers will put forward schemes to their own best advantage, and then lobby for special consideration outside the preconceived models of the controls.
If we really want a Gosford centre to be proud of, the Council will have to step in, acquire land, amalgamate sites and set the pattern for developers to follow.
When that happens, we’ll all be able to enjoy the porcine flypast from our viewpoints in this splendid new environment.

Email, Nov 25
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy

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