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Horsham City Oval and Sawyer Park precinct redevelopment project plan released

Horsham councillors have had an opportunity this week to consider initial concept designs for a Horsham City Oval and Sawyer Park precinct redevelopment project.

A community reference group, which has been exploring and analysing details regarding the project for several months, released an initial draft to the councillors on Monday as part of a briefing process.

Details, which include radical changes, replacement of ageing infrastructure and an exploitation of outdoor-entertainment opportunities, became available to the community today as part of the next stage of a community consultation process.

Plans are readily available on Horsham Rural City Council’s website.

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The reference group, headed by Horsham Football Netball Club life-member Jeff Both, has explored future development of the area based on assets, traditional and future community engagement and use and feedback.

The city oval and Sawyer Park precinct development project is one of seven projects in an overall Horsham Rural City Council City to River Masterplan.

It represents a second stage of the masterplan after a River Activation Project, which is already underway.

The precinct part of the development has attracted considerable community debate and speculation on how to best use the area that has long been a centrepiece of mainstream sport and recreation and community celebration in Horsham.

Community ideas have ranged from radical overhauls such as re-orientating the direction of the reserve’s primary sporting oval to simply exploring basic ways of better capitalising on public open-space in the precinct.

The development has generated considerable public interest and debate, especially regarding changing the oval, which now appears unlikely to be among considerations.

Key elements of plans, apart from expanding the oval, include a replacement of pavilion and grandstand, and demolition of former ambulance station to allow for expansion of netball facilities.

Plans also show Hockey Street between the city oval and Sawyer Park subject to transformation and inclusion of a central stage area designed to exploit both the city oval arena and opposite parkland spaces for major outdoor concerts and festivals.

The reference group has worked on a series of objectives. These combine an exploration into ways of developing the area for more high-level sporting and community events as well as overall passive public access and a more inviting riverfront environment.

Work from the community reference group will continue and involve further community consultation and submission opportunities.

Community driven

Horsham mayor Robyn Gulline said the concept plans would remain in the hands of the reference group until a need for council endorsement, most likely in October.

“The project is very exciting. We had visionaries who for more than 50 years set up what we have and now an opportunity for the community for the visionaries for the future,” she said.

“This project is very much community led and driven. We as councillors are simply the conduit for what the community wants to happen.

“What’s been impressive is that user groups and community representatives have come together and come up with a plan with which they are all happy.”

The reference group objectives are –

• Maintaining the area’s sporting role and upgrade to meet all contemporary facility standards including universal design.

• Increasing public access to and through the site by allowing greater permeability, removing fences, encouraging passive recreation and creating an inviting public realm and interface.

• Improving integration of Horsham City Oval with surrounding areas including Sawyer Park, the riverfront and key pedestrian access routes to the city’s Central Activity District.

• Upgrading Horsham City Oval as Horsham’s premier regional AFL-cricket venue and to a regional standard to enable it to host regional AFL and cricket sporting events and other non-sporting events. Upgrades are likely to include expansion of the size of the field, a new multi-purpose pavilion and covered spectator areas. A second netball court would assist in training and matches.

• Recognising the role of Sawyer Park as an events space ensuring it is fit-for-purpose and meets future demand in activating the Wimmera River area.

• Recognising the significance of Horsham Cenotaph and its future development.

• Acknowledge the role of the miniature railway in activating the riverfront, and work with the Wimmera Live Steam and Model Engineering Society to explore design options and an ongoing operating model, as part of the next phase of the planning and design process.