Saturday, February 27, 2016

Alienation of dedicated Crown Land Public Reserves

In order to clarify the actions that caused the alienation of the dedicated Merewether Surf House Public Reserve and still could threaten the King Edward Headland Public Reserve we have prepared the following report: Twitter @Parksmovement

Access as a Public Right to King Edward Headland Reserve (KEHR) is the key to the future of the reserve which is an in-holding within the larger King Edward Park Newcastle NSW.  KEHR and Obelisk Hill which are integral parts of whole King Edward Park have been excised from the Council’s current Coastal Plan of Management 2014 which is similar to what happened with Merewether Surf House to facilitate development.

King Edward Headland Reserve was previously governed by a Crown Land approved Plan of Management which the Newcastle Council and the Regional Lands GM disregarded when assessing a recent DA.  They had previously also ignored the right of public access and the lawful use of the Merewether Surf House (Lot100/1130581) Public Reserve for its principal dedicated purpose of Public Recreation.

It is wrong however to draw a comparison between KEHR and Surf House Merewether thinking that one was assessed satisfactorily and the other wrongly. KEHR is a Public Reserve dedicated for Public Recreation and Surf House Reserve is a Public Reserve dedicated for the purpose of ‘Public Recreation’ too. Nevertheless an additional purpose “Tourist Facilities and Services” was clandestinely added to Surf House under Ministerial Delegated Authority by the regional General Manager of Crown Lands.

Merewether Surf House was a public Beach Pavilion located on Merewether beachfront land transferred to the Merewether Municipal Council on the 28th of November 1930 from the Merewether family for the cost of One Pound or $2.00 in today’s money. The Registered Deed No 944 Book 1617 includes the covenant that the Council will at all times maintain the land as ‘Public Parkland and no other purpose whatsoever’. Merewether Council was amalgamated with other Councils in 1938 to form ‘Greater Newcastle Council’ and Greater Newcastle was legally obliged as a successor to abide by the Deed of Gift and the Covernant.

By force of the above Deed the land was Community Land and controlled by a Newcastle Council Plan of Management under the Local Government Act 1993. That plan specifically provided for the restoration of the Surf Pavilion (Surf House).

The last Tate Newcastle City Council dishonoured the Covenant by allowing subdivision of the Surf House area from the gifted of part of the land and transferring it to the Minister for Crown Lands at no cost. The new parcel of land created Lot100 DP 1130581 and was leased to Sailors Rock Pty Ltd for adaptive reuse of the Surf House site and specifically removed from the Council’s Plan of Management for the Public Reserve.

That is the device used by Newcastle Council and the Minister’s Delegate to avoid the law and develop a large commercial facility that in no way resembles restoration of ‘Surf House’.

King Edward Headland Reserve is dedicated for ‘Public Recreation’ and could be threatened with the same fate of a subsidiary purpose under the Crown Lands Act being added in the future when people have forgotten the recent court case.

Eternal Vigilance is needed from the general public if Crown Land Public Reserves dedicated for ‘Public Recreation’ are to be lawfully managed and protected from vested interests.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Community Perspective on Planning for the Future

Between 1948 and 1963 the Northumberland County Council prepared a Town and Country Planning Scheme for the Lower Hunter region. It included the Local Government City of Greater Newcastle, the City of Greater Cessnock, City of Maitland, the Shire of Lake Macquarie and the Shire of Port Stephens. The County Council was composed of elected Councillors 3 from Newcastle 2 from Cessnock 1 from Maitland and 1 each from Lake Macquarie and from Port Stephens Shires. The Council was supported by a County Clerk and Chief County Planner and professional staff.

The County Council was disbanded in 1963 and local planning powers were returned to Local Governments with the state retaining power through the State Planning Authority Act 1963.

The most important planning legislation for the whole State of NSW was the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

In recent years especially under the current State Government there has been attempts to breakdown the provisions of the act and introduce amendments that have removed Local Government influence. Environmental planning in NSW has unfortunately been subverted from planning for the future to a narrow facilitation of development process for Central Government.

The Parks and Playgrounds Movement together with the Newcastle Council in 1989 conducted a workshop titled 'A Community Perspective on Planning for Newcastle's Future'. The report and its findings are pertinent to the Draft planning instrument currently on exhibition that will affect Newcastle and the Lower Hunter (Northumberland County Area) and we would hope that communities in NSW affected by planning instruments may find the ideas adopted at this workshop useful for their own local area.

Top: Nobbys (Whibayganba) A Newcastle Icon. Foreground: Macquarie Pier - Newcastle's most popular promenade. Bottom Adamstown Rifle Range - Part of Newcastle's Green Belt. Photo: Historic Target Butts                  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Civic Park Newcastle and Laman Street Design Stage One Submission

This post is a copy of submission sent to Newcastle City Council in response to public exhibition of Framework strategy for Civic Park and Laman Street. It outlines the esential features of the park and proposes improvements and a new structure Landscape concept to guide future developments.

Civic Park – Newcastle including Laman Street–Civic Precinct

Parks and Playgrounds Movement have been the principal advocates for the development of a professional landscape for Civic Park Newcastle and its environs since 1968. This included Laman Street and the Civic Precinct. Our 1968 scheme proposed that an overall plan for the precinct be prepared and we are pleased that Council is again considering the adoption of an overall concept for Civic Park and its Civic/Cultural Precinct.

Newcastle Council has been slowly working toward the fulfilment of such a concept ever since Civic Park was extended from the Burwood Rail line to Darby Street under the provisions of the 1952 to 1960 Northumberland County District Planning Scheme. The establishment of the ceremonial axis including the Cultural Centre, the Civic Park Fountain, the Cenotaph and City Hall made this essential. Whilst much has been achieved since 1952/1960 with little funding the progress has been hampered by the lack of a viable professional masterplan capable of being implemented in a positive way.

We note that Newcastle City Council recently resolved to adopt the following key themes listed below at its Ordinary Council Meeting on 5/7/2011 Item No 80 for the future planning of Laman Street and Civic Precinct which includes Civic Park.

a Preserve the green heart functions
b Improve heritage interpretation
c Preserve memorial sanctity
d Provide opportunities for families
e Enhance community safety
f Continue the cultural precinct as a meeting place
g Prioritise pedestrian connectivity
h Promote public art opportunities

The Movement approves of these themes but they need to be given form in a workable master plan. We were very disappointed when the Council in August 2010 did not resolve the design framework for the precinct into a clearly presented plan that could be adopted and implemented before moving to remove the Laman Street trees and create deep controversy in the community. This was an error but we support Council in its current resolve to adopt a redevelopment plan for Laman Street as a new start.

The Laman Street Design- Stage One now before Council is supported by the Parks and Playgrounds Movement. We are pleased that it is proposed to relocate the line of the old water main to the south of the tree planting and the other services to the centre of the existing Laman Street. We would like to see a further two trees planted in the design to replace the 14 trees recently removed. There is space for an extra tree on each side of the street in Council’s design and there will be no shortage of solar access to Laman Street for the next 30 years. Furthermore we believe that future Councils will appropriately maintain the trees in an aesthetic way to achieve views and provide access. Detail of the transition of the new street grades to the entrances of the Art Gallery and the existing Cultural Centre Library are needed as Laman Street slopes down considerably to Darby Street.

We note that Council will retain the central Axis of Civic Park from the City Hall to the Cultural Centre and that it is not proposed to build an under Laman Street Library extension or widen Laman Street into the Park or remove the War Memorial Grove. We are pleased that they will not be in a future plan and we support the proposed exhibition of the ‘Laman Street Design Report -Stage One’ for public comment.
Civic Park is an important civic open space in the heart of Newcastle and Laman Street is an integral part of its landscape. The Park should complement the Laman Street development and respect the work of the Council and of the people of Newcastle that have brought it into existence and also acknowledge and maintain the War Memorial Grove, the Vietnam Memorial, the Cenotaph and the Fountain. Civic Park should also exhibit a soft and pleasant greenness with shade, shelter and floral displays to provide a gracious setting for civic activities and nearby civic buildings.

We favour the strengthened central axis possibly paved and flanked by tree planting much like Hyde Park Sydney and with a dignified approach to the entrance foyer of the Cultural Centre from the park. 
  Detail of planting under trees on the main Axis Hyde Park Sydney.
 The essential features of Civic Park that should be prominent in the final landscape design  are: The Civic Axis, a Cathedral arch of Laman Street Trees, The Civic Park Fountain, the War Memorial Grove and the central Cenotaph and the Vietnam Memorial area. Other elements including the old Burwood St Railway alignment and the adjacent Signalman’s cottage and Saint Andrews Church that needs to be subtly revealed. Also generously widened stairway entrances are needed directly in front of the Art Gallery and on the Burwood St Railway alignment. The Memorial Grove and the terraced garden beds also need to be revived and replanted to give and an attractive green cascading effect down from Laman Street.

Also a clearly designated disabled access along Laman Street and sweeping around and into the park from Darby Street should be provided.

We favour structure planting within Civic Park with Hills Figs and the ultimate removal of non contributory elements like ugly signs and untidy vans and the garbage area from the park.

We would like to see the toilet block removed from its current location and replaced with a well designed light structure. Also the gardener’s equipment store and shelter could be relocated to the southern boundary at the western end of the Park so that the architecture of the Church and the former Signalman’s Cottage could be visible from the park.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement has included a concept plan below to show the structure planting we favour. It is titled Civic Square Civic Park Newcastle Landscape Structure Plan.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement encourages Council to adopt and implement a Landscape Structure Plan for Civic Park and begin planting where appropriate in the park to complement the new planting proposed in Laman Street. This should be commenced as soon as possible to allow the park to evolve over future years to a mature design.

The Movement would appreciate being able to make further submissions on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Doug Lithgow for Parks and Playgrounds Movement
The photos and illustrations attached are provided to show detail features of Civic Park.

A more generous wide stairway entrance opposite the Art Gallery is needed