Monday, February 28, 2011

Draft Laman Street Civic Precinct Design Framework. Objection

Mr Rob Noble General Manager
Newcastle Council PO Box 489 Newcastle 2300

Attention Mr Ian Rhodes.

Dear Mr Rodes,

Draft Laman Street Civic Precinct Design Framework. Objection

The movement is pleased that Council has exhibited the Draft Design Framework that Council had developed last year. As you know we believed that the Draft Framework should have been exhibited before precipitous action was taken to remove the Laman Street group of trees.

These trees are much loved by the people of Newcastle and are the principal landscape feature in the Civic Precinct.  Council has on a number of occasions been preparing proposals for the Civic Precinct (Cultural Precinct) and all of the proposals have identified the importance of the landscape structure the Ficus trees provide. The Draft Laman Street Civic Design Framework is the first proposal that has focused on the removal of this important landscape feature. The argument of Risk Management has been poorly assessed and there has emerged another reason subsequent to the recent costly and unnecessary litigation in the Land and Environment Court.

Your attention is drawn to the ‘Internal Memo’ sent to all Councillors from the Executive Leadership Team 23 Sep 2010 signed by Judy Jaeger with the Subject Title ‘Commemorating the Anzac Centenary’.

It is rather disconcerting for a community group that has positively worked in the public interest for this city since 1952 to feel that the Civic Charrette was a charade and that Council had the proposals already formed which were not stated openly. As a member of the Charrette I was at the time concerned that we were going over the ground that many councils had previously identified. However there was one vaguely expressed proposal that really alarmed me concerning the building of an underground entrance into the Library.

It was put by the Facilitator and glossed over Judy Jaeger. I rejected the idea outright at the Charrette because even though I was not privy to the proposal that the Leadership Team was obviously preparing, I could see all the aesthetic and engineering imponderables hidden in the idea. Not to mention the problems with the Civic Park Fountain, the removal of the Memorial Grove and cutting the established Civic Axis and the destruction of the principal landscape feature the Laman Street Trees.

Of course the Parks and Playgrounds Movement want to see a high standard of Landscape and a unified scheme for the precinct. Our actions since 1968 when we prepared the first concept for the Civic Area are clear public evidence of our bona-fides. We have positively commented on every proposal for the area that Council has brought to the public.

The Parks and Playgrounds Movement is conscious that the elected Councillors are the current trustees of Civic Park for the general public and we are pleased to submit the document Civic Park – Civic Precinct Design Framework 24/2/2011 as a contribution to help advise their guardianship. We would be pleased to make further submissions as required.

Yours sincerely,

Doug Lithgow
Parks and Playgrounds Movement Inc.

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