Thursday, March 1, 2012


General Manager Lord Mayor and Councillors
Newcastle City Council
PO Box 489
Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Dear Mr Pearce, Lord Mayor and Councillors,

Parks and Playgrounds Movement is poignantly aware of the long process of preparing and nurturing a mature Landscape to replace the Laman Street Cathedral Arch recently removed.

The enclosed letter (below) sets out the problem from the community point of view.

The Movement has watched this process with its gains and losses over the years since 1952.

We prepared the first community concept plan for the Civic Square in 1968 which was rejected by the Council at that time but helped raise awareness about the problems and possible solutions available.

We are naturally disappointed at the untruthfulness which we have revealed in the attached letter and look forward to an improved culture in Council and ultimately the creation of a worthwhile Civic Landscape in the future.

Yours Sincerely

Doug Lithgow

Dear Mr Pearce, Lord Mayor and Councillors,

Dishonesty must be investigated and a professional Landscape plan prepared for Newcastle’s Civic Square with an opportunity for realistic Community engagement.

The Parks and Playgrounds Movement is deeply disillusioned at the dishonesty surrounding Council’s removal of the mature fig trees from Laman Street. The streetscape has now been reduced to a bare ordinary pre 1957 roadway contributing nothing to our culturally significant Civic Precinct.

The unique Cathedral like arch of trees that had evolved over the last fifty years will take more than 30 years to be of any quality and the current Council will be long gone and only remembered for their silly negative act and loss of credibility.

Council could have and should have, circumvented this debacle by decided on a clear practical draft landscape design to be exhibited for public for comment with a final determination being made by the Council.

You may recall that this was the process requested by the Parks and Playgrounds Movement and we believed in good faith that this would be the outcome from the two day workshop held on the 19th and 20th of March 2010.

The workshop however was cut short on the second day and the process became non transparent and confusing. This Led to the inability to properly review the exaggerated risk assessment that had overtaken the design process. We are appalled at the dishonesty in the way Council’s arbitrary submission was made to the Commonwealth Anzac Commemoration Commission even to the extent of claiming support from public consultation when there was none whatsoever.

The proposal for an Anzac Centennial Place in Laman Street was surreptitiously registered with the Commonwealth Anzac Centenary Commission on the 17th of September 2010 in the name of the City of Newcastle on the same day that we commenced Legal action in the NSW Land and Environment Court.

(Submission Number 290 Commonwealth Anzac Centenary Commission from Website
Name/Organisation: City of Newcastle Submission
Summary: The creation of a new public space called Anzac Centennial Place at Laman Street, in the cultural and commemorative heart of Newcastle. The project consolidates and reinforces the commemorative efforts of a previous generation, thereby giving continuity to the community's acts of remembrance.
Date received: 17/09/2010)

We are also shocked at the Council’s further dishonesty in denying the existence of the proposal for an under Laman Street Library building which was part of the submission and later placed it on exhibition by Council in December 2010 after the Court Case. It was one of the proposals in the “Laman Street & Civic Precinct: Design Framework” which was subtitled: Design principles and themes founded on community consultation session March 19 and 20th 2010.

It is interesting that the first dot Point of Council’s exhibited Laman Street proposal above states:

Retain architectural form and shade amenity of the trees.

The Anzac Centennial Place proposal was not mentioned at the March 2010 two day workshop and did not arise from anything said or done at that workshop.

Parks and Playgrounds Movement commenced Legal action in September 2010 to restrain Council from summarily removing the trees because Council was not prepared to resolve its plan for the Civic Cultural Precinct and place its actual proposed development on exhibition for public comment. Furthermore we are distressed that Newcastle Council did not disclose their Anzac Centennial proposal to the Land and Environment and chose to mislead the Court in their submission.

Council’s Respondent’s Submissions lodged with the Land and Environment Court and dated 5/11/2010 claimed that there was no broader activity proposed other than tree removal. (Paragraphs: 76, 77, 78, page15 see attached Respondent’s Submission L&E Court 05 Oct 2010).

They repeat this claim in the following paragraph (77) that no works beyond the removal of the trees has been sanctioned, or were presently proposed. They further claimed that to the extent that any works were envisaged to be undertaken beyond the removal of the trees, those works would be in consequence of the removal of the trees.

Paragraph 78 goes on to maintain that it is the tree removal that has necessitated further works in the

Fifty years ago we were proud of our Council and our cultural Centre and we were able to look forward to the trees in Laman Street creating a mature landscape to grace our new Cultural Centre.

We realise that no minds have been ennobled in the destruction of the Laman Street Landscape. However we are poignantly aware that the long process of preparing and nurturing a professional landscape for our future Civic Square as envisaged by the Town Clerk Billy Burgess in the 1957 is still before us.

Yours Sincerely,

Doug Lithgow
President Parks and Playgrounds Movement

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