Empire Park ‘latest disaster’

Filed under Letters & Opinion ~ by Press on  21 Mar 2010

The Protect Empire Park group (PEP) condemns that lack of co-ordinated planning at all levels of Government that has seen a costly mistake befall the beloved heritage-listed park, with Council works on a new playground project abandoned and a new expensive pathway still being constructed that will now go nowhere.

The Newcastle City Council commenced work on a new playground and pathway in Empire Park on 9 March, less than 24 hours after a limited number of flyers announcing the project were distributed to a small number of nearby residents.

Within a few days Council officials were telling local residents that, despite being already marked out in preparation for building, the planned pathway was in fact in the wrong position. It was subsequently changed and lengthened to instead join up to the Darby St intersection.

On 18 March, people asking why work on the playground had stopped were told by the workers that they had been ordered to stop the playground works in light of the upcoming Coastal Master plan, and so the large hole they had dug out was to be refilled. However, construction has continued on the expensive pathway, despite its leading to nothing in particular.

Update on the lack of genuine consultation on the Master Plan and skate park

In another bizarre twist, the NCC is now advertising workshops on 30-31 March as being for the ‘Empire Park Skate Park and Master plan’ when the actual Coastal Master Plan is not due for release until April.

A spokesperson for the PEP group said, “This sounds like another case of the Newcastle City Council going off and doing their own thing on changes to Empire Park which may well not fit with the broader plans for the Park which still need to be subject to a public comment process next month.”

Of real concern on the subject of the skate park is that the flyer advertising these workshops says users of the park will only be able to ‘offer suggestions to finetune the draft design plan’ for the skate park. Why have these workshops, if the users of Empire Park aren’t going to get a real say in the major issues?”

The NCC advised the community this morning that the evening session on the 31st is now booked out, so only 10am sessions on 30 and 31 March are now available. PEP has had complaints from people who want to attend the sessions but are now unable to, as they have work commitments during the day. This looks like another attempt by the NCC to avoid proper debate on this topic.

Our formal request

PEP has written today to the State Member for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, the Lord Mayor John Tate, and the General Manager of the NCC, Lindy Hyam:

  • Ensure all building activities cease until the Masterplan has been on public display.
  • Delay the proposed workshops until after the Masterplan has been officially released.
  • Immediately establish the working party PEP proposed in February with representatives of the various user groups of the Park to discuss the plan for the skate park facility and guide its design and implementation to ensure issues are addressed such as safety, protection from vandalism, appearance, family friendliness, ongoing maintenance funding, parking and public transport to the area. This will ensure that the Federal Labour funding for the skate park will not be lost in poor planning or design.
  • Support Empire Park having its own plan of management to ensure future development is co-ordinated and considered, as occurs for other parks in Newcastle with less usage and diversity than Empire Park.
  • Make public details of the original and amended submissions for Federal funding, and the planned allocation of an additional $200,000 out of the 2011 NCC budget to cover further costs such as the consultancy fees for the designer of the Empire Park and Wallsend skate parks and the bat ball court at Empire Park.
  • Investigate why these construction projects were commenced just weeks prior to the public release of the Coastal Master Plan which has been funded by Newcastle Council and the State Government with $150,000 dollars each. Recent actions by Council render the public display of the Master Plan meaningless, and the money to produce it a waste.

The NCC Councillors are now divided on a number of issues concerning the skate park and PEP understands there are now also issues with the proposed Wallsend skate park site (also funded by the Federal Labour Stimulus Grants).

“The time to get serious about proper planning for Empire Park is now before another cent of rate payer and tax payer funds is lost due to failed planning,” the PEP spokesperson concluded.

More information can be found on our website at www.empirepark.info – Ed: link defunct

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