Expanded courts and new lights
13.11.2017 Councillors voted to upgrade the single basketball court in Christison Park to a single mulit-purpose court. SCPAG supported this. Unbeknown to SCPAG and local residents, after the submission period Council staff took representations from clubs and expanded the development to encompass two courts with lights. They changed the project, confusing the community and a different development was constructed.
There was a lack of due process about extending the development. There was not proper information. There was no letterbox drop to residents, contrary to Council’s claim. Residents and park users, who had made written submissions were not sent the normal notification of meetings at which the development was discussed and determined. They were therefore prevented from attending and addressing Councillors or sending in late correspondence. Council’s report was poor: some residents submissions against the project weren’t included; the conclusion was one-sided; the Statement of Heritage was seriously flawed; there was no Traffic Report, with the Traffic Report relied on from 2008; the Recommended Management of the Bi-Centennial Coastal Cliff Walk was ignored.
The signs in the park were confusing, because they provided information which differed from the vote of the Councillors. There was no response about confusion.
In Council’s flawed Statement of Heritage, written four months after determination e.g. the title only refers to construction of a single court, describes existing courts plural, when there was only one existing court; fails to discuss the Recommended Management of the Bi- Centennial Coastal Cliff Walk, which includes: "no alterations or modifications to ……….natural vegetation and rock formations……….. in the area."(1); indicated the author had not visited the site.
According to the 2017 Motion, other parks were to be investigated for netball courts, a but decision made about Christison Park prior to the results.
Council is now claiming Christison Park is very much a sports precinct, when according to its very own Plan of Management the park is a shared area for passive and active recreation.
Regarding the light poles around the new courts, the park’s Plan of Management 5.2 Views and Vistas states: "...Preservation of the park’s skyline is of great importance. Council should prohibit those developments which threaten to obstruct the natural skyline of Christison Park."(2) The four over 10 metre high light poles can be seen from afar and obstruct the previously clear views and vistas of the park including of Macquarie Lighthouse and ocean and harbour.
The light poles obstruct the natural skyline 24 hours a day for possible use, according to Council’s website - until 9 pm, i.e. for possible use for only a few hours a day, a few months of the year. During summer months there is daylight in the park until about 9 pm, so the lights are unnecessary. The poles will be seen 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
Until this development, local residents and park users enjoyed the grassland for exercise, dog walking and social gatherings and the single basketball court for casual play. Now, with the courts being available for hire Mon-Sun between 7 am – 9 pm, local residents will lose out. Although Council’s website says: “Please show respect to other users and make the court available after 1 hour of use“, it is unlikely clubs will be held to the same respect. Also, while one court is set with a basketball hoop, a key tool must be collected through Council to change the goal post position of the other court’s hoops from netball to basketball. This means the second court will in effect only be available for clubs hiring it out. A previously shared part of the park has now been commercialised at the cost of loss to local residents.
Constructing the two courts and lights has seriously changed the park away from a shared environment and has ruined the ambiance of the park from an open space natural environment.
The Mayor claimed the new courts only take up 2% of park, when the real percentage of the amount of useable passive recreation area lost to the park is more like 40%.
Where the additional court and extra cement boarders are, used to be open space for all. Now Council, it seems, is selling off a part of the Crown Land park to commercial enterprises, "fee for service" clubs.
The idea that another court was needed for local schools lacks credibility. The local private schools have their own courts and space. Rose Bay Secondary College has its own netball courts and Vaucluse Public School has more than sufficient area to have built their own court if they had wanted to. Instead, Council allowed other public organisations to save their area and instead to use Crown Land and have the development paid for by residents.
Prior to the cement being poured, SCPAG wrote repeatedly to Woollahra Council, asking for a halt to construction of the courts and lights. Council has ignored answering questions about the development. The whole matter needs transparency. Besides the lack of due process, the courts/ lights development is unsuitable to the environment, goes against the Recommended Management of the Bi-Centennial Coastal Cliff Walk and the Plan of Management for Christison Park.
In its role as manager of Crown Land, Woollahra Council should manage the park for all in a way that does not destroy the natural environment and the park’s uniqueness, a major part of which was open space and views. The shared open space park has now been ruined by the recent developments. The ambiance of Christison Park has been so drastically altered that many local residents and visitors are avoiding going there because they find that what Council has done, i.e. the loss of the natural environment, is too upsetting. This is shockingly unacceptable. The area should be returned to one court with no lights.
Our petition is presently only asking Council to remove the light poles, which are clearly incompatible with the park’s natural environment, the Plan of Management and the Recommended Management of the Bi-Centennial Coastal Cliff Walk.
If you want to help preserve this unique Crown Land environment, please sign the petition for removal of the four light poles. If you are also one of the many people who would like SCPAG to petition for the return of the open space Crown Land Parkland to a single court, please let us know.