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Division over changes to Fitzroy Gardens

The dispute over Fitzroy Gardens’ proposed new playground escalated on Tuesday morning when local resident Peter Young was hauled into Kings Cross Police Station after taking photos of a large congregation of children and adults.

Community members have been angered by the City of Sydney’s plans to expand Fitzroy Gardens playground by over double its current size. A group had
gathered for a photo shoot publicising the revamped playground.

Mr Young said: “I wanted to take a photo of people taking a photo.

“This woman started shouting at me, asked me to stop [taking photos] and I did. The police came … I went back to the police station and was released without charge. Mr Young suspects the entire episode was to help push the cause of Chair of Kings Cross Parents’ and Carers’ Association, Claudia Bowman. Ms Bowman is a candidate on Clover Moore’s ticket for the City of Sydney elections on September 8.

Consultations for changes to the Fitzroy Gardens close on August 17 and so far concept plans suggest a marked increase in the size of the children’s playground.

Moreover, the playground will include a new floor surface, shade cloth and better quality equipment.

President of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Conservation Society, Andrew
Woodhouse, said the community is content with the way Fitzroy Gardens are at present. He said: “This plan will not increase open space as needed, it will reduce it. These changes will alienate the park for the majority of the population. It’s a selfish plan.”

Co-convenor of Friends of Fitzroy Gardens, Paul Wagner is disappointed
with the plans. “Council must consult with all of the Kings Cross local
community about its new plans,” he said. “The proposed expansion will
have many detrimental effects, which include the blocking of pedestrian traffic… Increased noise pollution … And damage to the celebrated Ilmar Berzin’s landscape design.”

Local resident activist Robert Hall said the playground should be implemented across the road in Lawrence Hargreaves Reserve. Council argue the residents’ concerns are unfounded. A Council spokesperson said residents still have a variety of opportunities to give feedback to Council. There is an online “Sydney Your Say” consultation site, heritage report and other relevant documents.

Children have also been involved in the consultation process in suggesting designs for the playground.

Council said the plans would include statements detailing the impact on heritage of the project and Ilmar Berzin’s fabric would not be impacted.

Independent Lord Mayoral candidate, Dixie Coulton said she would address Fitzroy Gardens differently if she were Lord Mayor.

“I understand how and why people would be concerned,” she said.

Ms Coulton said she would not expand the playground any further and would situate a larger playground elsewhere. She alluded to the need to improve playgrounds in Beare Park and Rushcutter’s Bay Park.