By Emily Contador-Kelsall
East Sydney residents are dissatisfied with the City’s consultation process, as a Development Application (DA) to knock down KU Frances Newton Preschool in Darlinghurst and create a new park, was passed without community knowledge at Council meetings in May of this year.
The site of KU Frances Newton Preschool has been the source of community contention over the past few years, as the City of Sydney has presented several proposals for the site to residents who are concerned about open access to public space and the provision of a community garden for residents in East Sydney.
Jane Anderson, convenor of the Eastern Sydney Neighbourhood Association (ESNA), said, “We were briefed by council officers at an ESNA meeting that this would be a community garden. Some people asked if they could put their name down to particpate and were told it was too early and contact would be made closer to the time.
“Now it looks like a community garden will be replaced by a playground. How hard is this? How can council get such small spaces so wrong?” she said
“Despite residents spending hours with Council on consultation and being very clear about what we wanted, Council has proceeded to impose something completely different which bears little resemblance to the plans we were shown – quite appalling.”
Several members of the community have expressed their interest in a community garden on the site of KU Frances Newton Preschool, but a small park with play elements for children appears to be planned based on the report tabled at Council in May. The DA also states that the “park’s design will be flexible to allow for a community garden”.
Residents have expressed concerns that the open space will be used for additional playground facillities for the toddlers at the expanding preschool.
One resident stated, “If they make the space into a playground doesn’t that mean they can increase the amount of children attending the childcare centre as they need a certain amount of outdoor space per child? Also the main reason for moving the school was because of the dangerous crossing between the preschool and the existing playground – so how is this any different?”
The DA, which was approved by Council, calls for “the partial demolition of the existing two storey preschool building at 222 Palmer Street, known as the KU Frances Newton Preschool, and development of a new park,” the application read.
Several residents from the area told City Hub that they had received no notification regarding the DA nor had any of their neighbours in the properties surrounding the existing preschool at 222 Palmer Street.
But a spokesperson for the City of Sydney said they held community meetings to discuss the proposal with local residents, commissioned heritage studies and had an external independent planning consultant assess the DA.
“The proposal was notified to all properties within 50 metres of the site for 21 days between 2 January 2014 and 24 January 2014. The City also put up notices at the site, promoted the exhibition of the proposal…. and advertised it in the Sydney Morning Herald,” the spokesperson said.
The preschool’s is being demolished along with the construciton of a new three level childcare centre by the City of Sydney next door at 277-279 Bourke Street in Darlinghurst, the former site of a cancer clinic.
According to the DA, 16 objections were received in response to notification of the application and most of the concerns related to the loss of the preschool use and that “some submissions noted that many families in the area are unaware of the proposal to close the preschool”.