By Michael Hitch
The Inner West Council has again sought approval for the development of a skate park in Lilyfield after multiple failed attempts.
The Council has sought an urgent meeting with the NSW Ministers of Health and of Environment and Heritage to discuss principal approvals for the development of the park in Callan Park after attempting to deliver the development since 2011.
With a budget of $1.275 million the proposal also calls for the demolition of Hastings House and Palm Court adjacent to Iron Cove Bay.
Independent Councillor John Stamolis said skate boarding facilities were a necessity for the community and insisted it will be Council’s responsibility to ensure this fourth attempt succeeded.
“It’s a needed amenity and that’s agreed upon through our recreational needs study and generally through our community,” he said.
“It’s recognised as a need for the community and we’ve gone through the process of identifying a number of sites and ruled out many of those. We’ve finally decided that Callan Park may be a possible solution.
“It’s time now to ensure that we do deliver. Just don’t continue on rolling our community and skate park users through a seven-year process, it’s time for Council to make some concrete decisions to get the job done.
“This is turning into a saga, a seven-year saga, and we promised delivery on the skate parks. We’ve spent a lot of resources, a lot of time on this. Council should accept its responsibility for the delays.”
To date, the NSW Government has not provided owner’s consent to allow Council to proceed with the development.
A timeline of the proposal from 2011 to 2016 shows that Council had successfully conducted community consultations, approved funding, completed designs for the skate park and had been given approval to lodge a development application to build the facility in Callan Park, near Balmain Road Sporting Ground.
The site boasts a number of heritage buildings, having previously hosted Rozelle Hospital, formerly known as the Callan Park Hospital for the Insane.
However, the Heritage Council of New South Wales did not support the development, saying a skate park would damage the heritage significance of the site, with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) ultimately in agreement.
Since then, other locations have also been dismissed by the OEH due to heritage infringements or have been discarded by Council due to a lack of surveillance or proximity to public transport.
Due to the perceived need for a skate park, and given the significant delays, some other potential sites including King George Park, Leichardt Park and Rozelle Goods Yards have been identified by Council, though Callan Park remains the preferred location due to a lack of other skate parks nearby.
Inner West Councillor, Rochelle Porteous said that the development was important for the community and that while Callan Park would be the perfect location, the heritage of the area needed to be respected.
“It’s something that I think the community wants, very important for the younger community as well. Obviously, there’s an ongoing frustration with the fact that we keep looking for different locations,” she said.
“We’ve come across different impediments as we’ve gone through that process, but we’ve allocated the funding for it, the money is sitting there to build, and we need to move ahead to build it.
“I think getting it right in terms of heritage is vitally important for Callan Park, it’s probably the most important heritage site that we have in Leichhardt so we’ve got to get it right in terms of heritage.
“There is the right location for the skate park in Callan Park, we’ve just got to work through that process and make to work for everybody. It’s a great area and it’d be a wonderful facility for the community.”
Trent Evans, one of the founders of the Sydney Skateboard Association said that another skate park would ease existing congestion on other facilities and that the empty space in Callan Park should be used for something beneficial for the community.
“Skate Parks are getting busier because it’s not just skate boarding, there’s roller-blading and scootering, so yeah I think that the park is the perfect location for another skate park,” he said.
“One of the problems that we’re seeing at a lot of skate parks in Sydney at the moment is that there’s just too many people at each skate park. So, the more skate parks there are, the more this can spread out and at the end of the day it’s a safety issue as well.
“I get that people have maybe different thoughts about skate boarding, that there’s stereotypes and different groups of people looking down at skateboarding or something like that and I totally understand if it’s directly just a heritage thing, but it’s an area that’s not being used for really anything so if it’s dead space then something has to be done.”
Cr Stamolis said despite the support from Council and the community, the fourth attempt to get the skate park off the ground would require better communication as well as compromise between Council and the OEH to be successful.