Opinion By ANDREW WOODHOUSE
Clover Moore has decided to “improve” Macleay Street with paving to create a higher aesthetic. However, aesthetics, like art, are in the eye of the beholder. One person’s higher aesthetic is someone else’s ugliness.
Moore’s ideas were outlined at a night meeting on Tuesday 25th July in Kings Cross Library. Her letter of invitation notes “we’ll … discuss the project to pave Macleay Street.”
But no shopkeepers I’ve since spoken with recall seeing the letter.
And what project? Does “paving” mean the whole roadway or the footpath? About 40 people attended on that cold night. And no-one at council really understands the detail either. No plans are available. What we have is a top-down driven thought bubble presented as a fait accompli.
When a previous council “upgrade”’ scheme occurred in Darlinghurst Road, it caused utter chaos where pedestrians risked colliding with Venetian-style pontoons to get to shops. Some shops closed.
When council “upgraded” Rushcutters Bay Park residents staged a sit-in. And the infamous George Street, CBD, “upgrade” is creating a tsunami of problems, delays and compensation claims.
Council has no underground surveys of utilities such as electricity cables, water, sewage and drain pipes or gas mains.
In Glebe Point Road, the council’s “upgrade” took two years. As reported in the City Hub, one restaurateur, owner of Cuccina di Lusso, pinned a note to the door: “Business closed due to the “disaster” road works.
“The front of my restaurant was a council excavation site park with a skip and bobcat parked in it,” said the owner, Rob Fairall.
Lawful basis an enigma
After Clover’s meeting on 25th July, questions were put including the lawful basis of the proposal, which remains an enigma.
We know it involves replacing street infrastructure by excavating and removing asphalt on the pavement on both sides of Macleay Street between Orwell and McDonald Streets, Potts Point; replacing street furniture with new furniture and water bubblers; slowing cars down; including 50 “smart poles” with flags/advertising banners; installing granite paving as part of “beautification and aesthetic improvements” and installing rain gardens – so far.
Consultation begins in eight weeks with a short design exhibition in November 2019. Construction excavators and bulldozers arrive in February 2020, all to be completed pre-Christmas, December 2020, taking “about 12 months”. No costings are known.
A phalanx of concerns has been raised by the community, namely; how many trees will be demolished? Are shared footpath bike paths proposed?
Works should/could be done in stages. How will residents get some Zzzs? Will every shop have clear access from the street and foot path at all opening hours times? What compensation is provided? Isn’t this scheme a revenue raising idea through advertising banners? Will there be street fountains and street mosaics? How can works occur with on-street café tables and chairs now in place? Will apartment car park entrances remain open or will residents be trapped inside their apartments? Will heritage lamp posts and awnings be reinstated? Will there be footpath heritage plaques? The silent response is deafening.
One anonymous shop owner said “this idea will be a disaster.”
So, this project isn’t little pain for little gain as some hope.
Disruption deserves consultation
Ms Angela Vithoulkas, City of Sydney Councillor and founder of the independent Small Business Party, said “It’s part of the core business of any council to upkeep their local Government Area in the best shape possible, and to upgrade as required.
“All too frequently the construction works are disruptive and we can have economic impacts to our local businesses and serious amenity disruption to our residents.
“It’s my hope that the City of Sydney will display good community engagement and true consultation with the people who will bear the brunt of any works, and make it their priority to mitigate the impacts. It’s vital that any economic pain is avoided or compensation needs to be provided. Our local businesses are the heart and soul of our communities, providing jobs and activation. No one’s livelihood should be affected, just because local government can’t plan or won’t step up and do better. It’s the least our ratepayers deserve – being treated fairly.“
And in early August the council issued another notice advising works in St Neots Reserve in Potts Point for a new water bubbler beginning 19th August for nine days saying “there will be restricted access to properties … restrictions to on-street parking … transport of heavy machinery at night, noise from works during the day …including jackhammers, saw cutters, tip trucks, generators … contact Sydney Civil contractors.”
If all this is for one bubbler what can expect for the whole of Macleay Street?
Ms Vithoulkas is attending a local meeting in the near future for those concerned. To register your attendance please email firstname.lastname@example.org