Preserving Our Heritage since 1968

The Hunters Hill Trust

The Hunters Hill Trust

Preserving Our Heritage since 1968

How is the $4.75m Grant for Figtree Park being spent…..?

In 2021 Council applied for $4.75m under the NSW Public Spaces Legacy Program for upgrading Figtree Park.  No explanation was given as to why the application was for this park only and the terms of the grant were that the money could only be spent on one location.
 
Although this sum was seemingly excessive for the scale of the park, it included $2.25m for the ​speculative acquisition of the adjoining property at 2 Ryde Road. Council subsequently discovered that this acquisition was not permitted under the grant and when questioned at the time, staff admitted that it was possible to return unused funds to the State.
 
This predictably has not happened so how is the huge sum of money being spent? On some upgrades the community asked for but also on removing trees ‘to improve sight lines’, creating an elaborate playground, an oversized Amenities block and a grandiose ‘plaza’ entrance that involves demolishing a Council owned revenue generating cottage! It is also apparently being spent on consultants and infrastructure embellishments which will further cover green space.
 
Read our Submission for DA20220104 Figtree Park Removal of Trees and have your say!
 
Email customerservice@huntershill.nsw.gov.au by Wednesday 6 July
 
In its grant application, Council committed to ‘increasing the green canopy of the park by a minimum 10%’ however this is now patently at odds with the DA for Figtree Park tree removal.
 
The Trust is concerned that the use of this grant​ may benefit Council’s previously stated aim of a  “re-development opportunity at 40-48 Gladesville Road”  in the rejected Draft Property Strategy  ​(not yet returned to the community for further consultation).   This is due to the Owner’s Consent document in the Figtree Park DA ​referring to stage 1 of a broader Council initiative to develop a community precinct within the heart of the Hunters Hill town centre…..’
 
There is a distinct lack of transparency around the following:
 
a)    The ‘Figtree Park Concept Report’ with all the final detailed plans and drawings of the upgrade, produced following the exhibition of the Concept Options.  The Options did not made clear how wide the walking/bike tracks were, how the buffer plantings would affect the existing green space or if trees would be lost.   The subsequent Concept Report, prepared on 11 March was signed off by Council on 21 March, with no opportunity for further community comment.
 
b)    There appears to be a  ‘Masterplan’ that only Council’s consultants, and not the community, has seen.
 
c)    The demolition of 48 Gladesville Road :
The DA notification for the demolition of the above states:  “The Council has received an application for approval of development on this property”.   The Applicant cited in the documentation is an entity called “Chapman Planning”.  However the real applicant is Hunters Hill Council. This leased Council property, in need of renovation, is revenue-generating.  For a financially struggling Council, why is demolishing this property to build a grandiose ‘plaza’ style entrance to the Park the best option?   The community needs to better understand the costs and benefits and whether alternate options could result in better outcomes.
 

DA2022 0104 Figtree Park – Removal of 37 trees and pruning of 7

A waterlogged park needs tree roots to soak up excess rain

Under the above DA, multiple trees that offer shade in summer and filtered sunlight in the winter are under threat.  The importance of natural shade and trees roots that absorb excess rainwater is obvious.
 
There is no doubt that judicious pruning is overdue for trees that have long been neglected and, while no-one would question the removal of trees for reasons of disease or public safety, it is essential to ascertain whether some are being removed simply to make way for future construction along Gladesville Road.
 
In addition, to destroy trees to ‘improve sightlines’ through to the croquet lawn is an act of vandalism.  If this was a homeowner doing the same to improve their view, Council would rightly be prosecuting them. 
 
The Figtree Park Plan of Management prepared by Council acknowledges that ‘Trees, shrub and flower planting as well as grass or turf space …. are the Park’s best feature, providing a respite from the built environment”.   The unwarranted cutting down of so many trees in a conservation area without adequate explanation, is unacceptable.
 

One of two highly valued Junipers being removed

We are now calling on Council to disclose the full details of how this publicly funded grant is being spent.  The community must be consulted on all aspects of the hard infrastructure design and layout before any work is carried out and before approval for the removal of any trees.

Read our full submission here: Submission for DA20220104 Figtree Park Removal of Trees
 
Have your say!  Email customerservice@huntershill.nsw.gov.au with your concerns by Wednesday 6 July
 

2022-07-04T09:11:58+11:00July 3, 2022|

Yet another 10 year Plan!

With the recent release of the Draft Community Strategic Plan for the next 10 years, originally issued in 2018 and already revised in 2020, we have yet another version from Council that appears to further weaken the objectives of the community’s expressed values relating to built heritage and the natural environment.
 

In 2018 the objectives in the Community Strategic Plan were clear and reflected residents’ wishes after very extensive consultation.  It identified priority service areas that needed improvement, the top three of which were:

  • Preservation of heritage and character
  • Council is open and transparent
  • Preserving the tree canopy (including street trees)

These are still relevant today, however the greater emphasis in the 2022 Draft Plan is now on promoting and enabling growth and streamlining redevelopment.  This can work against maintaining the unique garden suburb character of the Hunters Hill LGA.
 

Apart from the inaccuracies contained within the Draft Plan – as detailed in the Trust’s submission Draft Community Strategic Plan 2022 – of particular concern is the removal of the former key direction in 2018 to Maintain Character & Manage Growth Planning:

Hunters Hill  Council is a champion in heritage conservation.  The Hunters Hill local government area is preserved in history, heritage and character.  Residents feel strongly about maintaining the look and feel of Hunters Hill and are committed to retaining the existing visual amenity.  Our lifestyle is matched by our desire to retain the beauty of our garden suburb.

Now replaced by Places for People:

Neighbourhoods reflect local character, heritage and create a sense of belonging.
Urban environments attract business investment, economic activity and place making initiatives.
Development application, regulation and monitoring services are streamlined.
Parks, sports fields and playgrounds support inclusive and accessible Play.

 
The current Draft Plan needs more work on the substance which must continue to reflect the priority of sustaining the special qualities of native bushland, foreshore, mature trees, and streetscapes with low scale development, in order to engender Council’s much vaunted ‘sense of belonging’ for the community. Our thanks go to Councillor Jim Sanderson for the detail on the CSP contained in his Newsletter 29 May 2022

2022-06-24T02:19:56+11:00June 15, 2022|

Let’s get together!

It’s been a long time coming but we’re finally holding a Members’ get together on Thursday 23 June, combined with our Annual General Meeting, at the RSL Hall, corner Ady and Alexandra Streets from 6pm.
 

We’ve been awaiting a response from Council to our questions regarding community involvement in future strategies and have had an initial meeting with Mitchell Murphy, Council’s new General Manager, and he will be with us on the night to chat and mingle.
 

Our guest speaker will be Rev. Michael Armstrong, a staunch advocate for our irreplaceable heritage.
 

in addition, Councillor Ross Williams will be talking to us on some of the key issues detailed in his recent article in the TWT, which spells out how our involvement at this time is now more important than ever.
 

So come along for your chance to meet and mingle with our General Manager and enjoy some finger food, good wine and interesting conversation!
 

Please RSVP to huntershilltrust@gmail.com

2022-05-31T18:23:10+11:00May 31, 2022|

Time for a Town Hall meeting ……!

Several of our members have written to us to share their deep disappointment about the decision taken by Council at its meeting on Monday 21 March 2022 to adopt Plans of Management that contained many elements of an unadopted draft Property Strategy, in spite of written assurances by the Acting GM in 2021 and the recent verbal assurance from the Mayor, that the draft Property Strategy was still being revised and would not be brought to the 21 March meeting.
 

There had been considerable community opposition to the draft Property Strategy then known as the Community Infrastructure Plan, when it was first introduced in 2021 and many individuals and organisations had contributed heartfelt and considered submissions to Council’s meeting of 26 April 2021.  It was not adopted at that time and a motion was passed that ‘options and associated financial modelling be investigated’ prior to adoption. 

 
The community’s objection to demolition and re-development at Hunters Hill Village has been clearly expressed and documented, yet the adopted Plan of Management for Figtree Park/Gladesville Road Community Centre Reserve lays the foundation for exactly that.  (See HHT JOURNAL December 2020).
 

Neither a business case nor appropriate analysis of the long-term implications for the local community has been made available which makes this decision highly disturbing.  The lack of due process and transparency in this matter is alarming.  We had hoped for better leadership from our new Council.

 

So in line with election promises made by the Mayor to ‘ensure transparent decision making’, providebetter accountability and engagement with our community’ and ‘protect our heritage and built environment’, the Hunters Hill Trust has now requested that Council arrange a public Town Hall meeting to enable greater visibility on the decision.

 

We await Council’s response.
2022-03-30T06:44:18+11:00March 28, 2022|

Proposals for The Priory……

The Trust welcomes the possibility of restoring The Priory and finding a reliable means of funding the restoration and ensuring future maintenance.
 
We are particularly impressed by the Historical Summary included in the Conservation Management Plan which acknowledges the major state and local heritage importance of this highly significant building and its setting.  This gives the community some confidence that the proposed alterations will be implemented with due regard to their overall impact on the site.
 
However the Trust does hold concerns that the current proposal, seating over 400 people, would be an over-development of the site, in essence becoming a Function Centre (intended for mass bookings) rather than a restaurant (individual bookings).  Indeed, Council’s confidence in the proponent rests on their expertise with function centres elsewhere in Sydney.
 
Operating on such a large scale the proposal would inevitably create undue stress on the surrounding streets, the immediate environment and neighbours.  In particular the Trust is concerned at the increased scale of the cafe portion of the development which has grown from a modest offering to a large capacity venue, impacting the setting, trees and curtilage of the Priory.
 
The increase in the scale of the development at this location and justification given for such a large overall development rests on the assumptions of the Financial Viability report, which has not been made public.  The delay before profitability predicted by this report does not seem to justify the investment required.
 
See our full submission here: HHT submission re The Priory

2022-02-27T19:36:28+11:00February 26, 2022|

Our Modernist ‘Gems’

While renowned for its significant stock of fine nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings, Hunters Hill is also home to some modernist gems from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  With many of these more modestly sized, yet excellent buildings coming under threat from unsympathetic additions or demolition – notably the recently demolished 34 Barons Crescent – it’s time to consider the recognition that the more outstanding local examples of this style of architecture might warrant.
 

8 Ellesmere Avenue Architect Frank Kolos 1959 (Ross Heathcote, (c) Sydney Living Museums)

To start a conversation on the topic of “Hunters Hill Modern” the Trust is preparing an inventory of mid-century houses and buildings.  If you know of a building you consider might meet this criteria, we would welcome your input!  Email us at huntershilltrust@gmail.com
 

33 Bonnefin Road Hunters Hill Architect Sir Roy Grounds 1954

Although we have sadly lost some of these ‘gems’, we are very lucky to still have several examples of this classic style existing in Hunters Hill. One such example is 33 Bonnefin Road, designed by well-known Melbourne architect Sir Roy Grounds in 1954. Sir Roy designed it for his friend, the journalist Tilly Shelton-Smith, who was the first woman to report from a war zone in World War II.
 
Sir Roy is best known for the Victorian Art Gallery and was one of Australia’s leading 20th century Modernist architects. Originally the house was known as Tilly’s hat box house and was minute, with an area of only 55 square metres. It was subsequently sympathetically added to by our very own heritage architect (and former Trust president) Tony Coote. The house was heritage listed by Hunters Hill Council in the 1990s.
 

We are delighted to have enlisted the help of our local celebrity, author and advocate for mid-century architecture, Tim Ross, who will be assisting us in preparing an inventory of these classic gems.
 

Contributory Items

The Trust is also working with Council to reassess the heritage value of housing from the inter-war period, the so-called “contributory items” that, while not heritage-listed, contribute to the unique character of Hunters Hill.   As many of you will know, charming and sound bungalows from the 1920s and 1930s are being altered beyond recognition, or demolished, all over the municipality.
 

The LEP revision this year may be an opportunity to secure more protection for buildings in this category.  Stay tuned for more on this in the upcoming months!

2022-02-13T19:20:40+11:00February 13, 2022|

Caring for Crown Lands

Happy new year and we wish you a healthy and safe 2022!
 
We’re looking forward to the challenges of this new year and in particular we’re busy reviewing the three Draft Plans of Management (PoMs) for Crown Reserves, as listed below, which you may understandably have missed as they were released on 4 November the day before Council’s caretaker period commenced!  They can be viewed on Council’s website:

  • Henley Precinct Open Space (including Gladesville Reserve)
  • Figtree Park and Gladesville Community Centre Reserves
  • Small Crown Reserves

On your behalf, we have been examining these proposals. With regard to the Figtree Park and Gladesville Community Centre Reserves PoM, although there is proven overwhelming support for retaining the croquet club in situ, we are concerned about disturbing inclusions in Council’s draft which if not corrected, will adversely affect the future of Hunters Hill village.
 
We are therefore requesting that Council’s General Manager withdraw the Figtree Park PoM from community consultation for further revision.
 
As we already pointed out to Council in July 2021, the first release of the Figtree Park PoM was misleading as it conflated the management of the Reserves with the re-development of the properties along Gladesville Road. The Acting General Manager’s reply at the time stated:
 
“I can assure you there is no intention to imbed the Draft Community Infrastructure Plan/Property Strategy into the Plans of Management for Figtree Park and Gladesville Community Reserve as detailed above, no such changes can occur without the exhibition of revised documents. All comments recorded during the consultation period will be included in the summary of feedback but as detailed earlier, only those items which are permissible under the Figtree Reserve Plan of Management will [be] considered.”
 
In spite of the above assurance, we now find that the current Plan released in October 2021 is once again strongly influenced by Council’s Draft Property Strategy!
 
Due to community opposition, Council resolved at its meeting on 26 April 2021 that “options and associated financial modelling be investigated” prior to adoption of the Draft Strategy. It is not acceptable that this unaltered and unadopted Draft now informs the intent of a potentially binding PoM. References to the Strategy appear throughout the document including:
 

7.9 Action Plan – Table 14 Objectives and performance targets – 3.2 Infrastructure and Facilities (p74)
“Plan for well-designed buildings and facilities to maximise usage through co-location, shared, flexible and multipurpose design that can accommodate changing needs overtime”.
This is a blanket statement that blatantly conflates the intent of the unadopted Property Strategy with the Figtree Park PoM.

 

8.2 Potential Future Development (p76)
This whole section which details the proposals in the Draft Property Strategy including the creation of residential, commercial and retail development must be deleted. Council has discussed, but has NOT “provided guidance for potential future development with corresponding intensity of use, at Figtree Park and Gladesville Community Centre reserves as an outcome in the draft Property Strategy”.
The Figtree Park PoM should not be utilised as an enabler for future developer driven goals.

 
Submissions close on 14 January 2022 and we’d ask you to please send a short email stating the concerns as above, to the Acting General Manager at tobinn@huntershill.nsw.gov.au requesting an acknowledgement. Thank you for all that you do. The Trust’s submissions are here:

HHT submission re Figtree Park Plan of Management

HHT submission re Henley precinct Open Space Plan of Management

HHT Submission re Miscellaneous Crown Reserves Plan of Management

2022-01-14T12:43:28+11:00January 13, 2022|

And now for something completely different……

In the midst of current concerns, we didn’t want to forget to take a moment to celebrate the recent flowering of our local trees and pay homage to the joy and colour that makes our garden suburb so special!

2021-12-21T17:53:33+11:00December 10, 2021|

VOTER BEWARE!

We recently highlighted the importance of knowing where Group preferences (ie their 2nd and 3rd choices) will be going in this Council election so here’s the link to the Electoral Commission website so you can check this out:

https://htvdisplay.elections.nsw.gov.au/app/lge/council/Hunters%20Hill

 

You will note that, while Groups are obviously free to direct preferences wherever they like, it is now apparent that the new “Independent” Groups with no history on Council, are preferencing a political party.   Residents voting to keep Hunters Hill independent need to be aware of this.

2021-11-26T13:10:21+11:00November 25, 2021|

Local Elections – What’s at Stake?

The Council election on 4 December is one of the most important since the Trust was formed over 50 years ago.  With the increasing pressures of losses and impacts on our built and natural heritage, our community needs Councillors who have integrity and transparency and are independent of party politics,  to ensure sustainable development outcomes that support everyone’s needs fairly. Early next year Council will be reviewing the Local Environment and Development Control Plans which could mean an increase in both the height and density of our suburbs. This is a critical time for our municipality.
 

A particular example of this is the Property Strategy containing Council’s blueprint for our municipality for the next 10 years.  Community feedback was strongly against the proposals for which no business case, needs analysis or financial risk assessment had been presented and our thanks go to Mayor Ross Williams and Councillors Sanderson, Krassoi and McLaughlin, who voted to further investigate options and financial modelling before adoption.
 

The Hunters Hill Trust was established to help protect our Municipality from inappropriate development.   We are proud of our role in advocating for our beautiful heritage and garden suburb to be preserved.    This has been even more important over the last term of Council (see Submissions) when we have pushed for sustainable and appropriate development outcomes, rather than just  ‘development’.    We have advocated for better facilities for our young families, particularly a reinstated playpark at Figtree Park, and supported many successful plans for adaptive re-use of local buildings.
 

We are fortunate to have access to magnificent parkland, harbour foreshores and bushland and need to protect what we value for present and future generations.   The ongoing trend to fell mature trees and build to the fence line is sadly affecting the whole community. We hope everyone will engage in respectful debate and support those candidates who are truly committed to our local community and its diverse needs and values.  Now we have a chance to vote for what we really want for the future!

2021-12-05T13:37:03+11:00November 19, 2021|
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