Strong reactions for and against Hunters Hill High School’s security fence reflect our shared concern … we all want to be part of a safe community, but disagree about how this is achieved. The Trust believes security comes from strong community connections, sharing responsibilities and values – not from high fences.
Approval Generally fences in Hunters Hill need development approval, so that Council can assess their impact on the character of the area. This is particularly the case for Hunters Hill High, which is in Conservation Area No 1 and on a very prominent site with a very wide frontage to the Lane Cove River.
The Department of Education did not submit a development application to Council for the fence. In December 2010 the Government Architects Office simply sent an Impact Assessment Report, which supported the fence. Council’s Conservation Advisory Panel advised Council that the proposed fence would have an unacceptable visual impact and alternatives should be considered.
When Council expressed concerns with the Government Architect’s Assessment Report they were advised that the fencing works would proceed under SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007, which prevails over SREP (Sydney Harbour Catchment) 2005. In other words – we’ll go ahead with this whether you like it or not.
In February 2011, four days after Councillors were briefed about the issue, construction of the fence commenced. There was no consultation with neighbours who would be affected by the fence and the concerns expressed by Council were ignored.
Other approaches Other local institutions, like the Marist Fathers in Mary Street, and Riverview across the river allow people freely into their grounds because they understand that this creates in the community a sense of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness.
Hunters Hill Public School was offered a standard 2100mm high fence but, recognising its place in the Conservation Area, opted to retain its existing 1000mm high timber picket fence along Alexandra Street.
The original fence along the 3 Patriots Walk was negotiated by Council with the Department to be 1200mm high, recognising its need to be low key. For 53 years since the school opened in 1958 it has informally allowed the community access to the oval and until recently did not even have the no-trespassing signs on the fence.
Community reactions Many people are dismayed by the high-handedness of the Department and the school in their dealings with the community. Many people are appalled by the eyesore that the fence has created, particularly along the waterfront. These people include those who worked in close consultation with the school and the Department to have the 3 Patriots Walk opened for public access as well as those who joined in the fight to save Hunters Hill High from closure.
The views expressed in the various submissions objecting to the fence submitted by The Trust and in The Trust’s letter to the P and C are not just the views of one person, they are the views of The Trust, which represents around 400 members who are mostly residents of Hunters Hill. Five members of The Trust’s executive committee of nine are the parents of former Hunters Hill High students and one member is a recent past secretary of the P and C.