Hunters Hill is recognised as Australia’s oldest garden suburb, of which Figtree Park in particular is an important historic component. We should rightly be proud of our reputation and Council should be doing everything possible to maintain this enviable status.
We recently wrote to the Mayor and Councillors requesting an onsite meeting due to the high level of community concern over the DA to remove 37 trees at Figtree Park. In the spirit of the Community Engagement Plan, an onsite meeting as was arranged for The Priory, would have enabled Council to explain the complex range of documents and reports.
We are disappointed to advise that the Mayor has declined our request for a public meeting. His view is that the DAs for both Figtree Park and the Demolition of the cottage at 48 Gladesville Road are in progress and submissions and presentations will be taken into account when the Local Planning Panel deliberates on the final outcome.
However this ignores the fact that a presentation on the final layout design for ALL the proposed infrastructure for the Park as a whole is vital, in order for the community to understand the reasons behind not just the proposed tree removals, but also the demolition of the cottage see the Trust’s submission here
The assertion that the significant trees will be kept, misses the point of this garden park whose charm lies in its mix of deciduous and evergreen trees, as shown below, unique in Hunters Hill
Two charming Junipers (one shown above) which are a magnet for children, and three Weeping Elm trees (right) are being cut down plus the 4m+ high Cotoneasters (below) which the Mayor categorises as ‘bushes’, patently not the case even in their deciduous and dormant state. Cutting down healthy trees with the loss of natural shade and tree roots which absorb rainwater is indefensible, particularly for opening up ‘sight lines’.
Council maintains they are retaining significant trees but two Willow Gums (one pictured below) slated for removal are 9m and 13m high respectively and are endangered in the natural habitat – so can hardly be called insignificant. In addition there is no official mention of replacements which may or may not be planted in the future. Even if that were the case, saplings are no replacement for mature trees!
Council needs to be transparent as to why healthy trees are being removed rather than landscaping and infrastructure being worked around them. After so much public money has been invested, the community deserves full disclosure and input on the final designs and detailed drawings for the Park as a whole – including the design drawings for all the hard infrastructure.
In the last few years, we have been losing more trees than ever with 117 trees requested for removal this year alone. This runs counter to NSW goals to increase tree canopy and is compounding our growing reputation as an area of high tree loss. To now remove over 35% of the trees in this Park when the vast majority could be pruned is extremely questionable and the opposite of the recently adopted Plan of Management to “Retain and maintain existing trees and vegetation” The questions that now need to be answered include:
Where is the ‘Masterplan’ referred to by the consultants but not yet seen by the community? It is obvious as in the quote below, that some trees are proposed for removal simply because they are impeding the Masterplan design.
Council’s own document states that this is “stage 1 of a broader Council initiative to develop a community precinct within the heart of the Hunters Hill town centre. The removal of trees is consistent with the master plan for the above mentioned works”.
This is obviously a reference to the rejected Draft Property Strategy when Council stated their intention to pursue a ‘re-development opportunity at 40-48 Gladesville Road’. This plan is already being played out with the proposed demolition of the heritage cottage at no. 48 which Council promised ‘to protect’ in their Grant Application. There has been no mention of how Council will compensate for the loss of revenue that the lease of this cottage has provided in the past. It is inexcusable that ratepayers will be deprived of revenue without explanation, purely to provide a ‘grand entrance’ to this unassuming park!
We will be presenting our submissions at the Local Planning Panel but in the meantime you can ask your own questions of the mayor and councillors by emailing: