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 email@example.com 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
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.
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
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