OpinionCouncil on one-way street to ‘urban vandalism’

It only took the three days for Newcastle City Council to destroy all the 80-year-old trees in Council Street, Cooks Hill, and with them went all the charm, amenity, shade and privacy that led me to buy my home here 17 years ago. I now live in a street whose identity has been erased leaving a barren heat sink that will remain this way for decades if the council’s deeply flawed ‘renewal’ plan is carried out.

CHOPPING BLOCK: “It is not just the residents and ratepayers of Council Street and Cooks Hill who will bear the costs of this debacle, but the whole community”.

While I accept that many of the fig trees had to be removed because of instability, largely caused by decades of disfigurement from the chainsaws of power company tree loppers, the proposed re-design of the street is so full of fundamental errors that, if implemented, will be an everlasting disaster for everyone who lives here.

The whole plan is premised on removing the existing roadblock at the eastern end of the street and making this cul de sac into a one-way street to the west.

The reasons given for the removal of the roadblock by the council isits concern for pedestrian safety and the number of car parking spaces the barrier occupies. At present, there is no through traffic in the street, so how can council claim that the introduction of hundreds of cars each day will be insignificant and how can it claim that this would make for a safer pedestrian environment?

As things stand, the roadblock takes up three parking spaces, so how can the council claim that maintaining it will occupy 13 spaces? This is all the spots that now exist to Dawson Street. Council continues to say there will be more trees planted than have been removed, but their plans show this to be untrue. In the section of the street from Darby to Dawson only half the number of trees removed will be replaced and most of these will be of the wrong variety planted on the wrong side of the street. The illogical proposal calls for tall trees to be planted on the northern side under the powerlines, shading nothing but the road.

As the whole street will be dug up for the extensive stormwater and drainage works I, like many others, thought it might be the perfect opportunity to put the overhead powerlines underground, as the most expensive aspects of the process, excavation and resurfacing will largely be avoided with huge savings. Even with this advantage, the council was going to charge property-owners the outrageous amount of $23,000 for underground cabling, while in Perth the charge is $4200, which is calculated on a ‘full cost recovery’ basis.

It is not just the residents and ratepayers of Council Street and Cooks Hill who will bear the costs of this debacle, but the whole community. While claiming to be creating an ‘urban forest’, the council is systematically de-greening our city.The absence of any clear urban planning principles being followed in the ‘Council St Renewal Plan’ raises serious questions. Every aspect would seem to contradict the NCC’s ‘Local Environment Plan’ of 2012 whose aims are ‘to respect, protect and complement the natural and cultural heritage, the identity and image, and the sense of place of the City of Newcastle’ and ‘to conserve and manage the natural and built resources of the City of Newcastle for present and future generations, and to apply the principles of ecologically sustainable development in the City of Newcastle’.

It is urgent that council and its planners revisit this ill-considered piece of urban vandalism and makeamendments now in order to return a sense of humanity to the disaster zone they have created.

John Barnes

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