Anx­i­ety over plans

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Front Page - BY COLIN MACGIL­LIVRAY

Sport and recre­ation groups are up in arms about a Hor­sham Ru­ral City Coun­cil vi­sion to re­de­velop the city’s botanic gar­dens precinct.

Hor­sham Lawn Ten­nis Club, Hor­sham Cro­quet Club and Sawyer Park Minia­ture Rail­way fear for their fu­tures after be­ing left out of a coun­cil draft mas­ter­plan to trans­form the city dur­ing the next 20 years.

The coun­cil will vote on a rescis­sion

mo­tion by Cr John Robinson con­cern­ing the pub­lic dis­play of the mas­ter­plan at a spe­cial meet­ing tonight.

The plan has an­gered the groups, which claimed coun­cil con­sul­tants failed to fol­low ad­e­quate en­gage­ment pro­ce­dures.

The plan aims to closely link the Hor­sham Botanic Gar­dens and river­front area to the city’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict via the south­ern end of Fire­brace Street, as part of re­de­vel­op­ment works.

About 15 peo­ple, in­clud­ing mem­bers of all three clubs and coun­cil­lors Robinson and David Grim­ble, at­tended a meet­ing at the ten­nis club on Mon­day night to discuss the im­pli­ca­tions of the plan.

Both coun­cil­lors ex­pressed con­cerns about the plan at last month’s or­di­nary coun­cil meet­ing and voted against pub­licly dis­play­ing it.

Cr Robinson re­leased an open let­ter on Mon­day stat­ing he would stand aside for tonight’s spe­cial coun­cil meet­ing be­cause of con­cerns about what he de­scribed as a lack of ap­pro­pri­ate gov­er­nance stan­dards within the coun­cil.

Cr Robinson’s move at­tracted an im­me­di­ate re­sponse from coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Sun­hil Bhalla, who re­futed Cr Robinson’s claims of breaches in pro­to­col and lack of com­mu­nity-con­sul­ta­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Mr Bhalla said coun­cil­lors had seven days’ no­tice of the spe­cial meet­ing, in com­pli­ance with Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act re­quire­ments, and that coun­cil­lors had an op­por­tu­nity to be in­volved in de­vel­op­ment of a draft mas­ter­plan, start­ing with a coun­cil­lor brief­ing in Au­gust last year.

“It was stated that the pro­posed plan was a draft and it would need to be re­solved by coun­cil to make it avail­able for pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tion, which would pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for feed­back on the pro­posal by the user groups,” he said.

At Mon­day night’s meet­ing minia­ture rail­way pres­i­dent David Mcdonald said the group was not con­tacted by coun­cil con­sul­tants and had not been men­tioned in the mas­ter­plan.

“We’ve re­cently been told, ‘this is what’s go­ing to hap­pen. Stop spending, stop do­ing any­thing at the club be­cause we’re go­ing to kick you out’,” he said.

“The amount of ef­fort to re-lay track and do in­fra­struc­ture like that needs man­power, and if we have to move the club will just close.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into build­ing it.”

Mr Mcdonald said al­though the club was small, it re­mained rel­e­vant to the Hor­sham com­mu­nity.

He said the minia­ture rail­way had car­ried more than 1000 chil­dren at an Op­er­a­tion 19:14 com­mu­nity day last year.

Hor­sham Lawn Ten­nis Club pres­i­dent An­drew Dor­man said he found the ex­clu­sion of the club from the coun­cil’s plans ‘dis­turb­ing’.

“I can’t see what the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion is for ten­nis go­ing,” he said.

Mr Dor­man said is­sues iden­ti­fied in the plan, such as a lack of light­ing and toi­let ac­ces­si­bil­ity could be ad­dressed ‘at very lit­tle cost’ to bring the club up to a stan­dard ca­pa­ble of host­ing re­gional tour­na­ments.

Cro­quet club pres­i­dent Betty Ether­ton said the club was clas­si­fied as one of three re­gional cen­tres statewide in a Cro­quet Vic­to­ria ‘Grow­ing Cro­quet Fa­cil­i­ties In­fra­struc­ture Plan­ning Project 2020-2030’ re­port. But the coun­cil plan had in­cor­rectly iden­ti­fied it as in­ca­pable of host­ing re­gional tour­na­ments.

“It is very dis­ap­point­ing that proper re­search and con­sul­ta­tion was not un­der­taken,” she said. Cr Robinson en­cour­aged group mem­bers to at­tend tonight’s coun­cil meet­ing and make their voices heard.

He said while there was some ‘good stuff’ in the plan, it needed to be work­able be­fore be­ing taken to the pub­lic.

“The civic green that I think we all want is planted in the mid­dle of the po­lice sta­tion, for in­stance,” he said.

“All that means from my per­spec­tive is the green we all want is put off for an­other 20 years, be­cause it will never be achieved at that site.

“We simply de­lay go­ing for­ward by hav­ing un­re­al­is­tic plans.”

Cr Grim­ble told the meet­ing he un­der­stood con­cerns about a lack of con­sul­ta­tion.

“It’s not gen­er­ated from the grass­roots up which is problemati­c,” he said.

“The plan it­self is quite visionary and from my per­spec­tive I think parts of it look okay, but the coun­cil should have been in­volved in the process right from the start on your be­half.

“I don’t see why your needs can’t be in­cor­po­rated into the broader visionary work.

“That’s a con­ver­sa­tion that should have hap­pened be­fore these plans be­came avail­able for the pub­lic to look at.”

Cr Grim­ble said the lengthy tenures of the ten­nis club, 136 years, and cro­quet club, 96 years, at their cur­rent lo­ca­tions should be taken into ac­count.

“If you’ve been there for that long, you’ve got a sig­nif­i­cant stake in that par­cel of land,” he said.

• See next week’s edi­tion of The Weekly Ad­ver­tiser for more on tonight’s coun­cil meet­ing.

• See page 13 for Cr Robinson’s full let­ter, and www.the­weeklyad­ver­ for Mr Bhalla’s re­sponse.

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