Friday, May 18, 2007

Impassioned Plea of Councillor Pippa McInnes

The impassioned plea of Councillor Pippa McInnes to defer the proposed public exhibition of the newest plan of management for the 1903 Mechanics Institute fell on deaf ears at the last Council meeting. Instead Council voted to place on public exhibition a flawed and biased amended plan of management recommending demolition of the historic hall. Cllr McInnes requested the deferral due to detailed 9 page legal advice being provided to the meeting setting out issues which should be addressed prior to the plan’s exhibition.

Not one of the councillors who voted for the plan to proceed to exhibition gave the public the courtesy of their opinions at the meeting. As Council is the custodian of public assets this is a shameful indictment on the lack of accountability of our elected councillors to state publicly their reasoning for their apparent quest to demolish one of Lawson’s most historic, grand buildings, held in high esteem by previous councils. It does appear that the long term agenda is to demolish the hall and in its place build medium density buildings which, no doubt, would be built on the adjoining large vacant lots of land. Again we can expect another “Leura Spires” development to be built here in Lawson at the expense of irreplaceable history.

It was also revealed that it has been left to a community group to commission and fund the provision of an initial feasibility statement as to whether the hall could be relocated on the land back from the highway widening. The Council, despite previous majority public submissions requesting that the hall be saved, has failed to make any enquiries or issue any tenders to determine the cost and feasibility of moving the hall despite public submissions for Council to consider this option. The general manager said that Council can do this but it has not done so. ACMMR provided Councillors with written statements from reputable structural engineers, Mammoth Movers, stating it is possible to move the `whole' building back on the block without causing structural damage. ACMMR asked Mammoth Movers to inspect the building in April this year following frustration that Council had never bothered to do this despite having had nearly 20 years since the 1988 RTA resumption of the land on which the front portion of the Hall stands. The South Australian company specialises in moving whole masonry buildings and is currently being used by the State Government to move a massive brick signal box in Hornsby.

A spokesperson for ACMMR, Erst Carmichael, commented: "It would only cost Council $3,800 to receive a Mammoth Movers report into the cost of removing the building yet Council won't even go that far. This attitude is appalling to say the least. Why is it so hell bent on demolishing a perfectly sound heritage building when there is a need for more community meeting and recreational space, and a Youth Centre in need of accommodation?"