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?"

Residents Have Their Say

Long Time Resident Saddened by Council Decision.
Mrs. Patti Louden now aged 87 has had a very long connection with Lawson going back over seventy years. She has spent most of those years in her home in Sayers Street .

Mrs. Louden was asked how she felt about the prospect of the Mechanics Institute / Community Hall being demolished for the widening of the highway and to share some memories about it.

"Before I married I would often come to dances on Friday nights at the hall during the war years to raise funds for the war effort, we had such a wonderful time. I would leave work at 5.30 pm and travel by steam train on Friday evenings, it usually took about 3 hours to get here then from Sydney.The entrance to the dances cost 1 shilling, and I remember it was always packed out.

The Hall was really the focal point of the community in Lawson and I have many happy memories of various functions, dances, special occasions and so on. The hall was used by many community groups, it was used by the C.W.A. for many years and other groups. I remember it being used for Christmas Carols for some years, it was wonderful.

Of my many happy times at the hall I particularly remember it being used on the weekends as a movie theatre. I remember seeing the film 'Going My Way', there were many others, but i can't recall them now.

I feel very strongly that the hall should somehow be moved and be used again for the whole community as it was intended, after all it belongs to the people of the township. Although it looks small from the highway it is really quite large inside. I remember the enormous kitchen / supper area and attending functions such as the C.W.A. and my daughters attending many school and other functions there as they were growing up.

I feel that we should be keeping the old hall as it has such important historical connections with many people in Lawson. Of course I realise that the highway is in desperate need of being widened but I would like to see the hall retained regardless.

I have no memory of much community consultation over the years regarding what would be done with the hall when the highway eventually is re- built. Maybe there was something in 'The Gazette' over the years but I don't recall much being said about it.

I would feel very sad to see this important building demolished considering the connections it has with so many people over the years."

From the website of the Mid Mountains Historical Society

Appalled By Council . Raoul O'Brien Lawson.

Like many of us, I am appalled by this Council's attitude in its attempt to destroy a beautiful and historical building that can be readily be saved at a fraction of the cost in building a new community hall.

My points I wish to add are:

Our local youth group could have a permanent home in this building
with pride.

Personally, I know several groups including painters, drama players and musicians that would regularly use this building for their exhibits and performances.

In a recent cultural strategy workshop organised by the Blue Mountains Council ( co-ordinated by Janne Yardie ) over several months at considerable cost and attended by various artistic / historical cultures including landscape painters / drama schools / dancers/ musicians / writers / youth bands / jazz groups etc., the main recurring complaint from these groups was that there were not enough halls in the Blue Mountains for their activities.

On this basis, why is the Mechanics Institute not in use at the present time and in the future?

Save this Building.

Raoul O'Brien Lawson

If you would like to share your memories or make a comment about saving our hall please contact Kevin : email here