Thursday, November 20, 2008

Historic Lawson Hall Saved !!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Association of Concerned Mid Mountains Residents (ACMMR) and Save Our Hall Group congratulate the new Blue Mountains Council on their decision to surrender the development application (DA) to demolish historic Lawson Mechanics Institute, and accept an RTA plan that will allow the new highway to circumvent the hall. This act represents a solid recognition of the importance of the built heritage of the Blue Mountains, and a new vision for the Mountains that reflects awareness of future generations. It is a milestone for locals who have campaigned hard for over 5 years to save the building from demolition, and a positive outcome for the whole Blue Mountains community and visitors, many of whom contributed by writing letters, signing petitions and donating to the campaign. Thank you one and all!

The fight to save the hall echoes that in Moruya on the south coast where determined residents' action recently saved a rare late-19th century Mechanics Institute. Like Lawson's, this historic building is also aesthetically important for its design and its contribution to the townscape. Locals helped restore it and it now thrives as an arts and display centre. The larger Lawson Mechanics Institute however has something the Moruya one does not have - a stage.

There is still much to be done before the hall will be back in operation, but the community is ready to work with the Council to form a management committee to oversee the repair and restoration of the building for use by the public and local groups. ACMMR has a business plan that includes the names of a number of groups who have expressed interest in using the hall. Also individual qualified tradespeople have indicated they will supply labour and/or materials for maintenance or repair. Fund raising will be important for the future of the hall and there are a number of possibilities that the Blue Mountains Council is aware of. Already the National Trust is waiting to set up a Donations Appeal.

If anyone wants to make a donation in the interim they can send a cheque to ACMMR, PO Box 54, Lawson 2783.

Receipts will be sent by mail, so please include a stamped, addressed envelope.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lawson Hall poem

Lawson Hall

Discarded railway station bricks
showed times of kinder politics,
as locals work with sweating brow.
They're up there with the angels now.

From wall and floor to window sill,
they gave their time as angels will.
The finished product, standing there,
was given to the Council's care.

In Lawson Hall, they'd celebrate
the meaning of a special date,
a twenty-first, a pair engaged,
an ancient Shakespeare drama staged,

The music flowed, the dancers danced.
Outside, the younger ones romanced.
The maintenance and cleaning crew
were angels, with a job to do.

A lecturer from overseas,
the Council would collect the fees.
The Hall stood watch a hundred years.
Now demolition raises fears

For something special could be lost,
because of the supposed cost.
The angels call on one and all -
Support the cause of Lawson Hall!

Anonymous / The Ghost of Denis K., 12 September 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008


A Freedom of Information request by the Association of Concerned Mid Mountains Residents (ACMMR) has revealed that elements within the Blue Mountains City Council, the RTA, the Department of Planning and the Heritage Office have collaborated to try to thwart a Heritage Planning process in order to demolish the historic 1903 Mechanics Institute Hall in Lawson.

The Institute is in the same class as many others with State and even National heritage significance, but now renewal of its heritage status has become a major stumbling block for the gazettal of a Council-approved Heritage Amendment to the Blue Mountains Local Environmental Plan 2005. The FOI indicates that Planning Minister Frank Sartor will be pressured to override democratic processes by removing the Institute as a heritage item from the Amendment presumably to facilitate demolition. If it retains its heritage status the RTA will need to comply with the Roads Act before continuing the widening of the Great Western Highway. However the RTA has an alternative highway plan that would avoid demolition of this community asset valued at $2-3million.

ACMMR requested the documents because of a lengthy delay in gazettal of the Amendment. Members were concerned that there may have been inappropriate intervention due to obsessive Council bias toward unnecessary demolition, and now feel that these concerns were justified. The Amendment is based on the findings of two heritage studies commissioned by Council, which the RTA relied on for its Review of Environmental Factors. Neither report recommends demolition but Council has meanwhile surged ahead with its demolition agenda.

Public submissions overwhelmingly rejected the Council’s “preferred option” of demolition, an unprecedented feature of its 2007 Plan of Management, but it was nevertheless adopted, only with the casting vote of Labor Mayor Jim Angel. Public sentiment for the Hall ran even hotter after Council then rejected, again with the casting vote of the Mayor, the RTA’s generous offer to use its alternative highway plan. Funding opportunities were also ignored, and moves to further investigate these were ruled out of order by the Mayor. This has left the community perplexed and angry, especially as Heritage Funding will be sought for other buildings nearby. As no post-demolition plan is available, many fear the site may eventually feature medium-density housing. ACMMR maintains Minister Sartor should determine that the highway go ahead with the RTA’s workable new plan rather than apply demolition by force to a prime heritage theatre building sorely needed by the community.

Support for the Save Our Hall campaign has come from far and wide including the National Trust, the Association of Mechanics Institutes and Schools of Arts NSW (AMISA) and thousands of Blue Mountains residents and visitors who are signing petitions and letters.

written by Julius Timmerman

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Lawson Hall Song

Listen to The Lawson Hall Song Here

A Poem by Erst Carmichael ©2008
Music by Denis Rice ©2008


All photographs by Christine Stickley
(Jon Dee middle front)

Jon Dee, well known environmentalist and founder of the Wentworth Falls based Planet Ark has added his support to that of the National Trust for the campaign to save the Mechanics Institute Hall in Lawson, knowing that the 105 year old hall listed by the National Trust is under threat of demolition.
Jon says:
Given that demolition is not required by the RTA to widen the highway next to the hall, I strongly question the reasoning of the BMCC Councillors who voted to demolish this wonderful community hall. The simple fact is we can have the highway and the hall.
Documents show that the RTA offered to move the highway and re-locate the hall portico at no cost to ratepayers. Why do Councillors seem to be ignoring this? A report was also prepared on grant funding possibilities for the hall but it appears that Council and Councillors have taken no proactive and positive action on this front to ensure a sustainable and well funded future for the hall
Council should be thinking more logically about the needs of the community. The Blue Mountains is sadly lacking in decent sized hall spaces for the performing arts and other uses. Why go to so much trouble to knock down existing facilities, especially one such as the Lawson Hall which is centrally located and just five minutes walk from a rail station? How is this extraordinary and historic building in Lawson going to be replaced? Councillors haven't said anything about the costs associated with that.
Jon says:
I am confused as to why Councillor Chris Van der Kley has voted for demolition of the hall while announcing in his election brochure that he is 'committed to preserving the cultural and natural heritage of the Blue Mountains.' Surely this building is one of the significant cultural heritage sites in the mountains? I call on Councillor Van der Kley to change his position and to join me in publicly campaigning to save the hall.
Planning Minister Frank Sartor should stop the nonsense surrounding this issue once and for all. He needs to ensure that the alternate RTA plan, which includes the relocation of the hall portico, goes ahead. He then needs to put the hall on the State Heritage register so that we can preserve this old building for future generations of Australians.

One of the better looking regulars at the vigil ( Toby)

photographs by Christine Stickley

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Stateline Video

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

Friday, May 16, 2008


The Association of Concerned Mid-Mountains Residents is appealing for donations towards legal fees to fight the Council's proposed demolition of the Lawson Mechanics Institute. The group has tried injecting goodwill, sense and reason into the debate about the hall but some councillors stubbornly persist to vote for its demolition, even though this is not necessary for the highway widening, even though the majority of the community wants to keep it and even though no plan for the community site where the hall stands has been presented.

Remember the councillors who voted for demolition.
Angel, Van Der Kley, Hamilton, Frappell, Myles and Creed at the September Blue Mountains City Council elections!

Now the only remaining option is to fight the decision in court. All donations toward legal fees will be gratefully accepted and acknowledged with a receipt. Please make out a cheque to "Association of Concerned Mid-Mountains Residents" and send it to PO Box 54 Lawson 2783 and don't forget your address for a receipt. Help save and put to good use one of the last remaining Mechanics Institutes! Thank you!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Condemned For Destruction

The landmark Blue Mountains building known as the Lawson Mechanics Institute has been condemned for destruction on the votes of Councillors Angel, Van Der Kley, Hamilton, Myles, Frappell and Creed. I hope voters will remember these names at the Council elections in September, because these councillors haven't responded properly to their community in its hour of need.

Members of the Lawson community tried to inject sense and sound economic reasoning into the debate on the cost and the value of retaining this hall. A community business plan was established that lists many groups waiting to use the hall and local tradesmen willing to offer their services for free. Such is the huge level of interest in the building. They clearly demonstrated that the getting the hall operational again is neither difficult nor expensive as suggested, and that taking up the RTA’s practical offer to move the portico and re-route the 4-lane highway to avoid demolition is far cheaper than demolishing the hall and refurbishing the RFS shed. The National Trust offered to set up a Tax Deductible Appeals System and there remain other avenues for external funding yet to be explored.

Despite the obvious economic benefits of, and massive broader community support for the RTA’s plan, all this constantly fell on deaf ears within Council. Some councillors kept providing the flimsiest of excuses to support demolition, other pro-demolition councillors just went to sleep until voting time.

Every other of the Mountains' 19 halls bar one has had its PoPE (Place of Public Entertainment) licence renewed by Council till late 2009. No-one has explained why the Lawson Hall’s licence in particular was allowed to lapse following Council’s sloppy aborted Plan of Management of 2004 or why the Youth Centre was then thrown out and $15,000pa is being spent by Council on temporary accommodation.

There are many legal issues to be pursued, and perhaps issues around possible maladministration as well.

One thing is certain - there is no plausible reason whatsoever for demolishing this building. What a waste of ratepayer’s money. What an outrageous attack on our social heritage. Is there a hidden agenda?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The history of planning the destruction of heritage in Lawson in the Blue Mountains is a long and dirty one riddled with peculiarities and illogicalities, but the situation is reaching boiling point, and groundswell opposition is growing ever stronger. The community is fed up with furphies, sneaky methods, topsy-turvy administrative processes and blatant ignorance. Authorities like to claim that highway widening has given them no choice but to make hard decisions about local heritage, but this is far from the truth. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with widening a highway or redeveloping a shopping centre, and most locals are in favour of these coming changes. However when they are carried out with such recklessness and insensitivity to those living nearby, and there’s a curious whiff of developers and clandestine deals that mean the occasional community consultation amounts to nothing more than lip service, protest will inevitably occur, even from people who normally keep to themselves and would have trusted council to do the right thing.

A four-lane highway could have completely by-passed the historic strip of shops along the current highway in Lawson. At least some of these early 20th century buildings, including the oldest butcher shop in NSW, officially deemed via a Heritage Assessment to be in good condition despite their neglected appearance, could have been restored. But Council has never shown any interest in their heritage value and the decision to replace them with a narrow parking bay was made way back in 1999, when the Mayor was a local businessman who owns a number of these highway buildings, and who lost his seat shortly after. Only the pub, virtually in the same condition as the other buildings, is being afforded the luxury of renovation. Two other historic buildings outside the CBD were relocated and renovated by the RTA.

An LEP Heritage Amendment that recognises the village’s historic precincts and buildings has been at the Dept of Planning for over a year (and it had already taken Council ages to compile it) so it has not reached the Minister’s desk for approval for gazettal. The Heritage Amendment will importantly re-establish the local heritage listing for the Lawson Mechanics Institute (Lawson Hall), one of the few remaining buildings in NSW of this type. Built by the townsfolk in 1903 with massive blocks of locally-obtained sandstone for educational and social purposes it became a major focal point in the Mountains throughout the 20th century, and eventually became a Youth Centre.

As it happens, the proposed four-lane highway could also by-pass the Mechanics Institute, but as with the strip of highway shops, an agenda of wanton destruction is on the cards instead. The Blue Mountains City Council is in the habit of deciding the fate of historic buildings before historical assessments or listings get in the way. Recently they exhibited an Amended Plan of Management for the Lawson hall. They had already stopped PoPE (Place of Public Entertainment) inspections and arbitrarily closed the hall in 2004, despite having just spent thousands on renovations to floor and roof. Their first Plan of Management on the building had just failed abysmally and had to be aborted. Apparently they had thought of looking into reclassifying the land to operational (which of course would be illegal), but in 2007 exhibited an Amended Plan of Management, this time with a "preferred option" of demolition.

Whilst some locals are by now resigned to losing the historic shops to a similar "preferred option" (although one or two shops could be relocated), the opposition to the Council’s “preferred option” of demolishing Lawson Hall was massive – in the order of 90%. Not just locals, but key State organisations made submissions. This was supported by a petition – 2,000 strong and growing. An unequivocal rejection if there ever was one.

Members of the community group The Association of Concerned Mid-Mountains Residents even raised $600 to obtain a report from Mammoth Movers of South Australia, experts in moving historic stone buildings, on the feasibility of relocating it back on the block. The same company just moved an historic signal box for the State Government in Hornsby. Council had refused to add a relocation option to the Plan of Management but under pressure they did include it in their final report to councillors, along with hurriedly concocted, heavily-inflated cost figures. Ultimately a 6-6 vote by councillors needed Mayor Jim Angel’s casting vote to ratify the preferred option of demolition and a DA for demolition was compiled by Noel Bell, Ridley Smith & Partners P/L, a firm which has done a lot of work for council. Never mind the under-supply of hall space in the mountains, the tourist potential of the hall or the brilliance of the hall’s design. In their DA Bell and Smith mistakenly listed the site classification as operational, not community.

Following representations by the concerned local State MP Phil Koperberg and the community, the RTA was suddenly able, despite years of maintaining it was impossible, to come up with an economical new plan whereby the front portico, a later addition to the building, could be relocated at the side of the building, thereby making room for the wider highway and avoiding the need for demolition. As a bonus they would also give back the front portion of the block they resumed in 1991. Mr Koperberg had achieved something his predecessor Bob Debus may never have even contemplated. Pro-demolition councillors however still argued the overall expense would somehow be prohibitive, so a vote was carried to ask the State Government for no less than $575,000 to refurbish the building to palatial proportions. The pro-demolition half needed to look sympathetic, but were they just raising the bar to try to keep Mr Koperberg at a safe distance by asking the impossible?

Willing members of the community injected sense, goodwill and sound economic reason to the debate by initiating a business plan showing many groups were waiting to use the hall and tradesmen were willing to offer their services for free for repairs etc. Costs and income were carefully researched and end figures for enabling the hall’s PoPE licence to be renewed and the hall put to good use came in well under those provided by Council. A professional alternative building design was drawn up and costed - $150,000. Some work would be needed in the stage area, perhaps a disability ramp would be required, along with minor repairs caused by vandals. It was plainly obvious however that actually putting the hall to good use with the RTA plan and some community input was more economical than demolition.

The National Trust offered to set up a tax-deductible Appeals Fund and there were other possible avenues of external funding. But the Council wasn’t swayed. It ratified the DA for demolition in April and Labor Councillor and Mayor Jim Angel posed for a front page photo in the Blue Mountains Gazette alongside Liberal Councillor and Hazelbrook supermarket owner Chris Van Der Kley. Cllr Van Der Kley was quoted saying the council needed $1m to save the hall. The figure had become even larger! But that is his figure however spurious and he’s sticking to it.

The appearance of a number of DYI videos on the ABC’s Stateline by the Association of Concerned Mid-Mountains Residents and the Save Our Hall Group which holds a vigil outside the hall each Sunday has sparked a lot of interest outside the Blue Mountains. In fact following the most recent ABC video, passing motorists were clearly hugely sympathetic, and an almost non-stop honking could be heard in the town. Many stopped to sign the petition.

Mayor Jim Angel however continues to dig his heels in. He made a statement to Stateline regarding the “key factors” of the situation:

  • the success of an alternative Community Centre built in 1991

BUT the Mid-Mountains Community Centre was never intended as a replacement for the Lawson Hall and never can be. There is no performance space at the centre and it is usually fully booked for displays, meetings, rehearsals, school functions and the like. The RTA gave $200,000 to the council in 1991 to help fund the centre in compensation for resuming the front portion of the block where the hall stands. The RTA’s new plan that would avoid demolition involves giving back to the council that resumed part. There remains a severe lack of hall space in the mountains. Council’s planned Cultural Centre in Katoomba will have a large supermarket but no performance space.

  • cost of upkeep of the hall

BUT this ignores both the National Trust’s offer to set up a Donations Appeal and a Community Business Plan showing that numerous groups in the community want to hire the hall and tradesmen are offering their services for free. Council had also budgeted $129,000 for demolition that could go toward refurbishment and/or upkeep.

The Community Business Plan made a strong and logical economic argument that the $575,000 requested by the council from the State Government to bring the hall back to PoPE standard was massively overblown and that a figure between $100,000 and $150,000 was likely to be all that was needed. On enquiry by ACMMR, a council staff member who conducts PoPE inspections estimated that costs for just re-establishing the PoPE licence would cost no more than $50,000.

In essence, the RTA’s offer to re-locate the portico, re-route the highway and avoid demolition is obviously cheaper than demolition. However the council seems to have deliberately made this alternative seem out of reach by providing unrealistic refurbishment cost figures and claiming without clear evidence that the hall’s upkeep would somehow be prohibitive. But why would the upkeep of the Lawson Hall be any more draining or require any greater scrutiny than any of the other 18 halls in the mountains? Council let the Lawson Hall PoPE licence lapse and closed the hall in 2004, after renovating the roof and floor. Since then they have paid $300pw in rent (over $15,000pa) for alternative premises for the Youth Centre which was no longer able to use the hall.

  • dubious functionality of the hall if retained so close to a 4 lane highway

Two well used halls in the mountains, Wentworth Falls School of Arts and Warrimoo Community Hall, neither of them with two-foot thick masonry walls like the Lawson Hall, are right on the highway but still used - often. Furthermore the highway would come approximately three metres closer to the Lawson hall under the RTA plan, but the entrance would be at the side and the front sealed. Anyone who knows anything about acoustics would know that there would not be any noticeable increase in external sound penetrating the hall.

  • the idea of relocating the portico has cost implications for council and would diminish any heritage value

Minimal cost implications that is, since the RTA would both dismantle and rebuild it, a cheaper option than demolition according to Council's own Business Papers of 29 Jan 2008. The original hall did not have a portico (this was added some 30 years later) so clearly it has less importance than the original building. A pile of rubble however has NO heritage value at all! Any overlap between the Mayor and the community on the reality of heritage value is purely coincidental!

  • consulted community over a long period

BUT not listened to. Community consultation on the planning of the village centre’s redevelopment has been appalling. Community advice on the original 2004 Plan of Management for the hall was delivered amongst junk mail following complaints that only those with computer access could have any input. Still, the 2007 Amended Plan of Management on the Lawson Hall resulted in an overwhelming NO to Council’s preferred option of demolition. Mayor Angel is using a well-worn phrase, but clearly “community consultation” has no meaning here.

  • no funding source to retain the hall has been found

Nobody is even sure if funding was pursued by the council. The National Trust donations Appeal was certainly ignored in any case. Frank Sartor wrote to offer some funding possibilities but Council never entertained them as far as the community knows.

There’s been a lot of obfuscation like the above in this matter, and the community at large is at pains to understand why the council and half of the councillors are so determined to demolish this fine building when economically responsible alternatives exist and the need to keep the hall is so great. The Lawson hall has been treated differently from all other halls administered by Council and cost figures have seemingly been plucked out of the air to obtain a desired result.

None of six councillors who voted for demolition approval has publicly submitted a future plan for the community site where the hall stands, so as with the new village centre plan the community is not sure what it might end up with. It is only sure of losing a precious community asset.

Council has mentioned refurbishing the RFS building (arguably an illegal one for a community site) which is a featureless brick shed at the back of the block, as a future home for the Youth Centre, but there is no set plan. Perhaps a shed will be all that Council can contribute to the next generation (although portables have also been suggested)!

Rumours abound in the community (not without substance) that a land swap is on the cards. The original owner of historic Heatherbrae House, the proposed centrepiece of the new village centre, told ACMMR he was very keen for council to buy it but somehow Coles ended up buying it. It was some time before it was publicly made known that this had happened. Coles however is apparently more interested in the Dept of Housing block across the road and oddly the council has illogically proposed to close the adjacent part of the road (the shortest route for through traffic) as part of its redevelopment plan. No amount of argument from the community can deter them. The community is wondering if, via land swapping, a Coles supermarket will end up on the Dept of Housing site and a DoH block of flats will eventuate on the Mechanics Institute site (as once suggested by the Mayor of 1999 and published in a Council business paper), leaving Council with Heatherbrae House. In other words, will an historic community asset be a trading piece with a supermarket chain?

The community is so outraged by Council’s actions on the Lawson Hall that it is prepared to take the matter to court, as many of the actions are legally questionable.

If demolition of the building were to go ahead, social repercussions would be enormous. Many are questioning why the RTA would openly devise a plan to avoid demolition but not use it despite Council’s dogged drive towards demolition, even if it meant just dismantling the portico, a non-original feature, on the section it resumed. The community supports highway widening but considers that the demolition of such an important building would make the social cost too high.

The community’s sensible arguments have fallen on deaf ears in council, certainly those of councillors Angel, Van Der Kley, Hamilton, Myles, Frappell and Creed. Perhaps the Council elections in September will give any of these councillors standing for re-election a valuable lesson in listening to their constituents whom they have now completely lost touch with.

Friday, April 11, 2008


  • was built by the community in 1903 with stone reclaimed from the Lawson railway station, to provide education for the working class
  • was the site of the first shire council meeting provided community recreation including library, roller skating rink, picture theatre and dance hall
  • was part of the landmark WW1 Hitchen’s Coo-ee rally
  • has brilliant acoustics, perfect for performances
  • is heritage-listed
  • is unique in the Blue Mountains and one of the few remaining Mechanics Institutes in NSW

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Letter To ALP Members

Dear Secretary,
We write to correct misleading impressions about the Lawson Old Community Hall (aka Mechanics Institute) that may have emanated from the ranks of ALP BMCC councillors who have consistently voted with Liberal councillors to demolish the hall

These councillors are staunchly rejecting Phil Koperberg’s efforts, following substantial community feedback, to save the hall. They first voted (with the Mayor using an extra casting vote) to demolish the hall despite huge public support for an option to relocate it, arguing that it would be too expensive.
Mr Koperberg then negotiated with the RTA and the Minister for Roads to save the hall with a different plan that would be far cheaper, and presented it to Council. Council now demands that the State Government pay for the most substantial upgrade of the hall if they are to accept the plan.

It seems some councillors keep finding new reasons to prevent saving the hall, and misleading impressions may have been given to support this resoluteness:

False assertion: The RTA owns the hall.
The RTA does not own the hall. It did resume in 1988 a minor portion of the land where the hall stands – from the front of the block to a point in line with the first internal wall. $200,000 was subsequently provided in compensation to help fund the Mid-Mountains Community Centre. However, legal opinion disputes that the RTA also owns the equivalent minor front portion of the hall itself, but rather that this portion (along with the bulk of the hall) remains in the ownership of Council as Trustee for the public.

False assertion: The RTA wishes to demolish the hall. It is out of Council’s hands.

The RTA does not wish to demolish the hall. Encouraged by Mr Koperberg, the RTA and Minister for Roads responded to the overwhelming percentage of submissions from a broad cross-section of the community to the Council’s Plan of Management process, advocating that the hall be saved. The RTA revised its plan so the highway could avoid the hall after the RTA relocates the portico at the side, at no cost to Council. The portico was not a feature of the original 1903 structure. As a bonus the RTA would return the resumed portion of land so Council could again be trustee of the entire block. The decision on whether this new RTA plan should go ahead rests entirely with Council.

False assertion: The RTA has submitted a DA to demolish the hall.

The RTA has submitted a plan to save the hall. A recently-exhibited DA to demolish the hall was submitted by Noel Bell Ridley Smith & Partners acting on behalf of Council, the owner. Council is waiting for a public submissions report.

False assertion: It would be too expensive for Council to save the hall.

Of three options costed by Council in relation to the new RTA plan, at least one of these options would be cheaper than demolition.
Further ongoing savings would be made by allowing the Youth Centre back into the hall, as the Council has been needlessly paying $300pw to rent alternative accommodation for years because it closed the hall, and from the Brook Theatre Group which has offered not only to undertake remedial work associated with POPE standards, but also pay a regular rent to Council to use the hall.

We encourage you to verify this information with the Senior Project Development Manager, GWH Upgrade, RTA, Blacktown (PO Box 558 Blacktown NSW 2148 or call 131782). He and his project team may well be concerned.

Our hall…
  • was built by the community in 1903 with stone reclaimed from the Lawson railway station, to provide education for the working class
  • was the site of the first shire council meeting provided community recreation including library, roller skating rink, picture theatre and dance hall
  • was part of the landmark WW1 Hitchen’s Coo-ee rally
  • has brilliant acoustics, perfect for performances
  • is heritage-listed
  • is unique in the Blue Mountains and one of the few remaining Mechanics Institutes in NSW

    The Blue Mountains was named a “City of the Arts”. Where is Council’s associated vision? The plan for a Cultural Centre in Katoomba is bereft of performance space. How irresponsibly unsustainable to demolish a fine existing facility!

    The Lawson hall should be respected not only as an excellent performance space but also as an important part of the heritage of the development of social community values, values that incidentally helped constitute Labor’s platform. If all Labor councillors support saving the hall, the history of nation building by the working class represented by the hall could be preserved for future generations.

    Councillors should not be in the business of obfuscation to suit themselves. The community is appalled that some of them, including two of the four Labor party members, appear willing without any logical basis to bend over backwards to demolish this historic and valuable community asset.

    They also voted in favour of spending millions for town centre redevelopment that includes further demolition of heritage buildings, to make way for parking. Questions are constantly being raised about the propriety of the process particularly with the current press concerning Wollongong Council.

    Ultimately Lawson’s heritage could and should be a major issue for candidates at the coming council elections to put forward their positions on, so voters can decide. Meanwhile any potential candidates who may seek to bend the truth to justify their opposition to emphatic community sentiment should be treated with caution at the very least.
    We hope this clarifies a number of matters. Thank you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Petition signing next Saturday from 11am.
Near Carrington Hotel

we want thousands of signatures!!!

Van Der Kley says that no-one is interested in saving the hall but we know otherwise and will be presenting him and other councillors with a copy of signed petitions.

The next council meeting to vote on DA for demolition will be on Tuesday 18th march (7pm for 7.30 start.)

Please be there to show your opposition to demolition of this historic building.

Thursday, February 7, 2008




Councillors Van Der Kley, Hamilton, Angel and others have acknowledged that they see the demolition of the hall as the best option for the community despite the majority of the local community making it quite clear that they do not want the hall demolished. Councillor Hamilton alone received over 600 signatures to petitions to save the hall taken over only a few weeks.
This is nothing short of contempt for the constituents that they are meant to represent on this issue.
Councillors who have voted for demolition can only be described as participating in irredeemable statutory vandalism of our precious history.
If Clr Van Der Kley alone had voted with the other mid mountain councillors, Searle and McInnes, then the hall would be saved from demolition. The demolition of a community asset by those entrusted with its protection must be regarded as the worst form of vandalism.

Councillors, having the power to cast their votes to stop demolition must therefore be regarded as the principal causes of this statutory vandalism in the eyes of the people of the Blue Mountains.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Residents of the Blue Mountains are entitled to know more about the large amount of money apparently lost in sub-prime investments made by the Blue Mountains City Council in the U.S. Our money that is!
Was it two, four or six million dollars , or was it even more? I know that not all councils in NSW were foolish enough to invest in this scheme. Did money change hands as a commission one wonders? and to whom was it paid? We have a right to know the answers.
We recently phoned Council about the possibility of forming a volunteer group to assist in restoring the unique contour map of Australia sculpture in Wilson Park, Lawson.
I was told that Council had absolutely no money to spend on assistance for any project like this.
More neglect for Lawson! The unique contour map is actually the only one of its kind in Australia, built in 1932.
Where has all our money gone? Down the drain in a dodgy US scheme that's where!!!

Now, the majority of Councillors, thanks to Mayor Angel's casting vote, want the 104 year old Mechanics Institute Hall demolished, and soon! Yet the highway widening outside the hall is still years away. The reason for the hasty destruction of the hall and for what purpose we will eventually find out. It definitely isn't for the widening of the highway as they have been telling us for years.

We now discover after the amazing offer by RTA, that to demolish the old hall is actually more expensive than it is to retain it!

To borrow from a famous statement. If demolition takes place, Van Der Kley, Hamilton , Angel and other councillors will be remembered forever as the Councillors who broke the hearts of the people of Lawson and the Blue Mountains.

Congratulations councillors, at least you will be remembered for something.
A puzzle that is concerning many of us is that while Councillors are asking for government funding at this stage, they have never investigated any avenues of applying for any in the past.
It would appear a deal has been struck somewhere, sometime with a developer.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Plea From Lawson residents

Dear General Manager
I am writing to protest against councils decision with regard to demolition of Lawson Community Hall. I have been involved with this hall since moving to the mountains in 1974. We were the first playgroup within the Blue Mountain area and we hired the hall for the playgroup occupying the larger hall plus the smaller kitchen area. In addition I was involved in the theatre group which operated during the eighties (??) and entertained and delivered some first class theatre/plays. I was a member of the Lawson Community Hall committee during which time I was responsible for the cleaning and bookings of the hall. My daughter enjoyed classes with Shirley Harris in Physical Culture and I participated in several dance classes. Most months there would be a bush dance where the hall would be filled to capacity, the acoustics brilliant with all who attended having a fantastic time. I am sure that my experience with Lawson Community Hall would be shared with numerous community members who are as saddened as I am with councils decision to demolish this grand old lady.
During the times I was responsible for the cleaning of this hall I would sometimes stop and imagine what the hall would have been in its prime, noting the projector box and the stage area with what was then, framed by beautiful velvet curtains. Sometimes, during those boring times of mopping I would sing to myself, amazed at how far my voice would carry.
As time went on, I noticed the deterioration of the wooden floor/kitchen area/toilets and wished that the council would acknowledge its responsibilities but noting that the new centre behind the post office was the "in" place and the community hall allowed to fall into disrepair.
I often thought that this may be a tactic used by council as vandals would then make their mark, perhaps a fire or two or broken windows would then support councils approach that this was a building not worth saving, that the monies to renovate and maintain would be too much and not supported by rate payers.
I only have to look at that most beautiful building that used to shine as train travellers rounded the bend on the approach to Katoomba. Now partly hidden by the Edge, it breaks my heart to see how sad it looks, will it now be demolished as a recommendation by council to make way for what???? Units, housing estate, shopping centre, something similar to that most ugly complex on the highway at Leura.
I have to ask, does the council have an ulterior agenda in relation to the land on which the Lawson Community Hall stands??? Is there money in it for the council???.
Surely, as you and we all get older, there is the need for recognition and acknowledgement and preservation of those buildings that represent the past and the contributions made by the local community. Council has to recognise that our old hall can be saved, can be used, can be maintained and can be an absolute asset and integral option for community groups! The council needs to voice its intent to do what the community wants!
I remember, not that long ago, when the council wanted to close the local swimming pool. I remember the local members (they aren't now) who were at a meeting at a local park adjacent to the swimming pool who were absolutely "shouted down" as the community was rightly outraged that the council would suggest such a thing. In the park where that meeting was held is a concrete map of Australia which again has been allowed to deteriorate. Weeds abound and the flow of the stream interrupted by the build up of sand and other debris. I sometimes look around that area and my village, the local shopping area, parks and wonder if the council just "skips" Lawson, it seems that the village that was so beautiful when we first arrived, with marked walks, camping areas, tracks, parks is now gone.
Do something for Lawson for a change, put some money into our village, support the preservation of our local hall, and listen to the people.
Andrea Jenkins
Brian Jenkins
Eric Jenkins

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Contact your councillor

If you would like to see the Lawson Mechanics Institute Hall saved from demolition why not email,write and phone your local Blue Mountains City Councillor and ask them to accept the RTA offer to move the entrance and give back the portion it purchased from council. This will not cost the ratepayer one cent!

Please contact councillors listed who voted to have the hall demolished (highlighted in red)

After all, this hall was built by the people of this township for the on-going use of the residents.

Our Council has a duty to respect the wishes of the ratepayers.
Click on email links to contact a councillor directly.
Write or phone councillors who voted for demolition.

Jim Angel
40 Ninth Avenue
02 4782 4185 (fax/ph)

Councillor Hamilton
(Deputy Mayor)
56 Hat Hill Road
02 4787 6549 (fax/ph)

Councillor O Grady
Locked Bag 1005
02 4782 4394 (fax/ph)
0431 501 981 (mobile)

Wentworth Falls to Faulconbridge

Councillor McInnes
Locked Bag 1005
02 4751 6359 (fax/ph)
0431 501 984 (mobile)

Councillor Searle
Locked Bag 1005
02 4757 4586 (fax/ph) (h)
0419 477 856 (mobile)

Councillor Van Der Kley
6 Murray Avenue
02 4758 6254 (fax/ph) (w)
02 4757 2376 (fax/ph) (h)
0427 805 810 (mobile)

Springwood to Warrimoo

Councillor McLaren
PO Box 4338
02 4754 5742 (fax/ph)
0414 195 991 (mobile)

Councillor Myles
PO Box 455
02 4751 4928 (fax/ph)
0414 418 161 (mobile)

Councillor Trindall
PO Box 4313
(02) 4754 3910 (fax/ph)
0414 195 986 (mobile)

Blaxland to Lapstone

Councillor Brown
Locked Bag 1005
02 4739 5860 (fax/ph)
0414 195 989 (mobile)

Councillor Creed
Locked Bag 1005
02 4739 6261 (fax/ph)
0423 565 988 (mobile)

Councillor Frappell
Locked Bag 1005
02 4739 3529 (fax/ph)
0414 195 990 (mobile)