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?