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