Concern over progress on master plan for Blackheath park

Concerned residents Eva Johnstone, a landscape architect, and Paul Vale, from Popes Glen Bushcare group, in Blackheath Memorial Park where the stormwater overflows the drain.
Concerned residents Eva Johnstone, a landscape architect, and Paul Vale, from Popes Glen Bushcare group, in Blackheath Memorial Park where the stormwater overflows the drain.

Five Blackheath groups have called for a halt on the development of a master plan for the town's Soldiers Memorial Park over concerns it has failed to address major issues.

Council received a federal government grant for the park to construct an accessible pathway, build a new toilet block and open up a drain and has held three community consultations about the plan.

But many residents are worried that the plan is concentrating only about the grant requirements and doesn't address other pressing issues, in particular drainage and disease in the comemorative rhododendrons planted in honour of WWI veterans.

In a letter to council's general manager, Rosemary Dillon, the Blackheath Alliance said it was given an update by those who attended the most recent workshop. They believed that it "skirted the concerns of the community".

"The main points from their letter were not addressed as expected and it seems the master plan process has been diminished to the point of just a plan for a toilet and a path. This is most disappointing."

The group requested a meeting with Ms Dillon and the new director responsible for the park.

"It is imperative that the process is halted until such a meeting can be convened," they wrote.

Local landscape architect, Eva Johnstone, said: "A masterplan that is true to the vision of Soldiers Memorial Park would encompass the values that we the community have for the park, and that is much more than the placing of toilets, paths and drains.

"It is also concerning that the heritage and historical aspects of the park, especially the close association the Blackheath community has had in building the park, is not part of the 'so-called' master planning. Nor is there any mention of the memory walk of Rhododendrons, planted for the 77 WW1 soldier volunteers - and how this might be interpreted."

She said council had strayed from the priority actions identified in the 2009 plan of management, which called for a significant tree management plan and the preparation of a landscape master plan by a heritage-experienced landscape architect.

Adele Colman, from the Streetscape Group, said the plan has been flawed "because it's been entirely dictated by the terms of the grant".

"There's a distinct lack of a vision," she said. "We're really looking forward to meeting up with the new director to discuss where we go from here."

Cr Kerry Brown said the early drafts in the master planning "need to be addressed in consultation with the community before we move to detailed planning".

"This special landscape is a community creation and continues to be enhanced through their vision and fundraising, including the return of the rocket to the playground and the installation of the Anzac Memorial Gates designed by a local architect. We are lucky to have a community that cares so much about its public spaces," she said.

Blackheath locals Eva Johnstone, a landscape architect, and Paul Vale, from Popes Glen Bushcare group standing on the footpath built to the pool which is constantly wet and has been blocked off with council barricades.

Blackheath locals Eva Johnstone, a landscape architect, and Paul Vale, from Popes Glen Bushcare group standing on the footpath built to the pool which is constantly wet and has been blocked off with council barricades.

A council spokeswoman confirmed it had received correspondence from five community groups.

The director of council's new Cultural and Community Services Directorate is seeking a meeting with the representatives in the week beginning July 15, as requested.

"These matters will be discussed at that meeting," the spokeswoman said.