Clr Phillips first brought the refurbishment of Marrickville Town Hall to Council in July 2011 as a Notice of Motion. See – http://bit.ly/1fmiFLL A refurbishment plan was brought to the Council Meeting in November 2011. See – http://bit.ly/1jGIkkQ
The refurbishment was again on the agenda at last Tuesday’s Council meeting, 15th April 2014.
Mayor Haylen & Clrs Phillips, Leary & Iskandar were absent, so it was a 2:2:2:2 vote – 2 Labour, 2 Liberals, 2 Independents & 2 Greens who voted to remove all of the trees in the front & all but one tree along the Petersham Road side of Marrickville Town Hall. Not surprising to me, but at the same time, quite distressing.
In November 2011 I wrote, “ALL the trees will be removed & 3 ‘suitable’ street trees will be planted as replacements along the side of the Town Hall. My guess these will probably be Ornamental Cherry trees to match what has been planted on both sides of Marrickville Road to the corner of Livingstone Road. They are cheap to buy & absolutely useless to wildlife.
The current trees along the exterior wall of the Town Hall building are 7 mature Pencil pines, 2 mature Cocas palms & 2 small Cocas palms & 1 mature Norfolk Island palm. These trees, especially the Pencil pines, add to the grandness of the building & considerably soften the façade.
At dusk take a seat outside the library & listen. Literally thousands of small birds live in these trees & the sound of them settling down for the night is wonderful. I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t like it. Remove these trees & there will be an environmental impact, though I don’t know whether this has been taken into account in the environmental impact assessment. Certainly Council doesn’t care.
There are 2 mature, but small stature Pine trees in the front forecourt connected to the War Memorial & one 5-6 metre Pine tree in a planter box. One of these Pines leans towards the pedestrian footpath, but doesn’t block pedestrian thoroughfare.
This is a total of 15 trees to be removed & the replacement with 3 as yet unspecified species. You can bet any money that these will be small stature trees that will not obscure the view of the building & probably deciduous. The community will be left with a sterile box. A grand box, but sterile none-the-less.”
So what has changed 3-years later? According to the business paper, “arrangements are presently underway for a new Winged Victory statue to be made & placed on the war memorial column at the front of the Town Hall.” Winged Victory herself was donated to the Australian War Memorial in late 2013. Personally, I would have liked Winged Victory to be on permanent display inside the new Marrickville Library, especially as the ceiling of the building is so high & the front is to be mostly glass. She would have been spectacular in a safe place inside the entrance foyer & visible from the street. C’est la vie.
A media release dated 22nd April 2014 says Marrickville Council will hold “an information session & presentation to update local residents & citizens on the future of the Winged Victory statue.”
This is to be held on Thursday 1st May 2014, 6pm – 7pm at the Function Room 3, Council’s Administration Centre, 2-14 Fisher Street Petersham.
Stage 1 of the refurbishment of the Town Hall will cost $75,000 for the design & $500,000 for the works, which are –
- Repaving the forecourt - Matching paving will also be installed in front of the car park behind the Library, at the Library entrance & in the two car spaces, all located at the Petersham Road side of the Town Hall building. [The Petersham Road side already has ornamental brick paving].
- Furniture, including new seating. [I cannot find any furniture other than 8 new bench seats in the plans.]
- Relocating the bus stop to “improve sight lines.”
- Refurbishment of the War Memorial column & re-gilding of the honour roll names. [Great. This is an important war memorial to many.]
- Landscaping comprised of -
– Star Jasmine (native to E & SE Asia)to be used as a ground cover.
– Hedges of Box Hedge (native to either England, Holland, Japan or Korea depending on the species used), Indian Hawthorn (native to Southern China) & Viburnum suspensum (native to Japan). [This combination of Indian Hawthorn, Box & Star Jasmine is already being used as the main landscaping feature.]
– Two Tibouchina trees (native to SE Brazil) are planned for the back wall of the car park at the rear.
Can Council not use Australian native plants?
- And lastly removal of the “old conifers” – [that is to remove 13 mature trees]. One Phoenix palm will be retained. Another Phoenix palm will be transplanted to match the other. One tree fern will also be retained.
In 2011 Council planned to plant 3 street trees alongside the Library side on Petersham Road. The current plans have upped this to 6 street trees. There is no mention of what species the trees will be.
Two Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ conifers will be planted beside the War Memorial. These ultra-slow-growing conifers grow to around 3-metres tall with a 1.5-metre base in a tear drop shape. I personally think Conifers are important trees to have around a War Memorial because of their deep symbolism. However, two slender 3-metre conifers will not make much of a green impact for either the memorial or the forecourt. There will be no shade.
While I have long considered the forecourt of the Town Hall to be an ugly mess, I cannot believe that part of the answer towards improvement is to remove the trees.
None of the trees growing beside the walls of the Town Hall touch the building. Neither have they created any visible damage to the building in the decades that they have been there.
Only one tree causes a problem & that is the small conifer beside the War Memorial & next to the footpath. This tree leans towards the footpath, which although very wide in this section, is starting to be an obstruction. Pruning this tree is a simple job & will remove any obstruction.
I can see no reason other than someone with design powers has a personal preference to get rid of the trees. One should ask whether this is a good enough reason to remove trees & habitat in these days of global warming, especially as the main feature of the refurbishment will be hard cold paving that will be used as an unofficial car park anyway. The proposed removal of the bollards will further assist car parking.
It is important to note that all work for the Petersham Road side of the Town Hall building is Stage 2 & is “subject to further allocations of funds, should Council decide.” In other words, the trees will be removed & we may wait years for the paving & ground level landscaping. Since the community has waited years for work to be done on this important war memorial & for Winged Victory to be returned on two occasions, it is not unfair or unrealistic to think this may take a long time to eventuate or not happen at all.
Without funds being immediately available for the whole project, this may end up being like the avenue of trees from Sydenham Station along Marrickville Road to the Marrickville shopping strip that was promised by a Council vote in 2010, but still remains invisible.
To me this design will pretty up the floor of the site, while removing all the beauty & importantly, habitat. What will happen to the thousands of birds that sleep in these trees? They will have to go somewhere else, to fight out to the death over territories.
Biodiversity is a word Council uses that is cool when they want to do something good for the environment & to be fair, they have done very good things. However, one does not improve biodiversity by removing habitat & replacing it with paving & low hedges.
The only way the tree removal can be stopped is through a rescission motion.
Here is a short video I made of the Town Hall forecourt in 2011. Nothing has changed, including the empty garden beds. See – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFbCp6o0gs8