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One set of rainwater tanks tucked into the side of the house. They stand on permeable pavers

Last weekend w went on a Water Sensitive Urban Design tour held by Marrickville Council.  I have written about ‘house number 1’ in a previous post.

House number 2 was also in Lewisham.  This was a large 2-storey terrace & garden owned by Jeni & Alan.  They had a Grevillea growing in the front garden & are able to take advantage of the show of many visiting birds to a tall Grevillea robusta in the garden next door.

Surrounded by trees, this house has been renovated extensively & takes full advantage of the sun. Facing north it was filled with light when we visited. No need for curtains because of natural privacy, but also that the design has made use of the winter sun.  The hot summer sun affects only one window & that is the only window with a blind.  All the windows are double glazed glass which keeps heat out, but also keeps heat in during winter.

They have installed a gas-boosted solar hot water system & a PV solar system for energy.   3 rainwater tanks hold 3,000 litres.  The rain water is used for the washing machine, to flush 2 toilets & to water the garden.

While house number 1 had a more country feel, this house is modern, streamlined & open plan.  They have surrendered nothing in terms of style to make this house sustainable.

They have no air-conditioning system, nor the need or desire for one.  Small louvered windows have been placed in strategic spots to create flow-through breezes while ceiling fans push hot air down in winter & cool the air in summer.  The design of the house makes it cool in summer & warm in winter & is very sensible building in my opinion.

This is another couple with no power bills. The solar panels put them in credit & cancel out their gas bill.  With electricity prices going through the roof, it makes great sense to make the financial outlay if you can because apart from having a miniscule carbon footprint, there are no bills. Well, there are bills, but they say Jeni & Alan are in credit & the power companies owe them money. What a great place to be!

I made a short YouTube video here –

To read Part 1 see ––-part-1/

This was a house of windows & light. Louvered windows of varying sizes were all over the house catching flow-though breezes & releasing hot air

Quite an impact

I had been hearing reports that devastation had happened in front of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Lewisham so we went to have a look for ourselves.  The visual impact to the area is phenomenal. What once was a beautiful stretch of trees along both sides of busy West Street is now a wide gaping hole that looks like a scar.

The lovely historical buildings of St Vincent de Paul Society that front West Street are for the most part brick & sandstone.  In recent years, St Vincent de Paul Society erected a grey glass & steel edifice that is not sympathetic to the surrounding buildings. Things like this are personal taste & I am sure they are happy with the result.  The 31 trees that once fronted this site softened this new building & matched the older buildings.  Together with the trees on the periphery of Petersham Park they created a green corridor along West Street as you came off Parramatta Road.

It is not just the local people who treasure the St Vincent de Paul Society site. I remember when I first saw it in the early 80s when it was still Lewisham Hospital. My reaction was one of stunned, “Wow! This place is gorgeous!”  The many magnificent trees that made up front garden combined with the obviously historical buildings made a strong impression on me.

This gorgeous tree dwarfing the stone arch once provided a grand entrance to the St Vincent de Paul Society complex

Buildings can be beautiful on their own, but most of the time it is the trees that create an atmosphere of wellbeing.  As an example I give the ‘Prayer Garden’ within the St Vincent de Paul Society grounds. I don’t know what this area is called, but it is certainly meant for prayer & contemplation because of the life-size-statue of Jesus, the trees, the landscaping & even the graves tucked into a corner.  If you removed all the trees from this area, it would no longer be a place of contemplation & peace. It would simply be open space between buildings.  This is precisely what has happened at the front of the St Vincent de Paul Society site on West Street.

31 large & mature trees, many with massive trunks, have been removed.  This has exposed the buildings, which now look slightly foreboding, especially the newest grey/glass building.  I acknowledge that this is a matter of personal perception & this is mine.

In place of the trees is a black bitumen driveway & parking spaces. This choice of surface will increase the heat island effect making the area & the buildings hotter in summer.  At the far right there were a grove of Melaleucas & some very big & beautiful Eucalypts that framed the stone arch entrance. They too have gone.  The car park does not come to this area so removing these trees appears to have been done simply to facilitate the rebuilding of the fence.  If St Vincent de Paul Society had wanted to, engineers could have easily replaced the fence & kept the trees.

Instead, the place has been cleared.  Nice little Banksias & Crepe Myrtles have now been planted at wide intervals with other low landscaping plants in a garden bed along the completed section of the new fence.

In my opinion, Marrickville Council let the community down when they passed this DA.  Even though the trees were on private property, the type of property it is means that it has had a long & active history with the community.  The trees were part of the fabric of this Lewisham street & were part of what made Lewisham special.  Most people know of this complex, even if they do not know of its new name & purpose.  What they remember is the beautiful old buildings & the trees.  Question is, are trees valuable enough to be classified part of a community’s history?  I think so, but I am not so naïve to not think that others would disagree with me.

The St Vincent de Paul Society complex is on a main thoroughfare, one block from Parramatta Road. The tall trees with their wide trunks & significant canopy captured & stored much CO2 & particulate matter from passing traffic, preventing this from going into the complex itself, but also further afield into the local community.

The before shot shows the Bandicoot habitat

Then there are the Long-nosed Bandicoots, those small little animals that are classified as ‘endangered species’ & that call this particular patch home.  The presence of Bandicoots is another reason why Marrickville Council should not have passed this DA.   Endangered Species rely on our Councils to preserve & manage their habitat.

The Department of Climate Change, Environment & Water were aghast when I spoke to them last year about the removal of the Long-nosed Bandicoots’ habitat.  I last heard that WIRES was negotiating with St Vincent de Paul Society to retain some habitat so the Bandicoots could continue to survive.  I will contact WIRES to ask what happened.

Marrickville Council now needs to plant street trees on the footpath outside the St Vincent de Paul Society complex.  What is left is a 100 metre long desolate space that is hot, very

A family of Kookaburras lives on the site

windy & not good to look at. It is also noisy as the traffic sounds now bounce back from the buildings. whereas before it was much quieter because the trees muffled the traffic noise.  There are no overhead cables & the footpath is 3 metres wide so tall-growing large canopy trees can be planted.  It would be good if sections of cement could be removed to make long patches of garden greenspace.

It’s difficult to comment about tree removal on private property, though in this case the trees were an integral part of the streetscape & provided habitat for an Australian native animal that has been classified as an endangered species.

There were many in the community who sincerely thought that St Vincent de Paul Society would keep the trees on the far right of the front of the complex for the Bandicoots, especially as they knew the community were very concerned about the loss of their habitat.

I know of a few people who are devastated by the loss of these trees & by how desolate the streetscape of their neighbourhood now looks.  A great chunk of our urban forest has gone & there may be more as I understand St Vincent de Paul Society intend to remove other large Eucalypts throughout the complex.

I have put up a 1.27-minute YouTube of the front of the St Vincent de Paul Society & the streetscape here if you are interested –

I last wrote about this DA here –

1. Marrickville Councillors will be voting on a DA soon which will see the demolition of 2 houses built in the 1920’s at 34-36 Piggott St Dulwich Hill, the conversion of the original area manor house built in the early 1880’s as well as the loss of 15 mature trees to build a 3 & 4 storeys development overlooking Hoskins Park.  The local community is rallying to prevent this development. They believe the DA has many negative impacts on the community as well as destroying a green corridor & the green outlook of Hoskins Park.  It is DA 201000022 & can be accessed via Council’s web-site.

2. The Manly Daily reported last week that Warringah Council removed a much-loved palm tree planted on the verge in Forestville without consulting the community. Interestingly, a cross was spray-painted on the tree’s trunk a few days before it

What is the purpose of these symbols?

was chopped down.  I note similar strange rune-like markings sprayed on a couple of the Hills Figs in Carrington Road Marrickville South.  Were these put there by Council?  Are Marrickville Council intending to remove these trees?  I seem to remember 1 Fig tree was agreed to be removed for the new development which has recently commenced.

3. I wrote in the post Tempe Wetlands protest & trees at risk in Tempe that I would try to get further information about the mature trees at risk at the State Rail land in Edgar Street Tempe.  Kerry, a local resident kindly left a comment (see comment roll) saying “I believe they (the trees) are under threat by the 27 townhouse development going in on the land next to the railway line.  An underground car park & water tank retention system is to be built along the boundary line with the railway.  At no stage have these trees been mentioned by the DA or State Rail or Marrickville Council’s tree officer.”

4. Sydney is getting it’s own 5.8 hectare Central Park at the old Carlton & United Brewery site at Broadway. This is a huge boon for the community on may levels & for Sydney’s urban wildlife.–thats-sydney-not-manhattan-20100209-notw.html

5. A little old as it was published last November.  Hornsby Council intends to plant tree-lined boulevards with a councilor suggesting council create ‘immediate’ boulevards by planting trees which are already 4-5 metres tall.  Wonderful if it happens & maybe cost effective considering the high loss of saplings Hornsby Council also experience.

new street trees - hanging baskets & planter box

6.  City of Sydney Council recently planted numerous young trees along Glebe Point Road & some side streets.  They used a porous hard substance to cover larger than average planting holes.  The new street tree planting resulted in instant & significant greening of this already green street.  Because of their size, I doubt they will be vandalized.  It looks terrific.

7. The Star Tribune reported that a woman in Eden Prairie USA took to a tree service worker with a shot-gun to stop him chopping down a tree.  We should never have this kind of action here.

8. The Home Owners Association in San Diego California will chop down in excess of 200 mature Eucalypts because 1 fell on a house recently. The residents are campaigning to prevent the removal of the trees saying they are prepared to live with the risk.  You can read the story & watch a video which is an interesting look at their urban environment.

9. World Forestry day is coming up on 21 March 2010.   Many countries plant thousands of trees on this day.  I don’t know as yet whether our Council is participating. The NSW Department of Industry & Investment has a range of activities planned –

10. Lastly, the NSW Department of Climate Change & Water has a great resource about threatened species which may be of interest to those of you are concerned about the Bandicoots at Lewisham. &

SoT concentrates on trying to save, preserve & protect healthy trees in public spaces, yet sometimes the loss of trees on private property deserves mention. Generally most residents of Marrickville LGA are unaware of the loss of the older, perhaps historic trees unless they are directly affected or when they recognise that ‘something’ in a particular area has changed.  The presence of trees is something we take for granted & it is often only if they all go & the landscape is radically changed that we recognise their loss.

I have decided to document the loss of our big older trees or when a mass of trees are removed regardless of whether they were situated on private property or not.  This post informs of a recent loss & one that is about to occur.

In September 09, 2 heritage listed 77 year old Fig trees, 1 other Fig tree, which were alive & growing in 1943, 1 mature Plane tree & 2 mature Eucalypts were chopped down in Ferncourt Primary School Marrickville South to make way for the building of a school hall as part of the Federal Government’s stimulus program.  The loss of these trees caused much grief to those in the community who know about it.  The community tried to find solutions that would enable all the trees to be retained, but their efforts were unsuccessful.  You can read about these trees & see photos at the following – Thanks to Voren a local resident who sent me the link to her blog.

I understand all the trees visible in this photograph are to be removed - still more trees are out of shot

Last Tuesday 2nd February 2010 the Labor & Independent councillors voted to approve a DA for the St Vincent’s de Paul State Office 2C West Street Lewisham.  Many of you will know it as the old Lewisham Hospital site.  It is situated across the road from Petersham Park with its lovely oval, numerous old, very special trees & the Fanny Durak Pool. The DA was seeking to demolish an existing brick & stone fence, remove 32 31 mature trees & construct a new fence, driveway & landscaping.  The trees that are to be removed give the feeling of a tree-lined avenue as they match those on the opposite side of the road in size & were probably planted at around the same time so their loss is going to have major visual impact. 3 Palms will be relocated.

The whole St Vincent’s de Paul site is heritage listed, including the fence.  The DA said:

  • the existing fence does not provide sufficient security for residents of an aged-care facility & a woman’s refuge on site.
  • the fence is also suffering structural problems due to the height of the soil inside the property & the presence of mature trees, both of which have caused the brickwork to move & lean outward in some parts.

row of trees which will be chopped down - I have been told Bandicoots live here

While I agree with both points, after going to the site & having a look, I believe that the removal of the trees is unnecessary unless the aim is to get a more modern, streamlined effect to match the new shiny glass black building.

The fence is bowing outwards.  The ground is built up on the inside of the fence.  This looks to be deliberate & would have been in place for many decades. I wonder why they just cannot remove the old brick fence, built a new, higher one to improve the security & replace any soil dislodged during construction of the new fence.  If they do this, they will be able to retain most if not all of the trees.

This tree will be chopped down - it has a massive trunk

St Vincent’s de Paul intends to replace the 32 trees with a mix of lawn, low scale planting, screen planting & Crepe Myrtle, Tuckeroo & Summer Red Gums. I think they want to do this to modernise the place & perhaps allow more onsite parking.

The trees to be removed are decades old.  I would guess around 80 years.  Most have massive trunks (2-3 metres) & as such are significant sequesters of CO2.

The front of the Lewisham complex looks a mess at the moment because there is building work happening & the front & side of the property has a cement barrier erected to prevent pedestrians being flattened by any part of the fence if it decides to collapse.  However, when you enter the property, the noise immediately abates because the trees block a lot of the traffic noise.  It is cool, visually pretty & smells nice.  It is a relaxing place despite the construction work.

another very large tree due to be chopped down

Enter past the front buildings & further into the property & you come across one of Sydney’s hidden gems.  There is a contemplation garden complete with life-size religious statues, a small cemetery, old hand-made stone seats tucked into raised garden beds, a variety of mature trees & an old fashioned & very beautiful garden.  Birds, insects & lizards are everywhere.  Further in there is a school with 3 massive trees with huge natural canopies that shade the playground.  There are also many heritage buildings with curved silo-like attachments, a gigantic copper dome & an enormous & exquisitely beautiful sandstone church. The

this beautiful tree is to go as well

complex is dotted with enormous Eucalypts & other trees, all of them mature.

Two families of Bandicoots live on the property.  I was told the Bandicoots live “out front & in the trees along Thomas Street.” Where will these animals go when their homes are removed? The animals can’t just cross the road & take up

3 Kookaburras live in the trees which are to be chopped down.

residence in Petersham Park because animals are territorial & other animals probably won’t allow them to move in even if the conditions are right.

The St Vincent’s de Paul complex is a green oasis that provides significant habitat for wildlife one block from the heavily trafficked Parramatta Road & about 6 kms from Sydney CBD.  It’s not that I think everything should stay the same & there should be no progress, but sometimes progress can ruin something very special.



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