SOS - Save Our Stairs (before the 11th March 2018!)
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North Sydney Council has planned a major upgrade of the stairs leading from Waiwera Street to Watt Park. This has been done without recent community consultation or notifying local residents; with Council justification being simply that the current stairs are no longer BCA compliant. We are unsure if the proper procedures (as outlined in the Local Government Act 1993) have been adhered to; as no-one who is across the project is available to provide the community with further information until after the date the project is due to commence, despite repeated requests. Given the recent independent Public Inquiry into North Sydney Council, and the Performance Improvement Order issued in 2014, this is of particular concern.
These stairs are within a park that is heritage listed, encompassed within a Conservation Area. The landscape contains both a natural sandstone amphitheatre and a number of mature trees; and is home to various species of native Australian wildlife, most of which are protected by law (including the Australian brush turkey, bats, magpies, parrots, and possums). North Sydney Council's proposal to remove the current concrete and sandstone staircase, in favour of a suspended steel staircase, will irreparably damage the beauty of this park. Additionally, the council has (currently undisclosed) plans for adding retaining walls, removal of overgrown planting, provision of additional planting, and installation of handrails and lighting. This will destroy the aesthetic of the park, which currently has a natural Australian bushland feel (unusual for the high density area that is North Sydney, and different in character to other parks in the area). This is part of what attracts visitors, particularly those from overseas, to the park. Residents who live around the park are also likely to be impacted by changes to the staircase, including the ability for the general public to see directly into surrounding apartments. Waiwera Street is already a narrow, one-way street; this modification could also adversely affect local traffic.
Watt Park already has several points of access, including via Lavender Crescent (vehicles and access for those with limited mobility); via staircases adjacent to Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden; and level access via the boardwalk near Luna Park. Additional access to the Lavender Bay foreshore is also available in the form of BCA compliant steps at the bottom of King George Street (a 150m walk from the Waiwera Street steps).
We are calling on North Sydney Council to immediately halt planned major works (scheduled to commence on 15th January 2018); and perform a minor safety upgrade only to the current stairs after consultation with the local community. These stairs should retain their historical character; and remain an access route that blends in to the surrounding natural and built environment.
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