Your submission on the Design Framework for Laman St and Civic Park 21.2.2011

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Submissions about Newcastle City Council’s draft Design Framework on Laman Street and the Civic Precinct are due on 28th February 2011. This post lists some questions worth considering.

Obviously the crucial issue is that the framework document was written months before the community were able to counter the risk assessments made for council about the Laman Street figs. This means that even though elected councillors voted in December to retain the trees and to replace the four taken out after the 2007 storm, this is not mentioned in the document.

When it comes to letting council know what we think, the rule is the more the merrier. If all people write is ‘I want the Laman Street figs to be part of any changes made to this area’ – in your own words, of course – that’s fantastic.

However, there some other issues in the document that I worry about. Here’s my list:

The draft framework depicts what looks like most of the current trees removed from the park and replaced with smaller trees planted in double rows, around an open paved area representing a ‘festival’ end of the park. The other half of the park is depicted as the commemorative part.

Is more shade, more trees, retaining grass important to you? Do you like the informal planting we have now? Would you like to see healthy mature trees retained for as long as possible? Are keeping our city cool, minimising stormwater runoff , reducing the heat island effect important factors for you? Is comfort in summer important?

Would you like to see succession planting of trees? Some of this exists already, with young Hill’s figs at the Darby Street and King Street sides of the park.

Do we actually need a space in Civic Park for festivals? Do we need another such space when we have Wheeler Place, the foreshore, Nobbys and the No 2 Sportsground (in the near future)?

It talks about joining all the memorials together which means obliterating the work of something like 50 organisations responsible for creating the memorial grove at the corner of Darby and Laman Streets.

Mention was made at the charette, but not in the draft framework, of ‘antisocial behaviour’ in the Memorial Grove. If these are what put the current position of the grove at risk, are there other ways of discouraging this? Could we encourage visitors and foot traffic through the grove by, say, informative signage celebrating the Lone Pine, the first Australian Vietnam War Memorial and the beautiful RAAF eagle statue to protect the feel of the grove? Could we remove some of the low plantings from the western side of the grove to open up sightlines between the grove and the rest of the park?

Would you like to see a new Lone Pine clone planted somewhere in the park?

The framework makes mention of creating an amphitheatre at the Darby Street end of the park. What do you think about this? (I know what I think…)

It talks about the ‘risk’ of the fig trees which predates the critique of council’s risk assessments and the change in focus to one of preservation. It may be important to mention that Council should question its risk assessments.
It mentions the possible introduction of cafes in the park, either run by St Andrew’s church or at the entrance to the library.

It alludes to having an entrance to the library in the park with a walkway that extends under Laman Street. Could this be done without damaging the fig trees? (No.)

Mention is made of opening up the former tunnel near the gardener’s shed under Laman Street for a bicycle track.

Drawings hint at a wall separating Laman Street from the park, which would appear to have the possible effect of compromising the figs.

A double row of fig trees in Laman Street was important in council’s heritage assessment of  the area – is it important to you? Prior to the preservation approach being taken, a single replacement row of trees in Laman Street was planned.

The environmental assessment of the street made the point that endangered/vulnerable urban wildlife live or feed in the street and park trees. Is supporting urban wildlife a factor you’d want to mention?

Would you like a children’s play area?  This doesn’t have to be of the plastic/primary colour variety. It could be a sculpture that children climb on. At present children climb on the rocks around the dracaenas.

Would you like more signage for, say, tourists?

Would you like more seating or more tables?

Would you like some public art?

Would you like to see the toilets redesigned/moved/safer?

Would you like a say in which tree species are planted? Neither the draft framework nor the charette addressed this issue in any detail.

Would you like the street closed to traffic, returned to the way it used to be or would you like a ‘shared’ zone in which cars are limited to 10km/hour as in the Hunter Street mall?

Could Baptist church vehicles access the street for funerals via the Dawson Street end of Laman Street?

Would you like to see a sculpture garden in front of the Art Gallery?

And these last issues weren’t specifically in the draft framework but what do you think about the garbage bins? Should they have guards/surrounds/screens that make them look attractive? And what do you think about the council caravan and container at the Darby St/Laman St corner that has been in place for over a year now?) Cheers. Home

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