THE tussle over green space in the older areas of Bathurst is about to heat up as the Friends of Centennial Park group move to ensure that the historic precinct remains intact.
The group has concerns that Bathurst Regional Council may look to a greenfield site to bring its vision for a new community arts complex to fruition.
It was only late last week that Bathurst mayor Gary Rush revealed council had started what could be a decade-long savings plan to pay for the initiative, with $5 million in “seed funding” being put aside in the 2016-17 management plan.
While only in its very early days of planning, possible options put forward by the mayor included a total makeover of the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre (BMEC), redevelopment of the former TAFE site in William Street or even a greenfield site.
Vianne Tourle from Friends of Centennial Park stressed yesterday local parks are not development sites in waiting.
“We have concerns about Mayor Rush’s comments in Friday’s Western Advocate that the council may consider a greenfield site for a new cultural centre,” she said.
Fiona Green lives right next to Centennial Park and, as a member of the group, noted it had been previously mentioned as a target for council development.
“We are asking for confirmation that it will not be developed for this proposal,” Ms Green said.
“Parks are not development sites in waiting. Centennial Park is precious open space for the Bathurst community. This is especially true with the increased housing density in the precinct.
“The Friends of Centennial Park want to work with the council to enhance the space for Bathurst residents. We’re very pleased the council has provided signs with the park’s name.
“Now we’re looking to council to continue to engage with the suggestions made by hundreds of residents in the 2014 survey regarding enrichment of this treasured park.
“The cultural story of this park holds an important place in Bathurst history. It has been a designated public reserve for 200 years and been known as Centennial Park since 1887.”
Ms Green said that building a one-stop-shop for culture is an attitude that belongs in the 1950s.
“You don’t invent culture. It exists already in the history, buildings and people of this town. We should invest in the unique, existing cultural spaces in the centre of town rather than building away.
“The TAFE building is a perfect combination of great location and already a part of the rich history and personality of our city. Even walking through the park to work is what life in Bathurst is about. Centennial Park is an important asset to be endowed to future generations.”
Ms Tourle said that for two years the group had been asking council to allocate funds in its budget to preserve the parks we have as green space.
“It’s certainly an issue,” she said. “Once the park’s gone – it’s gone. You can’t undo concrete.
“Whenever I drive past the park there’s people there using it. A survey we conducted in 2014 found the vast majority of people want Centennial Park kept as open space. We believe it should have a minimal amount of development such as plantings, shady places to sit and a collection of wonderful trees planted.”