Our say | Sport clubs and residents all need to share

THE same residents who now fear being locked out of George Park were very nearly locked out of all discussions about the planned redevelopment as well.

When the master plan for the five-stage, $6.4 million redevelopment of the sporting precinct went before council two weeks ago, the recommendation was for councillors to rubber stamp the plan and move on.

It was only after a personal plea to councillors from Professor David Goldney that it was decided to put the plan on public display for 28 days to invite some feedback.

And Professor Goldney was only made aware of the master plan when the Western Advocate published an article in the days leading up to the meeting.

Without that article, it’s very likely that the first residents living near George Park would have known of the redevelopment would have been when the heavy machinery moved in to disrupt their morning walk.

And yet, council would still argue it did engage in public consultation before releasing the master plan.

A number of George Park user groups – including the Bathurst Bushrangers, Bathurst Giants and Central West AFL, Bathurst District Cricket Association and Bathurst District Sports and Recreation Council – were asked for their input and their feedback played a key role in determining the plan’s priorities.

And that’s as it should be, but council does no-one any favours by forgetting another key user group in the nearby residents.

Perhaps it was just an oversight but there needs to be a formal acknowledgment that council-owned facilities cannot be the sole domain of local sporting clubs.

But one concern is that residents might not give the playing surfaces the same respect assporting users. Cricket pitches, in particular, require special attention and no curator would like the idea of hundreds of feet walking across their turf each day.

Similarly, sporting clubs would worry that the playing fields could also be damaged by improper use, just as we saw at the new St Pat’s rugby league grounds earlier this year when hoons did circle work on the freshly-laid field.

But that is an issue of simple respect, and respect must run two ways.

Neighbouring residents must respect the sporting facilities and sporting clubs must respect their neighbours.

It can’t be that hard – and at least there is still time for all voices to be heard.