Manly Council is crashing through with their controversial oval car park/Whistler St redevelopment plan.
Strong opposition at the August general meeting (10/8/15), from a packed and angry public gallery and all four non-Liberal councillors, was ignored by the Liberal council block.
A vaguely-worded resolution for GM Henry Wong to “provide information to the public” about progress so far from the Expressions of Interest process was passed at the last meeting, despite outrage from the public gallery.
The full page ad in Saturday’s Manly Daily, and the new www.manly2015 webpage and E-Newsletter, is presumably the result.
But it doesn’t tell us anything much.
There are lots of pretty pictures (see above) and reassuring PR blurb. There’s also a new slogan - Manly2015 has become Revitalise Manly Beyond The Corso. But there are no hard facts. Nor is there a mention anywhere that the proposed car park has been reduced in size, therefore making it more 'affordable'.
What specifically is being proposed? Where will the traffic go? How much will it cost?
Good For Manly Councillor, Candy Bingham, who has been working tirelessly for more transparency around the process, is particularly concerned that the size of the Oval Car park has reduced dramatically, with no public input. "This proposal was initially sold on the fact that it would increase parking in Manly. We now find that in fact if will only replace what we already have, in a less convenient location with a large operations price tag", she said.
Major changes in the “vision” are not pointed out. Now, for example, the oval car park is a 500 car space affair. The plan used to be for 740 spots.
Cr Barbara Aird summed it up: “You can’t spin it anymore - this plan will not pedestrianise our CBD as was the original vision.”
The one voice of support came from Manly Chamber of Commerce president Mark Stanley. But he hedged his bets when asked if the Chamber supported the new smaller car park plan.
"Provided the car park can be scaled up and funds are available to do that, we're in support,” he said.
Specifically asked if Chamber members had been told the car park size had shrunk, he later admitted they had not.
Now the redevelopment of the Whistler Street site is being sold as a 'community benefit' on the basis of a 99 year lease to developers to demolish the car park and build more shops and apartments on the site. The Library will be rebuilt or refurbished as part of the deal.
This is serious. It will change our village centre for ever. Same goes for our heritage oval and “village green”. Many are questioning if the community benefits will deliver what the community actually wants.
The liberals say the project will be “cost neutral” and there will be “no need for a long term loan”.
But Good For Manly’s financial analysis experts say the figures - such as we have seen - don’t stack up.
A project as important as this can not be run by a council that takes any alternative view as a personal insult. Or that deliberately hides the facts, claiming convenient “commercial in confidence” constraints.
Or as Mayor Jean Hay kindly summed it up to the public gallery at last week's Council meeting: the more opposition there is the more determined we are.
These are the same people who were hell bent on selling off public-owned waterfront land at Little Manly Beach, until the Land & Environment Court made them stop. They are now building an ugly, over-size and over budget indoor leisure facility at the local swim centre. It’s way bigger than anyone wants and it’s trashing and encroaching on Graham Reserve along the way. And of course, no updated financials or progress reports have been provided, not even to the Councillors.
The “flagship” redevelopment of Short St/Manly Plaza is a flop, with beautification promises not being followed through. The Raglan St upgrade seems to be going the same way, with local retailers now being charged the same rates as The Corso for outdoor seating - even though the pedestrian traffic is minimal.
There’s a council election next year. Stop everything until then. After-all the Liberals do not have a mandate to go ahead. None of these massive Manly2015 projects were even mentioned in their election materials!
Candy Bingham, Former Councillor Manly Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.