Friday 27 March 2015

Community Activism on Town Centre Strategy

Camden Community Alliance meeting 25 March 2015
Community activism marked a new turn in developments around the Camden Town Centre Strategy this week when a noisy public meeting was held at the Camden Civic Centre on Wednesday night March 25.

Camden Community Alliance

The meeting was called by the newly formed Camden Community Alliance. The numbers attending, estimated to be around 350, so overwhelmed organisers that the meeting had to be shifted from the Art Gallery to the main hall.

The Camden Community Alliance was first formed up by a group of concerned residents on February 3 with seven people. A decision was taken to proceed and the group made a move to incorporate the new organisation.

The public meeting was opened by Alliance president Peter Versluis and he expressed his appreciation of the overwhelming support shown by the Camden community is such a short time. He outlined the concerns of Alliance members about the community engagement process employed by council towards the Town Centre Strategy. He stated that the council needed to have early community engagement in the process and not hold in camera meetings only involving council staff on policy development. He felt that the 2014 public meetings and workshops were held to rubber stamp pre-existing decisions of council.  He stated that he was proud to be called a disgruntled resident on these issues.

Others who spoke included were Alliance secretary Peter Standen who outlined the purpose of the meeting. Urban planner and member of the Camden Chamber of Commerce Maryann Strickling who detailed the planning issues around the Town Centre Strategy.

Questions were invited from the floor of the meeting and there were many cheers and much clapping to some of the comments and questions.

Peter Versluis read a prepared statement from Camden mayor who gave her apologies and he also outlined the details a meeting he had had with the mayor and council officers earlier in the week.

Political candidates attend meeting

The meeting was also attended by Chris Patterson MLA, Labor candidate Cindy Cagney, Greens candidate Danica Sajn, and Christian Democrats candidate Colin Broadbridge. Councillors attending were Eva Campbell and Greg Chapman.

The audience expressed much passion and anger about many aspects of the Town Centre Strategy and supported a motion from the Alliance for a moratorium on its implementation.

Elements of Town Centre Strategy

Some of the key parts of the strategy involve a decked car park, traffic lights, removal jacarandas in the main street and changes to the street furniture. A trust deficit has opened up between the community and the council around the strategy.

The Town Centre Strategy engagement policy has been vigorously defended by the Camden mayor.

For those interested in good urban planning the strategy is an interesting case study of grass roots democracy in action around trust and effective community engagement.

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