It’s a common experience: being asked for feedback on Council proposals, providing considered opinions, and then feeling as though you just haven’t been heard.
Many Moonee Ponds and Essendon residents felt this very profoundly with respect to the Buckley St underpass over the past few years. It doesn’t always feel as though decision makers are interested in alternative views, or the lived experiences of residents.
Flemington residents are currently being asked to provide feedback on concept designs for a $40 million Community Hub on Debney’s Park.
Some residents, including me, have been involved in several stages of consultation. We’ve provided all sorts of feedback about what we love about the park, and how we use it.
To date, our feedback seems to have fallen on deaf ears, particularly with respect to the location of the community hub.
Worse, it seems that any criticism or interrogation is seen as residents just being ‘whingey’ or ‘negative’ – or not being grateful for Council wanting to spend big in one area.
When Council proposes to spend $40 million, we need to be sure it’s being spent wisely. This, surely, means consulting widely, carefully, and listening to residents’ views.
Some residents might point out things that architects, focused on built form, don’t see from a user’s perspective.
Some residents might have fantastic and creative alternative ideas.
Just because residents don’t like some aspects of a design, or have different views about how money can be spent, doesn’t mean residents are ‘negative’ and should be dismissed.
The attention on Debney’s Park is a fantastic opportunity to improve the area – but there’s much about the open space, trees and parkland that also needs to be cared for and protected – this is precious open space. We need to get the balance right.
Over the next six weeks, residents are being asked for feedback on three Concept Designs for a single building to serve as a community hall, sports stadium, learning facility and sports pavilion.
All concept designs locate the building on, what is currently, the most peaceful, protected, safest, most beautiful part of Debney’s Park.
Two of the concept designs have a road cutting through the park from Mt Road to the community Hub.
One of the designs has no access road to the hub – which seems to overlook the needs of people with disabilities, or services and maintenance.
None of the designs are located at the site of the current centre and car-park, which is easily accessible for trams and trains and provides a buffer between the park and the busy road and freeway.
Council voted on Tuesday night to ask residents for our views. I just hope that Council listens to the views that we give them.
The Flemington Association and others will be at the Flemington Farmers’ Market, the community centre, the library and other places in Flemington to help explain the proposals and help residents navigate the online feedback forms.
Obviously, there’ll be a range of views amongst community members about how Council spends ‘our’ community money.
If you use Debney’s Park, or might use it, or a new Hub, in the future, please take the time to look at the concept designs and provide Council with feedback on how it can build facilities in Flemington that will be fabulous for residents for the next century, while also looking after precious parkland, and not putting roads through parks and playgrounds.
Note: The models pictured are made to scale following the plans and options as accurately as possible. There may be some inaccuracies. The yellow buildings on the estate are permitted under Amendment C177. They are to scale with reference to the existing high-rise buildings – which are also as close to scale as possible.