After three years of disputes Council was last week asked to make a determination on the future of Fitzroy Gardens, with a decision on works to the controversial expanded playground on the site finally put to a vote.
Controversy over Fitzroy Gardens began in 2010 when Lord Mayor Clover Moore proposed that the heritage park in Kings Cross, home to the world renowned El-Alamein Fountain, be redeveloped. The proposal included a plan to expand the children’s playground on the site to almost triple its existing size and fiercely divided the community. After several months of disputes the Council backed down and proposed instead to only undertake minor maintenance works.
Over the following year a new plan was developed and in November last year Council signed off on the final approval for the new playground, still slightly expanded from what currently exists but much more modest than what was initially proposed in 2010. However controversy erupted again this month when the tender we were asked to approve for the playground works showed a site 20% bigger than approved last year.
A 20% size difference in a playground may not sound like much but in Kings Cross, the most densely populated neighbourhood in Australia, it’s become a major issue. The area is home to more families with young children than ever before and this group are passionately pushing for better playground facilities while a group who want to keep the quiet heritage park the way it is are pushing back with just as much passion.
I can see both sides of the argument but ultimately voted in favour of the expanded playground along with the majority of Councillors, however I feel the whole matter could have been much better dealt with.
There is a slightly larger park with much more open space and a lower level of use called Lawrence Hargreaves Reserve literally right across the road from Fitzroy Gardens. This park could easily accommodate playground facilities and a range of other uses and while it was also slated for redevelopment in 2010 when the first, now abandoned, plans for Fitzroy Gardens appeared, it seems to have fallen off the radar entirely since then.
The complete overlooking of Lawrence Hargreaves was disappointing and I hope Council gives it much more serious consideration in the future as demand for playground facilities inevitably rises further.