PARRAMATTA COUNCIL TO KNOCK HOLES IN CONVICT BUILT BRIDGE

Occasionally you get wind of a heritage story so awful, so plainly ridiculous, that it almost defies belief except as part of some elaborate joke. The proposed demolition of Griffith House at St George Hospital as well as the Thompson Square debacle are two that have come to light recently. Well, sadly, pray tell, here is another, and this one may yet take the cake.

It regards a stately convict built bridge from the early days of Parramatta, a colonial settlement along the Parramatta River which has long since been enveloped to become part of the greater city of Sydney. Lennox Bridge, so named after David Lennox, the first superintendent of bridges, is a single arch sandstone structure built by convict labour between 1836 and 1839. It is the third oldest road bridge in NSW and takes pride of place on the state heritage register. Under these circumstances, one would think protection of the bridge in its current form would stand without question. Despite this, Parramatta Council has unveiled an absurd proposal to drill 3 metre holes in each side of the structure to allow access for pedestrians and cyclists for what it calls “an active and engaging Parramatta River foreshore, which can be enjoyed by everybody, while also celebrating the heritage values of the Bridge”. In reality, it will go a long way to service and market the sale of the planned 111 million dollar Meriton apartment and retail development, allowing them to generate pretty 3-D animations of little plastic people running along the lovely banks of the river to and from their very liveable Meriton apartments through the heritage listed sandstone bridge that Meriton has just helped to partially demolish by cutting 3m squares out of.

Meriton Happy-ville, where hertitage is just a convenient backdrop.
image Parramatta Council

Barry O’Farrell’s RMS is behind the Development Application that will go before Parramatta Council once again in December 2012. The DA received 141 submissions against it despite the complete lack of public consultation and the fact that only local residents were allowed to comment, a ridiculous enclosure of a state significant matter. In a slap to the face at all levels of government, the plan is being undertaken with a federal grant, while the state government Heritage Council has just endorsed the proposal despite stating themselves that it was “visually intrusive” and the work would “seriously and irrevocably compromise” the original masonry workmanship of the bridge. Lawrence Nield, the Heritage Council chairman, was quoted in the SMH as saying that the bridge in its current form “is just a dead end where only old cans and cigarette butts go”. And that, from the chairman of the state’s highest heritage office, my-oh-my… (Not quite sure what his angle is here but perhaps he thinks pedestrians walking through the new tunnels will be picking up pieces of rubbish as they pass thereby lessening the impact of litter around the bridge).

Clearly this proposal, should it go ahead, treats important landmark heritage in NSW with disdain, makes a joke of the Heritage Council, the Heritage Branch and the entire state heritage list as an institution. Why have listings at all if a council is allowed to go ahead and literally punch holes in these irreplaceable heritage items for their own short term election goals to please developers who see these schemes as a good way to sell more units. Is that what we are coming to? This is convict history, this is our third oldest road bridge in NSW, this is not some random piece of infrastructure that can be added to or knocked down or cut through to make a cycleway fit. There are always alternatives, and clever governments, both local and state, would find a way around these things. Leave the damn bridge alone, and keep as much history of old Parramatta in tact as possible, as it was intended. Meriton apartments come and go, but convict built heritage is a treasure for us all and must remain untouched and protected.

These protestors need your help.
Image Parramatta Sun.

Send your disapproval to Parramatta council and the NSW Heritage Council now.

Top picture Australian Photography Forum, Richard W.

Follow this link to the Greater Western Sydney Heritage Action Group

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18 responses to “PARRAMATTA COUNCIL TO KNOCK HOLES IN CONVICT BUILT BRIDGE”

  1. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    Thank you for bringing the attention to our project Save the Lennox Bridge, you might look at the design that has been passed for the Meriton development alongside the 1836 Bridge, you told it as it is in your article and yes your are correct, if this goes ahead, it will be a disaster for our Heritage. You might also look at the appointees of the Parramatta Park Trust, the Windsor Bridge buildings were dropped off the State Heritage Register, I wonder why? There are many issues in Western Sydney, the planning issue will be huge, the people of Australia rely on people such as yourselves to inform the wider community of the real problems that face our heritage and planning, the Greater Western Heritage Action Group wish to thank you. The problem is both in local and state governments is that councilors and members of Parliament rely on advisors, they only receive a glossy looking side, it is not strictly true but they get away with this because the amount of paper work is so great it can be daunting. The GWSHAG has been emailing the Parramatta City Councillors with the facts, this allows them to make a sound judgement with the correct version of the truth.Kind regards June M Bullivant OAM

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Thank you for your group’s work. The work you do now cannot be understated for the benefit of future Australians. Convict remnants such as this need to be protected in tact at all costs. The proposed alterations are nothing short of vandalism.

  2. damian says :

    it is indeed an attractive bridge and a part of the local history. but it is also good to remember that a bridge is a utilitarian structure designed to help people get around. by adding these tunnels thru the bridge it actually increases its usefulness making it easier for more people to get around more easily. exactly what a bridge should be used for.

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Point taken Damian. I too am a keen walker and cyclist, and can see the benefit of allowing through traffic along the bank. However, the heritage level of this particular bridge is FAR too great and as such should not be altered in any way, especially by cutting 3m holes through it. Remember we are talking about convict built masonry, our third oldest bridge (has been reported as second oldest but my research tells me it is third), it is an irreplaceable structure. And let’s not forget that once you add a 21st century tunnel, you will then by law required to add lighting around the entrances and within, safety signage stating ‘low clearance, watch for pedestrians, etc…’ and what the so-called planners are totally overlooking here is that pedestrians and cyclists riding 40km/h in a tight tunnel don’t really mix together very well. At Botany Bay as in the city they have had to create separate pathways for cyclists due to ‘shared path rage’. Does this mean we would later need another two tunnels cut through to accommodate separate paths, these are questions we should be asking now before we destroy this bridge for the sake of modern-day ‘accessibility’. If a tunnel must be built, why not create portals that sink into the ground far in front of the bridge, satisfying thoroughfare while retaining the bridge as it is.

  3. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    The NSW Government, Barry O’Farrell The enviroment Minister Robyn Parker, The Planning Minister Brad Hazzard, The Heritage Council of NSW, Professor Lawrence Nield (Chair), Sharon Sullivan (Deputy Chair),Colin Rockliff , Julie Bindon, David Logan,Josephine Wing will go down in History for all to see if the Parramatta City Council make a decision to put portals in the State Heritage Listed Lennox B
    ridge in Parramatta. No State Heritage Listed item will be safe from these people. They are not listening to the historians who are asking them to go around the bridge, they are just using words like “adaptive reuse” “integrated development” when they mean “destroy”. The decisions made so far are disrespectful to not only “Colonial History and Aboriginal History” but they are disrespectful to “Australian History” Newspaper headlines will scream their names for all to see, they will go down in history for destroying our heritage by destroying the Lennox, I don’t care how many fancy buzz words they use, they mean destroy.

    • Dorothy Warwick says :

      As someone who is very interested in the history of Parramatta and its surrounds, I find it abominable that this proposal has reached the point that it has. There is something wrong with the planning system that allows a company like Meriton, who has the $$$’s to possibly influence decisions, come up with a plan to build two apartment buildings, that because of their size are considered to be of ‘state significance’ purely on their size and cost.

      Has anyone even LOOKED at how the drivers of the 597 cars proposed to be parked in this development are going to get in and out of their respective buildings?????? Parramatta is a disaster area at any time of the day NOW – what is it going to be like if this goes through? ABSOLUTE GRIDLOCK!!

      That the proposal can by-pass Parramatta Council and go straight to the Dept. Planning for approval is wrong. These apartment buildings are totally out of character for the Parramatta CBD and go against the conditions of the World Heritage listing for the Parramatta Park precinct – being in the line of sight of Old Government House.

      I believe there is much more to this proposal – both Meriton and Parramatta Council have a vested interest in seeing the portals go through. As entities who own property along the foreshore that is marked for redevelopment, they stand to gain financially from this proposal.

      I believe that alternatives can be found for providing access to the western side of the bridge and these have not been fully investigated.

      We are asking that the portals be diverted through the proposed developments by Meriton and the Council so that the original fabric of the bridge remains intact.

      We are not against SENSIBLE development, and can see the advantages of a pedestrian throughfare BUT NOT AT THE ExPENSE OF THIS ICONIC BRIDGE! The Mayor has admitted that the link to the rest of the riverbank pathways may take 20 years – so why the haste to push through the Lennox Bridge NOW??

      This proposal makes a joke of the whole State Heritage Listing process – for if this goes through, how safe are our other Listed items? Not very, by the look of it.

      We must fight to save what Heritage items we have left, so that we have more than just photographs to hand down to future generations to show ‘what used to be’. It may be a cliche, but it still holds true – “HANDS OFF OUR HERITAGE!”

      • inheritanceorg says :

        You make the point well Dorothy and June, I couldn’t agree more. There are two very questionable issues at stake here. The Meriton building is a gross overdevelopment for the area in itself that should never have been passed. These massive developments are starting to occur all over Sydney under so-called State Significant status (see my stories on Cronulla Sharks and Kogarah Mecca developments June 2012). This as we can now all see has become a thinly veiled borderline planning dictatorship, bypassing all conventional processes. Barry O’Farrell’s state government intend to extend state planning powers bypassing councils and residents altogether in what will become a free-for-all for developers in NSW. It is not only a national disgrace but an extremely dangerous precedent to allow all of our current heritage protection, all of our standing zoning requirements, and all of our planning protocols to be hijacked by this obviously developer-friendly Liberal state government, especially considering Barry O’Farrell was elected on the self described pretext of ‘handing planning powers back to the people’. What a complete liar this man is.
        We now find ourselves in the frightening position of not only being overdeveloped completely and utterly as a city, but also losing much of our previously protected and much loved heritage architecture, including this wonderful bridge. Only we as determined citizens can turn this around, by campaigning, by sending emails and letters, by protesting. The governments have all abandoned us on this issue, betrayed us and our country. We owe it to our future generations to fight this toxicity currently rife in our system. How they can live with it is one question, but can we live with it if we just sit and watch it happen, that is another.

  4. Kevin Shaw says :

    Surely the heritage bridge can be saved by the simple expedient of replacing the steps up to street level with ramps and providing two pedestrian crossings on Church Street. I cannot imagine how anyone would think it is acceptable to weaken the bridge’s approach structures by cutting tunnels through them.

    • June M Bullivant OAM says :

      That would be too simple a solution for these money hungry developers, how many mates are going to work on the development

      • June M Bullivant OAM says :

        Oh and by the way, the Meriton is standing on a flood plain which is once a year, if it was anyone else that would not be able to build, I feel sorry for the tennants, I am sure that their cars will float out of there.

  5. G Simpson says :

    As a young child in Parramatta I remember climbing into the Lennox Bridge through a hole at the base of the sandstone wall on the northern side and then through a small maze of dugouts in the bridge with candles. Rumours were around that it was used by convicts to hide but this was early 1970’s

    • June M Bullivant OAM says :

      Pierre Esber, Councillor on Parramatta City Council and Alan Overton a well know Parramatta identity also remembers using the galleries inside, one was hiding from his parents and smoking.

    • david says :

      I also spent time in that hole you could climb up in there it was dark and a smell of gas would be present but i use to lite a candle as a young kid of about 12 -14 yrs old it was my peace of mind that tunnel i loved being there by myself i never told anybody i whent there it was my secret darkness and my sanctuary as a young child to escape my problems in my younger years it really helped me pull through life i now am 45yrs old and have my own buisness i would never have imagined i would make it through so please dont touch this icon that has helped so many lives just for your income .

  6. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    Dear Councillors, this is the Conservation Report from the Roads and Maritime Services Dated 5 August 2012. The Statement of Heritage Impact prepared by NBRS+PARTNERS, has played down the true significance of the Bridge, both to the Heritage Council of NSW and Parramatta City Council. If the decision to destroy goes ahead we believe that Parramatta will lose an Australian Icon of truly magnificent engineering. It can never be replaced, it does not matter what is done after that, it will never be the same. The people who support this development form will go down in history. Kind regards June on behalf of the Greater Western Sydney Action Group.

    http://archive.is/777o

    http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=5051414

    Page 4 of the Statement of Heritage Impact states – The current condition of the original building fabric of the bridge is modified-Not so see RMS Heritage & Conservation Register Item 4300301 which describes it as a rare example of early nineteenth century civil engineering technology. The original portion of the bridge is significant as one of the foremost examples of the work of the colony’s first Superintendent of Bridges, David Lennox.

    The development will have a Major Impact on the original fabric.

    The original sandstone is to be removed and stored pending future replacement making the development reversible – Fact Parramatta City Council has just applied to have a huge amount of sandstone at the Morton Street depot taken off the LEP because they did not know where it came from.

    The NBRS+PARTNERS report also state that the decision to destroy the original fabric will not set a precedent – It will, every other State Listed Heritage item in Parramatta LGA is at risk from property developers and modern architects.

    The proposed portals will have a significant impact of the original fabric, and also a major visual impact.

    The Parramatta Heritage Branch has suggested that Council consider a crossing under Church Street might be possible in future development of neighbouring sites.

    This development is a major demolition of a rare example of our early colonial heritage.

    The proposed development will destroy the heritage significance of the bridge.

  7. Dorothy Warwick says :

    You will be disappointed to learn that tonight, Parramatta Councillors passed the DA to put portals through the Lennox Bridge.

    The motion to pass the application was passed by 8 votes for and 5 against, with one councillor having to abstain from voting.

    A disappointing result for the bridge and for those of us who cherish our heritage.

    It was also an eye opener for those who were present, to see the behaviour and lack of sheer good manners demonstrated by some of these elected members of the community.

    I truly fear for the future of Parramatta with this council at the helm.

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Extremely disappointing decision. The future of planning in Parramatta as well as all our suburbs is questionable. The fact our irreplaceable convict heritage can be treated as expendable to suit a big developer’s financial needs (remember Meriton were showing the portals in their marketing images long before the council’s meeting) shows it was a done deal and that even our most prized community assets are not safe from inappropriate or unsympathetic development. This is not about public access to the river, this is about delivering the quickest and easiest way to help sell units and make money (the new Australian way). There is no community consultation, there is no waiting for proper assessment, and the lack of heritage understanding or will to protect is quite frankly frightening. Our children are the big losers here.

  8. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    The problem is that the people making the decisions on this matter have a self interest which reaches far beyond our history and heritage, I was dissappointed to witness people accusing our organisation of using gutter language and threatening behaviour, the remainder have no idea of this decision and the impact. One person reversed his life long belief to put this development through. One hopes that they will have the courage to overturn this decision and put the portals where they should be into the sandstone veneer on the North East side and into the new development of the Sout East side. But the administration has never canvassed this possibility and if you watch the video that we have put on Facebook, you can see who is hiding their faces.

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