There is no more controversial issue before the new council than the project to replace Windsor Bridge. It is an issue that has tested friendships, inflamed passions within the community, and created a protest movement that uses every trick in its playbook to prevent the project proceeding.
There will be much more to say on the matter of the bridge, and of the larger issues it augurs relating to the future of our district. I hold particular views on the subject, but this post makes no argument. Yet.
And why? Because there are seven new councillors on council, myself included. I feel that the first step, the step that must occur before a substantive debate about the bridge occurs, must be for the new council to be properly briefed by the relevant departments.
So, at the council meeting on Tuesday, I moved my first Notice Of Motion which called for a briefing to be given to us on the project. I asked that the briefing be held either in Thompson Square, or in Chambers (or both), and that relevant RMS, ministry and council staff be present. Councillor Richards and Councillor Reynolds had moved similar motions of a more limited scope, relating generally to support for an extra river crossing, and relating to an overall traffic strategy respectively. I am pleased that both of those councillors acknowledged that my own motion encompassed their concerns, and with their permission and certain amendments, they withdrew their motions and the following was put:
Support an additional crossing of the Hawkesbury River.
- A Councillor Briefing, incorporating presentations from relevant RMS and Council staff be held to provide details on the current status of the Windsor Bridge project.
- This Briefing should address project status, heritage, traffic performance, design and aesthetic issues (including open space) and maintenance responsibilities.
- A further Briefing be held for RMS and Transport for NSW officers to outline options and planning for future river crossings including commentary on the impacts of proceeding with the current Windsor Bridge replacement.
- That Briefing canvas the various options to give substantive effect to achieving the actions and funding of studies and investigations.”
My background to the motion, furnished to assist my colleagues to understand why this was important, stated:
“The state of the Windsor Bridge replacement project is the most contentious issue before the new Council. The expectation of some is that Council should quickly resolve to reverse its former support for Option 1 and now formally oppose the project.
With seven new Councillors in the new term, there is clear merit in receiving a briefing on this issue before such a resolution comes before the Council, especially when it seems obvious there is sincere disagreement on some matters of fact.
To assist the General Manager identify which public officials should be invited to best achieve the briefing’s purpose, and to permit those officials to be adequately prepared, it is proposed the matters to be discussed could include (but not be limited to):
- The current state of the bridge replacement project (true cost and timeframe).
- How the project is identifying and conserving the heritage of Thompson square.
- The status of nearby heritage items, including number 10 Bridge St, the colonial era drainage works, the School of Arts steps, and the remnants of Greenway’s wharf.
- The evidentiary basis for predictions relating to improved traffic flow.
- The adequacy of the project to deal with projected traffic flows on a multi-decade horizon.
- The proposed aesthetic qualities, form, fabric, scale and position of the new bridge.
- How the project will manage the slope between the upper part of Thompson square park and the water.
- What ongoing input Council can have in ensuring the renewed precinct will suit the communities’ needs as regards amenity, aesthetic design (stone, ironwork, landscaping etc), tourism, mobility access, parking, historical interpretation and so on – which will be Council’s responsibility to manage after State-managed works are complete.
- What the options are for a longer term plan for future river crossings, such as the suggestion that an additional crossing form part of the feasibility investigations for the M9 orbital.
- What the cost of Option 8 from the 2011 RTA study would have been, which was for a downstream bridge near Pitt Town, and how it compares to the likely final cost of Option 1.
- Whether the time-frame or funding of such a future crossing is in any way affected by the completion or cancellation of the current bridge replacement project.”
I am well aware that feelings run strong on this issue, and my expectation is that those councillors who oppose the project should and will ask many pointed questions when the briefing is held. I hope they do! Ultimately, eleven of the councillors voted in favour of my motion, which is pleasing.
The sole vote against the councillors receiving this briefing came from CAWB member, John Ross. I’ll repeat that: On the very issue that elected Clr. Ross to Council, my worthy colleague voted against councillors even receiving a briefing, even after I had made it clear that it must be regarded as the first step towards a productive, rather than an angry and sterile, debate.
I will have much more to say on the subject of Windsor Bridge, but I will do so after this briefing has been given.