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Secret Deals Propose Gifting More Public Space to Private Clubs

By Amy Brookes on November 26, 2021 in News

Is this a good use of public space? Photo: Waverley Council

Back in September 2019, Waverley Council entered into a confidential Heads of Agreement (HOA) arrangement with the Eastern Suburbs Cricket Club (ESCC) and then gave them $20,000 to investigate the feasibility of building a large cricket facility on public land in Waverley Park.
Two years after the confidential HOA was entered into, Waverley Council began a community consultation for the proposed indoor cricket training facility as part of the Waverley Park Plan of Management and Master Plan. After two weeks the community consultation was deferred without clear explanation. A few weeks later, on October 25, 2021, community consultation was reopened for a period of only four weeks, with one week’s notice for community workshop meetings. Signage about the consultation had not been re-erected in the park at the time of the consultation reopening.
The proposal would add another $3.6 million building next to the Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre that cost over $12 million less than a decade ago. The original recreation centre was designed to sit low and ‘lightly’ in the park to facilitate views through the building across the fields to the ocean. The cricket club was intimately involved in the design of the Margaret Whitlam Recreation Centre.
The proposed new cricket building would cover the grassed area next to the current recreation centre above the indoor multipurpose court and in front of the children’s playground. It would sit 6 metres high, 37 metres wide and 19 metres deep. It is reported by Council to “be transparent with a light weight roof so that views from the park are maintained over Bondi and out to the ocean”. However, it is hard to reconcile how such a large building that will house four cricket training lanes with associated nets will not interfere with views from within the park. The building is proposed to be made of glass yet purports to be environmentally responsive. Quite how this vast construction of glass will meet Council’s stringent environmental policies is unclear.
“I couldn’t understand why they wanted to build another cricket training facility on a piece of public open space with such great views,” local resident Stephen Weymouth said. “Now I see there are also plans for a kitchen facility, presumably so they can wine and dine and watch the cricket games with amazing views. The more I find out about this the more outrageous it becomes. So much has already happened behind closed doors that the community consultation appears meaningless.”
Councillors – Liberal, Labor and Green – all claim to be opposed to overdevelopment, but not it would seem in the case of Waverley Park. It became clear after the Bronte Surf Club overdevelopment debacle that residents do not like deals to be done behind closed doors, and nor should they be – we are a democracy. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of our open public spaces, something that Waverley Council would do well to take note of before entering into secretive agreements or funding feasibility studies.
Council records show that they were approached to part fund and house the new building due to the loss of training facilities at Sydney Cricket Ground Number 2 because of redevelopment of the football stadium. It is not possible for Waverley, the smallest municipality in NSW, to fulfil all sporting demands. Waverley Park is bursting at the seams with sport, with much private club use of public land. There are many facilities available to the cricket club including outdoor cricket training facilities, the oval, club rooms and dressing rooms.
This facility is designed by and for the cricket club and its 90 per cent male membership. Where’s the equity here in an already crowded park where it’s already difficult to find a free spot for passive recreation?
Council must stop entering into confidential (secret) agreements with private clubs. It is our money and these are our public parks. To have your say, please go to haveyoursay.waverley.nsw.gov.au/waverley-park-plan-of-management. Hopefully the community consultation is still open. If not, please email the general manager at Waverley Council urgently.

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