Reclassification of Land – Pocket Parks

Clr Peter Harle JP

Councillor Peter Harle JP

Liverpool City Council is publicly exhibiting Draft Liverpool Local Environmental Plan 2008 (Amendment No.38). The draft amendment proposes a number of changes to Council’s current planning controls, including the rezoning of various sites and the reclassification of certain Council owned land. A brief description of each of the proposed changes is provided via the link below:

My views regarding the sale/reclassifying “Pocket Parks”.

Re-classifying  land from whatever zoning it currently is, for example “recreational” (RE) to “operational” is the first step in allowing Council to use the land for any other purpose including selling it.

I tend to oppose the sale of small “pocket parks” especially those that are the size of an average building block; up to 2000 square metres.

Some Councillors support the sale of small “pocket” parks and use the proceeds to build much larger community centres such as Carnes Hill. These will consist of a Library and various indoor and outdoor sporting/recreational uses.

The problem  I see with that concept is that when school children come home from school they may have around 2 to 3 hours of outdoor activity and tend to use any nearby “pocket parks” for that purpose. Unfortunately, once these smaller parks are gone, the only area they have left to play outdoor games such as footy, soccer, handball etc., is in the streets. The blame for that is primarily the State Government and its drive for higher housing densities. It is also one of the reason why there are very few “residential blocks” with any worthwhile “playground” area.

Unfortunately, major centres such as Carnes Hill are not easily  “walked to” by the vast majority of children more than 500 metres away. Most small pocket parks were created by developers as part of their “development contribution” instead of money and located within easy walking distance from homes.

Most residential areas, especially those developed some decades ago, had numerous small parks, many had playground equipment that has been gradually removed due to a lack of maintenance and safety concerns and leaving nothing for children to play with! The overall effect is that these parks are under-utilised and become Councils’ primary reason for disposal. There is also a substantial savings in regular maintenance!

In my opinion; residents should lobby Councillors to have playground equipment replaced or re-installed with the very popular “vandal resistant” exercise “gym equipment”. Indications are, where that type of equipment has been installed, park use has increased considerably.

Another reason for opposing the sale of these parks is that many of the previously zoned “low  density” housing areas are being  rezoned to medium and high density. That in turn generates a greater need to retain small to medium “pocket Parks” for the expected increase in the number of future residents. Once these parks are sold, they will be very costly to “buy back” at some future date to satisfy increasing recreational needs of local residents.

Much publicity is being generated by the construction of the Carnes Hill Recreational Centre, which the previous Council 2008-12 instigated and our LCIT team Councillors supported. The centre is being built totally from funds contributed by Carnes Hill residents and were collected via developers contributions as part of the purchase price of  their properties. (Section 94 contribution funds). However, is this the answer for residents more than 5km away? Is it addressing the daily needs for after school hours recreational activities? Or for weekend needs? Regular Public transport to Carnes Hill may not be affordable for many families. For those reasons I will oppose the future sale of small pocket parks especially where residents prefer to retain them. I believe Council should encourage developers to set aside more pocket parks in strategic locations in addition to constructing combined major recreational centres incorporating Libraries in newly released areas such as Edmondson Park.

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