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quaint shopping area with trees, wooden seating, drinking fountain and people striding and sitting
Grapevine at annandale Shops
4 people sitting at public tables at Annandale Shops

Works at the Annandale Shops
A Case Study in Local Community Engagement

The ANNANDALE VILLAGE MAINSTREET IMPROVEMENTS was resolved at the Council meeting on 25th August 2009.

The original design amended, as follows, was adopted:

The Project

The paving at the Annandale Shops is in poor condition and a number of people have tripped and some have been taken to hospital. Litter, especially cigarette butts is a problem. Bike racks were also to be introduced.

"The Annandale Shops" comprise a Chemist, 2 Cafes, a News Agent, a Bakery/Cafe, a Deli/Cafe, a Grocer, 2 Hair Dressers, a Bottle Shop, Restaurant and Florist. All the businesses, at the shops, use the paving in front of their stores for seating or to display their wares. Across Johnston St there is a post office and bank, diagonally across there is a church and across booth st there is a pub.

Currently, there is public seating in the form of tables and benches in two arbours and a JC Decaux bench and bus shelter. The arbours were once covered with an edible fruiting vine, but this was replaced by a non fruiting variety. In addition to the vine growing over the arbours, murraya hedging and Jacarandas have been planted.

There is a concrete and steel safety barrier between the shops and Johnston Street. The murraya hedging is planted on the shops side of part of the barrier and on Booth st as a barrier. Between the arbours, there is a Short stay parking and loading area.

The public seating is used by the community which includes, residents in wheel chairs, residents of a number of nursing homes, young families, teenage families, elderly long time residents and all ages in between.

The Process

Leichhardt Council presented a concept plan for the improvement of the the Shops on Johnston St, to the Annandale Precinct meeting, at the Annandale Neighbourhood Centre, in March 2009.

On 3rd July 2009, after being discussed at a number of precinct meetings and a community service committee meeting, the proposed works ($290,000) were "put on display for public comment" until 24th July 2009. The plan in the proposed works document (239.99kB PDF) published on the council website was illegible. Early in July, Council staff and councillors, were present at the shops to discuss the plan, which was then left on display at the Arbour.

A report dated 20 July 2009 was submitted to Council against an Agenda item entitled "ANNANDALE VILLAGE ART PROJECT". The report summarised and provided responses to concerns raised by the public in relation to the seating and artwork. Council recommended the work to proceed, according to the plan, with some amendments - in particular in relation to the art works. See minutes 28 July 2009 Ordinary Meeting 202kb. The art works commission of $15,000 was awarded to Sarah Muggeridge - a mosaic artist.

Christmas Bush with White FlowersPossible Local Provenance replacements for the murraya (mock orange blossom) hedging are: Lillipilli, Correa alba, Wistringa, Grevillea sericea, Correa reflexa or one of the local species of Mint Bush (Prosanthera).

And Local Provenance replacements for the Jacaranda's: NSW Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum Gummiferum), Blueberry Ash (Elaeocarpus reticulati) currently planted in Booth St (near bus stop), Sweet Pittosporum; Mock Orange (Pittosporum undulatum) or Banksia marginata (used as a street tree in Newcastle).

Invitation to Attend a meeting in the Council Chambers (Leichhardt Town Hall)

An invitation to attend a meeting on 17th August 2009, to discuss the proposed works at the Annandale shops was emailed out about a week before the meeting. The author deleted their invitation, as the subject line was not informative and the sender wasn't identifiable (other than than by their LMC address).

The invitation email was subsequently forwarded by Cr Howinson. It contained two unidentifiable JPG images but no text. The first 109kb jpg file contained the invitation from Cr Parker and details of the meeting (jpg reduced to 40kb here). The second attachement, was an illegible 63kb JPG of the plan.

The invitation was extended to interested residents and local business owners to attend a meeting to resolve outstanding issues with the proposed works plan, so that it could proceed.

The outstanding issues included the extent of the paving, proposed new seating and artwork, the bus shelter and vegetation. The meeting was chaired by Cr Jamie Parker (Mayor Leichhardt Council), and attended by Cr Kogoy (Annandale), Cr Howinson (Annandale), Cr Plate (Annandale), Cr Hannaford (Leichhardt), Council staff - P Gainsford, V Cusamano and J Bennett, three business owners, North and South Annandale precinct chairs and four residents (including the author).

One of the local business owners, who attended the meeting, reported that the paper invitation had only arrived in the post a few hours earlier. This was the same experience of his neighbours and could explain why so few attended the meeting.

plan for proposed 2010 works at Annandale ShopsThere was some unintended irony, when during the meeting, Cr Parker commented that the Council was trying to make the shops more accessible for blind people, by moving furniture away from the buildings. However, the invitation, the council had sent out, was in the form of an inaccessible [to blind people] JPG image and printed document.

Shelter obstructs view of arriving busConsensus of the Meeting on 17th August 2009

Learning for Local Community Engagment 2.0

non-fruiting vine growing over arbour and advertising signs Online community engagement provides the opportunity for wider input and reflection on ideas to possibly come up with better solutions more efficiently. Decision makers should have online access to the detail, of proposals and submissions as well as being provided with executive summaries and recommendations. The community should be provided with tools to facilitate online consultation. Recommendations, Summaries and the process for approval should also be published to enhance transparency.

About the Author: Marghanita da Cruz is an ICT Consultant, editor of Annandale on the Web a resident and rate payer in Annandale. The author made email submissions, to councillors and the planner about the proposed works. In June 2009, she presented a brief talk on Local Community Engagement 2.0 to the Public Sphere Camp and contributed to the wiki, hosted by Kate Lundy, to draft a public submission to the Government 2.0 Task Force.