Uncertain future - arts hub at risk

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SMH22May15

 

Published May 22, 2015 - Deborah Snow, SMH

Uncertainty about the future of Callan Park, in the city's inner west, is set to intensify following Sydney University's refusal to rule out the withdrawal of its College of the Arts from a cluster of historic sandstone buildings inside the park.

...State member for Balmain, Greens MP Jamie Parker, called on the minister to take action, saying the government has left the 60 hectare harbourside site in limbo and needs to respond to a master plan for the park which Leichhardt Council drew up nearly four years ago.

He will move a motion in state parliament next week urging the establishment of a long-awaited trust to run the park and adoption of the master plan's core principles

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Sydney University might move arts college out of Callan Park

Deborah Snow
Published: May 21, 2015 - 8:38PM

Uncertainty about the future of Callan Park, in the city's inner west, is set to intensify following Sydney University's refusal to rule out the withdrawal of its College of the Arts from a cluster of historic sandstone buildings inside the park.

Leichhardt councillor Darcy Byrne has accused the state government of allowing the park to "suffer demolition by neglect" because it is "politically disinterested in the electorate of Balmain".

"There is an opportunity for the new minister, Rob Stokes, to help make Callan Park a vibrant arts hub, but if he allows the University to walk away, the future of Callan Park looks bleak," the Labor-aligned Mr Byrne said.

State member for Balmain, Greens MP Jamie Parker, also called on the minister to take action, saying the government has left the 60 hectare harbourside site in limbo and needs to respond to a master plan for the park which Leichhardt Council drew up nearly four years ago.

He will move a motion in state parliament next week urging the establishment of a long-awaited trust to run the park and adoption of the master plan's core principles

"We're stuck in this limbo where the government hasn't responded [to the master plan] , and because the government won't respond, we can't implement anything, as they control the land," Mr Parker said.

"The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority has made recommendations to successive planning ministers, and those recommendations are being kept secret."

It is understood that the government is assessing possible models for a Callan Park trust, which might run along the lines of those set up for the Botanic Gardens, Parramatta Park and Centennial Park.

Mr Stokes said on Thursday that the government was considering a number of options to secure Callan Park's "long term" future.

"It is a vital heritage asset and provides crucial public space in inner Sydney," Mr Stokes said.

"We are committed to a sustainable and funded future for the precinct in co-operation with the local community."

The College of the Arts has occupied the park's historic Kirkbride complex, a former asylum for the mentally ill, for two decades and has extensive art-making facilities at the site, including specialist kilns and glassworks. Around 600 students use the buildings, which date back to 1885.

The College is keen to remain in the tranquil surrounds of the park, but a strategic review being undertaken by the University administration could recommend a move.

Advocates for Callan Park say it is vital that the university keep the college there to attract other like-minded tenants and make it a key arts "hub" for the city. They also fear the Kirkbride buildings will fall into disrepair if the university decamps.

A spokeswoman for the university said on Thursday that there had been no decision on moving the college.

But she said it was "currently developing its next Strategic Plan for 2016-2020" and as part of that process, "the University is consulting widely on ideas for its future direction, and is assessing all aspects of its broad curriculum, research expertise and campuses".

She said the strategic plan would be released early next year.

Callan Park has had a turbulent history over the past decade and a half, with developers keen to get their hands on a slice of the prize 60 hectare harbourfront site. The Carr government backed down in the face of a community backlash in 2002 when residential development was proposed for the site.

Several years later, the Rees government came close to striking a deal with Sydney University to allow it to develop a campus for up to 6000 students there. But it too backed down after strong local opposition.


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