In response to the Mayors call last week to have the controversial proposed Cultural and Civic Centre (CCC) included in the Coffs Harbour Regional City Action Plan 2036 local opponents of the CCC, Citizens Voice have made a submission to the NSW Department of Planning asking that the building be kept out of the plan.
Citizens Voice’s submission yesterday to the Ministry of Planning is reproduced below;
“27 July 2020
NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment
Re: NSW Government Coffs Harbour Draft Regional City Action Plan 2036
Citizens’ Voice wish to provide formal feedback on a component of the Draft Regional City Action Plan 2036.
Citizens’ Voice represents the 15,000+ people who petitioned the NSW Legislative Assembly regarding the Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) proposed Cultural and Civic Space Project. This petition, lodged in Parliament by Mr Gurmesh Singh MP on 17 September 2019, requested a pause in the progress of the project pending meaningful community consultations.
Citizens’ Voice notes the proposed Cultural and Civic Space infrastructure is not included in the NSW Government Coffs Harbour Draft Regional City Action Plan 2036.
This proposed building has consistently divided Councillors and CHCC and the community. Despite the petition, meaningful community consultation did not occur. The State Significant Development Application Coffs Harbour Cultural and Civic Space SSD-10300 attracted 826 Submissions: 19 in support, ten comments, and 797 objections.
Citizens’ Voice supports and values art and culture. However, our community have long argued the goal has remained construction of an extensive, expensive infrastructure project, rather than a genuine commitment to the arts. The community have consistently called for, yet been denied, consideration of an affordable, sustainable approach of a facility constructed independently of council facilities. Citizens’ Voice concurs with our State MP Mr Gurmesh Singh that an Art and Culture strategy should be included in the 2036 Plan, but it should not be bound to, and by, one deeply unpopular and highly controversial building.
The longterm financial burden of this infrastructure, 30% of the building dedicated to Council Administration space, and contempt by CHCC for the community who have fought vehemently against this project has caused irreparable social damage. The result is a significant loss of community confidence in CHCC to respectfully represent their wishes, and a consistent failure to address their needs and concerns.
A consequence of this building would be putting onto the market, either for sale or through lease, an immediate glut of additional high-cost office space in the CBD, burdening an already oversupplied vacancy rate and undermining current stock. Already depressed real estate values are evidenced by the Council’s inability to sell their existing Administration Building and Rigby House CBD offices, Regional Museum, or buildings in Rose Avenue. In March 2020, CHCC went to an open market with a national agent and were unable to attract tender bids even close to the valuations on any of these four commercial properties. With COVID-19 forcing significantly changed work practices, a return to traditional office environments is unlikely at least in the medium term.
Citizens’ Voice request that the NSW State Planning Department continues to leave the CHCC proposed Cultural and Civic Space infrastructure out of the Coffs Harbour Regional City Action Plan 2036.
Citizens’ Voice Coffs Coast
cc Mr Gurmesh Singh MP”
At the last meeting of Council voted unanimously to ask the State Government to reinstate the CCC into the Regional City Plan as per Appendix 2 of the agenda for last 23 July’s CHCC meeting which states;
“Lack of Reference to Culture and Creativity and Associated Infrastructure Collaborations
The final Coffs Harbour Draft RCAP appears to have significantly changed from the version which Council sighted in late 2019, with the removal of references both to the Cultural and Civic Space project and to the importance of the Coffs Harbour City Centre as the cultural, civic and entertainment heart of the City throughout the document. This is at odds with both numerous NSW Government policy documents and numerous Coffs Harbour City Council policy documents.
As a matter of planning policy, the complete absence of cultural facilities, cultural tourism and cultural infrastructure in the Coffs Harbour Draft RCAP is noticeable and has been observed by the Coffs Harbour community. Council’s submission requests that cultural and creativity elements of the Plan be reinstated throughout to accord with NSW Government and Council policy documents.
2. That the final Coffs Harbour RCAP have these cultural and creativity elements of the Plan reinstated throughout to accord with the Cultural Infrastructure Plan 2025+ and consequently with the NSW Government priorities.
3. That Collaboration Opportunity 1 be updated to better acknowledge the Coffs Harbour City Centre as the cultural, civic and entertainment heart of the regional city; and the Cultural and Civic Space project. Council’s submission (Attachment 2) also includes a document (Our City, Our Culture, Our Centre) which summarises the Coffs Harbour City Centre Masterplan 2031, to highlight again the importance of the Coffs Harbour City Centre as the cultural, civic and entertainment heart of our regional city and to further outline the significance of the Coffs Harbour City Centre in this regard.
4. That a fourth objective be added to the delivery framework under ‘PLAY’ that specifically addresses cultural facilities, cultural tourism, creativity and cultural infrastructure planning to ensure that Coffs Harbour is distinguished as a thriving and dynamic cultural sector.
5. That an additional Collaboration Opportunity be included as follows: Regional NSW, Create NSW and Council will continue to work with stakeholders and the community to undertake further planning/investigate the feasibility for a Regional Performing Arts Centre/Theatre that supports the community vision, is financially viable and is able to be implemented.”
Over the next few days CoffsCoast Outlook will analyse the Draft Regional City Plan 2036 and also look at what has happened with previous Council plans relating to the City Centre and environs.