Suspension Bridge Update

A number of interested residents, Councillor John Hooper, Greg Woodhams (Director from Council), Gladys Berejiklian and I attended the Northbridge Progress Association meeting last night. You can imagine a hot topic of discussion was the Suspension Bridge.
The RTA has sent a letter to nearby residents requesting input into the design by the 14th of October. In addition, Council has received a document from the RTA “Long Gully Bridge, Installation of safety barrier, Report on community consultation.” This report in part replaces the missing minutes from the meeting of the 23rd of July, and describes in great lengths the concerns put forward by the community and the suggestion of a design competition. On the final page of the report (page 12) the report concludes “In light of a recent incident on the bridge in July 2009, the RTA determined that even with security patrols on the bridge, the RTA has not been successful in eliminating the risk of suicide attempts. As a result the RTA will proceed, without delay, with its proposal to install a palisade fence on Long Gully Bridge. This is similar to fences around the Royal Botanic Gardens and other historical sites in Australia. The fence – either straight or curved – will provide a 2 metre barrier above the existing wall. A curved fence provides a softer appearance when viewed from the roadway and afar. No views are obstructed from the bridge and the fence was carefully considered from the aspect of surrounding residents. The RTA is asking residents for their opinion on whether the fence should be straight or curved. Comments are welcome until 14 October 2009.”
The timeline provided by the RTA shows that in October the RTA will prepare a Statement of Heritage Impact, finalise the proposal and detailed design and fabrication of the specialist fencing. Early in 2010 is the commencement of construction.
Where to now?
 
It would seem that the responses that Council has had from personal approaches to the RTA, from CEO level down, and from Gladys’ approach at Ministerial level, that the RTA is committed to building “their fence”. There has been no room for negotiation or input.
Greg Woodhams (Willoughby City Council) has found a possible legal aspect which could allow North Sydney Council to put an injunction of the bridge, stopping any construction until they give approval. Mayor Reilly as a matter of urgency has undertaken to speak to Genia McCaffery to develop a united Councils approach. This includes an approach to the Minister, media campaign, investigation of the legal aspect and possible funding of a design competition. Mayor Reilly is also in contact with Social Welfare groups to try and engage them with the issue.
As Residents what can we do?
 
Have you written (or emailed) the Minister yet? If not, please do so.
 
The feedback from Council and Gladys is consistent in that any attempt at a media stunt on the bridge may be futile and counterproductive. There are sensitivities involved with suicide and as a community we need to be mindful of those issues and be aware of the impact on some members of our community. Mayor Reilly is following up print and talk back radio publicity but we are reliant on the media engaging and picking up the story. There has been a limited run in the Mosman Daily and North Shore Times.
If you have any other ideas, please share them.
I am sure that we all eagerly await the outcome of discussion between North Sydney and Willoughby Councils.
Gail


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