Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Email Council

Click here to send an email to Council to voice your opposition and add your name to the petition to oppose building in our heritage gardens

Council is about to vote on whether to site a multi-purpose building in the northern and historic section of the Edinburgh Gardens. Now is a good time to let our Councillors and local members of parliament know how we feel about our gardens.

Make sure our Councillors and local members of parliament* get the message about protecting our open space and heritage - send an email by clicking on the above link.

Don't forget to add your name and address at the beginning and you can change the message text in any way you want before sending. Clicking on the link won't send an email until you hit Send from you email program

*Your email will be sent to all Yarra Councillors and these MPs:

  • Lindsay Tanner;
  • Richard Wynne;
  • Greg Barber.

Please click on the above link, send an email and help save the Edinburgh Gardens.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Register of the National Estate

Nominator's Statement of Significance:
The Edinburgh Gardens are significant in terms of the large number of established trees and garden beds and the associated garden furniture - cast iron bollards, drinking fountain, fixed seats and bandstand. The tennis club house, train track and fixed train engine and the Bowling Club house and lawns are integral to this significance, while the adjacent cricket ground, with its two gatehouses and historic grandstand, is of complementary significance. They are also notable for the open space they provide and the manner in which they complement and close the vistas observable while passing along Alfred Crescent. The significance of the precinct is seen to lie in the marriage of the built environment with a sylvan landscape. It is enhanced by the quality of individual elements, both built and floral, in terms of their historical, architectural, recreational and visual amenity.

The Edinburgh Gardens precint is defined by the escargot shaped reserve originally set aside for Public Gardens, the Fitzroy and the North Fitzroy Cricket Grounds and a railway station and line. The unique shape of the gardens stems from the resolution between different street grids and the desire to create a circus along Georgian lines. The scheme for a grand crescent with central gardens, playing grounds and rail facilities was developed as the most logical answer to this dilemma.

Condition and Integrity:
There is at present only one cricket ground in the south west corner, to the north of which lie the bowling and tennis clubs. The northernmost land of the reserve originally set aside for the north Fitzroy Cricket Ground has been absorbed into the gardens proper. The railway line is decrepit and unused, except on its northernmost gardens section, which now houses an old engine. The area originally allotted to the railway station and yards has become a timber mill. The one building of individual significance within the garden is an early twentieth century bandstand. Other, newer, buildings are intrusive.
About 15ha, bordered by Brunswick Street, St Georges Road, Alfred Crescent, Jamieson Street, Queens Parade, Napier Street and Freeman Street, Fitzroy North.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hands of Edinburgh Gardens

Now is the time to tell Yarra council “Hands of Edinburgh Gardens”.
For several years the 3068 Group has monitored and reported the saga of the proposal to build a multi-purpose facility (sometimes misnamed a library) in the Edinburgh Gardens.
Some councillors and Yarra bureaucrats have had their eyes on the top of the Edinburgh Gardens as a good place to build a Multi-Purpose Facility. The councillors see the new building as a vote winner. The bureaucrats see it as way of avoiding investing in land needed to provide services. The value of the gardens is not measured in this equation, except that it will provide a nice outlook for the buildings occupants.
Council spent $100,000 on a Master Plan and Conservation Plan for the Edinburgh Gardens. This included years of community consultation and expert advice. This Master Plan was unequivocal about the proposal. Don’t build on this site was the plan’s conclusion. When the existing Emily Baker Infant Welfare Centre needs to be restored, restore it to the original design of an ornamental garden.
Maternal and Child Care Centre [ From Master Plan]
· Keep the existing centre.
· The Centre will be retained until the building reaches the end of its economic life - which is likely to be some considerable time into the future. At that point a substantial capital outlay will be required to renew the premises and consideration should be given to an alternative location outside the Gardens which will enable the land to be returned to Garden open space. The existing building appropriated open space from the Gardens in comparatively recent times (about 30 years ago). It creates a visual and physical barrier along the north west edge of the Gardens, and presents an austere wall to the interior of the Gardens. The building is considered to be intrusive to the heritage significance of the Gardens and detracts from the use of the Gardens for passive recreation.

· Retain the Maternal and Child Care building until it requires replacement or major upgrading. At such time consider relocation to an alternative site and return of the land to public open space.

Recommendation on Local Library:
Establishment of a library facility in this location would simply compound the 'barrier effect', walling the gardens off from their urban context and detracting from the Gardens' historic character. The action also has disadvantages for security in the Gardens by blocking views into the Gardens and reducing informal surveillance by passing traffic on adjacent roads. It is considered more appropriate to locate the library facility within
established urban fabric nearby rather than detract from the long term integrity of the Gardens for the short term expediency of securing 'a readily available' site.
- Section 5.7.6

However, some councillors could not accept the outcome, and the Master Plan remained in limbo for many years. Finally, in the April 12th 2005 Council Meeting, a motion was carried that Council adopt the master plan and:

“endorse removal of redundant and inappropriate structures from the gardens such as the Ladies Bowling Club House, International House, adjacent car park and brick shelter, Emily Baker Infant Welfare Centre and adjacent toilets, but consider redevelopment of a single multipurpose community centre in an appropriate location;”
The Master Plan has already confirmed, and Council has endorsed the fact that these are inappropriate structures for the gardens and an appropriate location must be now found. So the gardens should now be safe?

At last month’s council meeting, Councillors are again trying to resurrect the building on the site they agreed no building should be. This is not entirely surprising following the most biased push polling this council has ever attempted.

There was a 'consultation' session in Edinburgh Gardens Saturday 19 July.

The consultation pretended to be open to ideas, but the agenda was to force this building back onto the agenda. The questions were clearly drafted to achieve one outcome to the exclusion of alternatives.
“Council seeks feedback from residents on the possibility of:
· Upgrading and combining the current Maternal and Child Health Centre and
International House buildings in the northern area of Edinburgh Gardens
· Providing the Yarra community with a new and improved North Fitzroy Library
· Co-locating a new North Fitzroy Library as part of this upgrade in the Gardens
or obtaining a suitable site for a North Fitzroy Library in the St Georges Road
Why combine and co-locate these services? Why in the northern, most sensitive and least appropriate part of the gardens? Why even suggest a site that has been ruled out by the Conservation Management Plan? Does the Maternal and Child centre actually need to be upgraded or is merely in the way of the proposed monument?

This latest move on the gardens is to call for a feasibility study prior to the consultation findings being released to the public!

The proposal relies on the absurd proposition that the Maternal & Child’s Health Centres, International House and the North Fitzroy library need or even benefit from co-location. These are total separate services targeting different community members with different needs. Will a Kiosk or café also be shoehorned into the gardens?

The proposal relies on the proposition that Heritage Victoria will provide a heritage permit despite the Maternal & Child health centre and International House being uses that are in conflict with the Crown grant for a public park and gardens. These gardens are unique to Australia.

The proposal relies on the outrageous proposition that there will be a net gain of open space, as if a Victorian landscape can be balanced against another scrap of land to balance the open space ledger. It also fails to acknowledge the parking needs of the combined centre.

The proposal relies on the proposition that an expanded site for the North Fitzroy Library is not only required, but is a higher priority than providing library services to areas of Yarra deprived of an accessible library, including Cremorne, Alphington, CLifton Hill and Fairfield. The evidence from a consultant report into North Fitzroy Library showed the library performed very well on most metrics, and moving it into the gardens would take it even closer to the large and well equipped Carlton North Library than the present 1.4km distance between the libraries.

The Emily Baker Infant Welfare Centre performs a valuable service to the community, but has no requirement to be located in the Gardens or in a library.

International House users have no desired to moved, but have no real need to be located in the gardens.

Placing the building "on the periphery of the gardens", is actually more problematic because of the important interface with Alfred Crescent which defines the gardens. A building behind the grand stand would have much less impact on the gardens than on the northern border.

The proponents of the multi-purpose facility at Yarra argue that they have looked at alternative sites and there are none. But this is based on an unwillingness to raise money to purchase land. It is also driven by an ideology to shoehorn local services into a few very large hub buildings for the convenience of the staff. This is demonstrated in the latest 'consultation' Bringing Staff Together to Improve Services

When buildings have become available for council to purchase or even lease in Queens Parade for services there, council has sat on its hands. Why purchase or lease land when there is a garden option going for nothing.

3068 Group calls on it’s members and friends of the Edinburgh Gardens to act now to let the council know that the gardens are not available for an unrelated building. Don’t let the City of Yarra trash Edinburgh Gardens with a multipurpose folly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A short history of land grabs in Edinburgh Gradens

The latest plan to appropriate the gardens for non-recreation services such as a combined multi-purpose facility has a long line of precedents.

In the 1890's the former City of Fitzroy, was in keen competition with arch rival Collingwood. When Collingwood succeeded in a building a railway, Fitzroy had to have one too. Unfortunately this spur was directed right through the Edinburgh Gardens, from Mark Street to Queens Parade. Then a can factory and a briquette factory was built on the south of the gardens. The railway remained in the gardens until the 1980's, and a locomotive remained till 1997. The bike path follows the line of the original railway. A railway footbridge was only recently removed.

In the 1930's the main north-west boulevard of the gardens was moved to allow the cricket ground to expand the viewing area. A dog leg was inserted into the once straight path, just norht of the tennis courts, which also expanded at this time. The original alignment of the boulevard can be seen in an ariel photo from the 1920's.

Buildings that distract from the historic quality of the gardens include the centennial pavilion, an the back of the bowling club. The old gardeners cottage was rebuilt in the 1960's as a cream brick veneer, and rebadged as International House.

The Maternal and Child Health Centre should never have been erected in the gardens as it is not compatible with the title on the crown grant. Nevertheless, it was common practice in the 1960's and these centres were built here and in Darling Gardens.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Alternative Sites

Best Street

Best Street was recently closed to through traffic at the St Georges Road End.
Apart from access to some new apartments, it is now just a car park.
But if Best St was closed at Alfred Crescent instead, then the whole section beside Fitzroy North Primary School could be converted to a community building.

This site has proximity to the gardens, schools and shopping village, without compromising either. A building between the historic school and Art Deco flats would be less intrusive to than a building on the gardens.

By removing International House from the Gardens, the car park is no longer required. Then the extension of Best Street into the Gardens is no longer required, and a major increase in garden area can be achieved.

There is no need to sacrifice the Edinburgh Gardens. We should be trying to improve the gardens as open space

Corner of Alfred Crescent

Another site for sale directly overlooks the Maternal And Child Health Centre, on the corner of Alfred Crescent and St Georges Road. It is 266 sq.m Details and more photos here: Nelson Alexandra.

Publish Post

Restoring the Gardens

Restoring means "returning the existing fabric of a place to a known earlier state by removing accretions or by reassembling existing components without the introduction of new material."

Restoring Edinburgh Gardens means taking out the intrusive buildings as soon as an opportunity presents. This means finding alternative sites for these services so these buildings can be demolished.

When the The Maternal & Child Health Centre was built in the late 1960's, together with a public toilet block and shelter, a fountain and paths were destroyed.
A fountain and paths are shown at that location on this MMBW map from the 1890's.

Here the map is overlaid onto a recent photo of the gardens, showing its approximate relation to the Maternal & Child Health Centre buildings.

The fountain, surrounded by a low fence, is just visible in the background on the right of this 1965 photo of the childrens' playground. The playground is still in the same location and International House is visible on the left, but the fountain was removed or destroyed.This postcard from 1907 shows the fountain near where the proposed multi-purpose building will be
[SLV H33677/50 a03778]

It is not necessary to recreate the fountain, but removing the intrusive buildings and recreating the paths and circular garden bed would be a fitting project to celebrate the garden's 150th anniversary in 2012.

This is not the place for a building.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Legal Status of the Edinburg Gardens

The Fitzroy (Edinburgh Gardens) Lands Act 1967

The Act
"Provides that the land thereby granted and the buildings for the time being thereon should be at all times thereafter maintained and used as and for a site for a public park and garden and offices and conveniences connected therewith and for no other purpose whatsoever".
Council has received le
gal advice that a library, may not be an allowable use under the crown grant, and that precedents show that Health Centres and exclusive clubs would definitely not be allowable under the existing crown grant if tested in a court of law.

Will the City of Yarra be so courageous as to attempt to get the State Government to change legislation to remove parts of Edinburgh Gardens from their 1883 Crown Grant?

Dance of defiance of the Yarra-bandini tribe

Picture by Clement Hodgkinson [1842?]
National Library of Australia http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an6617620