Plans for a ‘community hub’ now threaten to dwarf the Donald Simpson Centre in Cleveland and may involve development on neighbouring parkland.
Donald Simpson Centre opened in 1987 to provide social, intellectual and physical activities for the seniors of the Redlands community. It has thrived at its Bloomfield Street location and is a popular meeting place with activities such as quilting, handicrafts, homeopathy and tutorials in information technology.
The Centre is built on Council owned land known as Donald Simpson Park. Both the Centre and the Park are on land zoned as open space.
Bigger on the inside?
In December 2015 Redland City Council unveiled preliminary plans for a modest two storey building on the eastern side of the Centre to be a ‘community hub’.
Community groups which were mentioned at the time as possible users of the new facility included Star Community Services, Anglicare, RDCOTA, U3A, Multicap, Cleveland Meals on Wheels and Redlands Community Centre according to a Bulletin report.
More recently, it appears that the Council now want to develop a four storey building which will include two storeys of residential accommodation.It’s not clear how much of the neighbouring Donald Simpson Park would be sacrificed for the proposed development.
The expansion now proposed has unsettled some members of the Donald Simpson Centre. In response, the Board has invited feedback from Centre members observing that the number of uses and users under consideration would require Dr Who’s ‘bigger on the inside’ Tardis.
What about the parkland?
Apart from concerns about increased demand for parking, traffic congestion and conflicting uses in a community facility there’s the issue of community parkland being commandeered for other uses.
Consultation with the broader community including park users is long overdue.
This area is green space well used by walkers, joggers, and bike riders It’s also a key link in the Ross Creek koala corridor.
The Centre and its surrounding Park are shown as open space in the Redlands Open Space Strategy.
When the Open Space Strategy was prepared, Council reported that it “undertook a range of community engagement activities from March-June 2012 to gather community feedback which was used to help finalise the Strategy.
If the Open Space Strategy was built on community consultation then any major changes should also be discussed with the community.
Is this another done deal?
In light of the recent ‘food market in a car park‘ deal, where the community was kept in the dark until a development application was submitted, consultation on the expansion and redevelopment of the Donald Simpson Centre should precede any development application.
Has a private investor already done an “innovative” deal with the Council? If so, then now would be a good time for the Council to explain what commitments it’s made.
A change of both the type and intensity of use for a Park should be discussed with the community before the statutory development process begins. The development approval process is about adherence to the planning scheme; this applies to the Council as well as developers.
If you are concerned about the way this project is being handled, contact your local councillor and ask questions like:
- How far have plans progressed?
- Has a deal been done with a private investor?
- What is the design?
- How much will the footprint and height of the building be increased?
- Is this busy roundabout the best siting for traffic movements associated with activities like Star Transport and Meals on Wheels?
- How will the greatly increased community services, and the new residential and commercial uses be managed?
- How many more parking bays will be required?
- How much of the Park will be lost?
- How many trees will be felled?
- What will be the impact on Redlands’ koalas?