Open letter to Bass Coast Shire Council;
I attended the council meeting last Wednesday and was shocked at the cavalier manner in which requests for deferment of the decision to proceed with agenda item H6 were dealt with. (This relates to the proposed Stage 1 only development of the Cowes Cultural & Community Centre primarily providing lettable office space for leasing by Phillip Island Nature Parks).
You would all be aware of community concerns with this project overall, and the lack of information provided regarding the intended changes has left the community feeling angered and isolated from the process.
The Concept Design for the CCCC was endorsed in March 2016. At that time council stated
• Where possible mature trees will be retained to minimise disruption to the landscape.
• Retention of green space will remain a priority in the detailed design phase.
The Revised Stage 1 layout presented contradicts this statement. I have compared the plan previously endorsed by the community in 2016 with the recent revised plans.
With very little explanation of the (new) Revised Stage 1 layout given, I have assumed that the relocation of “community” offices is the only real change, and the current art gallery is to remain.
In this case it seems that, functionally, the latest plan is no different to the endorsed plan from 2016 except for the additional loss of public open space.
However this council was elected on a platform of transparency and consultation, and in this instance the lack of information and the apparent unwillingness to engage in consultation on this change has ignored due process and has angered the community.
I strongly encourage the council to urgently redress this situation by:
1. Showing that this project is justified when it was never a priority in the Cowes Activity Centre Plan adopted by Council in 2015.
2. Providing the community with a fuller explanation of the intended plan revisions.
3. Explaining how this provides a clear benefit to the community, ideally supported by a business case.
4. Explaining how the concept plan (which was approved by the community) is now to be changed without further community consultation and endorsement.
If council is able to illustrate clearly to the community that this is a beneficial development in all respects, and that the expenditure of $470,000 on this project in lieu of those nominated by the community in the Activity Centre plan is justified, then they may regain some of the trust that has been lost.
Yours faithfully,
Andrew Marston.