Some 36 Castlecrag residents – new faces, ‘old hands’ and new residents – participated in a public forum at the Progress Association General Meeting at the community centre on 21 August to discuss what they wished to see in our community over the coming 5-10 years. As expected, such an event brought forward a range of views, but there were also key themes of agreement.
One such theme was that Castlecrag’s unique architecture and natural bushland settling have been major drawcards to those who have come to settle here; both for recent arrivals and those who have been here for longer periods. They spoke of the wonderful environment the suburb offers for adults and children alike – of the walking tracks to explore our bushland and harbour vistas, the many examples of innovative buildings that fit snugly into the natural environment, the improvements in children’s playgrounds and the range of voluntary groups that enrich our community. There was string agreement that a key challenge for us all is to protect our built and natural environment and the community-based services that we currently enjoy. The value of our community library was singled out as a service that requires strong support from residents in order to survive.
The efforts of the community, through the Progress Association and other community groups, to protect and conserve Castlecrag’s unique heritage over they years, often in the face of strong opposition by some, was identified as a key factor in maintaining Castlecrag as the ‘special place’ that its residents enjoy today. Several speakers identified the trend towards large houses that dominate the landscape as a major threat to the suburb’s character and natural environment. It was pointed out, however, that while there is a need for constant vigil to ensure that development applications (DAs) comply with Council controls, it has been heartening to see that the proportion of non-complying DAs has diminished in recent years. Nevertheless, factors such as ignorance of the special features of the suburb, aspirations for grander mansions and/or pressure on Willoughby Council to process DAs against time targets mean that some unsatisfactory proposals continue to be put forward.
The village atmosphere that has emerged in our shopping centre over recent years was highlighted by several contributors as a special feature of Castlecrag, although it was felt that further steps could be made to improve the social amenities of the area. Some saw this in terms of improvements to the built environment at the entrance to the suburb; others felt that the enhancement should be made through more trees and shrubs in the streetscape. There was general concern that Council has not been sufficiently vigilant in monitoring the ‘tree butchers’ from electricity companies who mangle street trees in the name of ‘pruning’. There was also agreement that more should be done to protect large trees in the suburb, both on private property and in the reserves.
A number of participants felt that residents should seek to be more sustainable by shopping locally rather than undertaking excessive car travel to other shopping facilities. Of the present range of goods and services, the inability to purchase Travel10 bus tickets at our local shops was raised as a concern, while a good health food shop was identified as a need. Poetry readings and wine tasting events at our local bookshop and restaurants were identified as possible activities to strengthen interaction between local residents and the business community, while design improvements at the Quadrangle were suggested to make it a more welcoming place for people. A grander suggestion was the possibility of a co-operative business in a local shop that brought a wider range of activities to our shopping centre on a rotational basis (eg Thai noodle nights) and fostered closer interaction between community and business.
The Haven Amphitheatre was highlighted as ‘the jewel in the crown’ of our social agenda, but its management committee is constantly looking for ideas on the kind of events that should be held there to ensure its programs are relevant to the community. The recent Australia Day street parties in The Bulwark, The Scarp and The Battlement were put forward as examples of positive initiatives that helped to bring residents together and make newcomers feel welcome. Linden Way and parts of Edinburgh Road were also put forward as examples of this activity.
We would like to hear further suggestions from Castlecrag residents and businesses on the activities and improvements you would like to see in our community in the short- to medium-term. Please write to The Crag, PO Box 4259, Castlecrag 2068 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org