The historic Callan Park site has fallen into disrepair. Credit: Supplied

Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

BY DYLAN CRISMALE

Community members are urging the NSW State Government to act on the Callan Park Master Plan, with the future of the site still unknown despite the plan having first been drafted almost a decade ago.

In May, the University of Sydney announced the closure of Sydney College of the Arts in it’s current form, with plans for the arts school to have vacated the historic Rozelle premises by 2019.

The announcement has caused concern among the community who fear lack of action by the state government will cause irreparable damage to the already declining heritage site.

Hall Greenland, President of the ‘Friends of Callan Park’ community group said: “We would like to see a public trust established by the NSW State government to implement the Callan Park Master Plan, that is, we will need a financial investment from the NSW Government, which is achievable as they are sitting on a massive surplus, but because of their neo-liberal ideology the State government refuses to spend any money on this iconic heritage park.”

It has been six years since the Callan Park Master Plan was written by Leichhardt Council in 2011 and referred to the NSW government for implementation.

The Master Plan as designed, if implemented would see the renewed site occupied by non-government organisations; health, education and arts services with low-cost rent on the condition that they maintain the properties.

NSW Member for Balmain Jamie Parker MP said, “To finally secure the future of Callan Park, we need to see the implementation of the Callan Park Master Plan, which would see this wonderful parkland be preserved as a place for recreation, relaxation and mental health recovery,” he said.

In 2015 Mr Parker successfully introduced a private member’s bill, in which the NSW Government establish a specialised trust, finalise the site’s master plan and develop a sustainable long-term funding model all of which has not yet come to fruition.

“The government must implement the Master-Plan in order to preserve Callan Park’s open space, restore its heritage buildings to prevent demolition by neglect, and support mental health facilities within the area,” Mr Parker said.

Former Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne said it was a shame the plan had not been implemented some years ago, when the buildings were in better condition.

“It’s very frustrating because in the preceding six years the demolition by neglect in Callan Park has proceeded at great pace, the buildings were in much better condition when the Master Plan was submitted in 2011 than they are now,” he said.

“There’s more smashed windows, more graffiti, more damaged heritage items now than ever before and so the liability cost to the people of NSW for all of those premises is just increasing all the time,” he said.

“It’s not too late for that plan to be implemented but Callan Park would be really coming to life now if the Master Plan had been implemented properly or at all back in 2011 and the situation is getting worse by the day.”

There are fears amongst community members that the State government has plans to privatise the site which is currently protected by ‘The Callan Park (Special Provisions) Act 2002’ which ensures public ownership of the site.

“Of course, the Government has it within their power to amend the act to allow for privatisation, I think if they thought they could get away with it they’d do it tomorrow” added Mr Byrne.