Camden Council's fast-track funding surprise for Argyle Street

CAMDEN residents concerned about the transparency of the public consultation period for the Camden Town Centre improvements may have had good cause.

It has emerged that Camden Council applied for a federal government grant to fund the Argyle Street road upgrades before the proposals were passed by the council.

In letters to the editor, Advertiser readers expressed their concerns about the public consultation period.

Last week, Kirkham's Pieter Versluis declared the consultation to be a "farce".

"Camden Chamber of Commerce opposes the changes, many residents do; and, I suggest, so do most visitors," he wrote.

On September 24 Camden's A Childs wrote: "The council has already made up its mind on the Camden Town Centre vandalism, regardless."

Grasmere's Michael O'Brien also wrote in September that not all ratepayers could get to the consultation meetings and forums but said "opposition to council's car park proposal is quite high at this point".

"It is not too late for council to do what is in the best interest of the community in this regard," he wrote.

"Or is it?"

Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak admitted to writing to Macarthur MP Russell Matheson and Camden MP Chris Patterson at the end of September to call for funding for the the improvements — two months before the proposal went before a council meeting for councillor consideration.

"I make no apology for having gotten the funding," Cr Symkowiak said.

"The time frames for funding don't always match up with council's time line.

‘‘Council put in for a number of things and this is what we got.’’

The council received $2.2million in roads funding which will also go towards improving the Camden Valley Way and Macarthur Road intersection and investigating a possible dual carriageway between Narellan and Camden.

   Cr Symkowiak said had the council voted against the proposals on November 25, she believed the council would have been given funding for one of the other projects they put forward for funding.

   She said it was hoped works on the new intersection, pedestrian crossing and wider footpaths as well as the installation of new street furniture would begin sometime between June and November.

   A development application for the Oxley Street decked car park will likely be before the community for further consultation about the middle of the year with plans to begin construction at the beginning of 2016.

Camden urban historian Ian Willis is compiling a paper on the community consultation for the Camden town centre improvements. Dr Willis said the paper would look at the community reaction to the proposals and the way in which they were presented. ‘‘There were very strong views in the community — some of them quite critical for various reasons,’’ he said. Dr Willis said because of the interest and debate the proposals had generated within the community he thought it would be interesting to explore the proposals and possibly present his paper at next year’s Australasian Urban History Urban Planning Conference.