Works in Camden CBD will happen despite community objections: mayor Lara Symkowiak

Mayor Lara Symkowiak said she has not been swayed by a ‘‘scare campaign’’ led by residents against Camden Council’s plans to change the CBD.

And she said an attempt to get her to ‘‘back down’’ by disparaging her on social media would not work either.

Cr Symkowiak said although she was a public figure there should be no place for the personal attack on her which she said had come from supporters of the Camden Community Alliance, a group of residents fighting for a deferral of council’s plans so there could be more consultation.

‘‘Perhaps it’s an attempt to intimidate me or make me back down. I think it’s a form of cyber bullying,’’ she said, and told the Alliance in an email that she would seek legal advice unless it moderated its Facebook page.

Cr Symkowiak said she was upset the Alliance was scaring ‘‘genuine people’’ who were in favour of the works which included narrowing lanes on Argyle Street to make footpaths wider, traffic lights at the Oxley Street intersection and a decked car park.

Cr Symkowiak accused the Alliance of using ‘‘emotive phrases and broad sweeping statements’’ like ‘stop the chop’ and ‘stop the chainsaws’ to misrepresent council’s true intentions.

‘‘There are genuine people that are very scared because the loudest voice out there is the Alliance,’’ she said.

She refused to accept the criticisms levelled by residents — the consultation period was extensive and the community was encouraged to speak up when the plans were on exhibition, she said.

That no protesters were at the council meeting in November when the plans were adopted baffled her, she said.

‘‘I don’t know what their motive is but there is an agenda,’’ she said of the Alliance.

‘‘We’re not going to get 100 per cent agreement on what to do in the Camden town centre. Previous councils have procrastinated and if we wait til we get 100 per cent agreement on what to do in the Camden town centre we won’t get anywhere.’’

Cr Symkowiak said there were 68,000 people in the Camden local government area and that the council received just short of 600 submissions. Asked if that really was the overwhelming majority that she’d previously described, Cr Symkowiak said: ‘‘That’s a huge response. Council can’t make people make a submission.’’

She defended the survey - which had been criticised for being inadequate - saying it was ideal for people who were too ‘‘time poor’’ to write a submission.

And on the criticism of traffic lights in the main street, she said: ‘‘We’re getting an extra 200,000 people on our door step. It’s council’s responsibility to ensure everyone gets around the town in a safe manner.’’

Cr Symkowiak said there was a ‘‘limited window’’ to start the first stage of works — to narrow the lanes closest to the parking lanes on Argyle Street and install traffic lights — so that it was completed before the Light Up Camden festival in November.

‘‘We have to be cogniscent of the Narellan Town Centre expansion. If we lose customers now we may not get them back so we can’t wait,’’ she said.

As for whether she anticipates a backlash at the polls come the local government election in September next year, Cr Symkowiak said: "I can't pre-empt how people will vote. I haven't decided if I'm running again; it's 18 months away.

"But I'm confident in the finished product. I just wish that people make a judgement on the finished product."

Alliance president Pieter Versluis said: ‘‘We have not used any information other than what Council proposes. We have quoted some of council’s own words and data and opinions from consultants hired by council. Perhaps the mayor might be specific about what lies the Alliance is apparently spreading.’’

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