Residents react to Guildford Heritage Precinct Master Plan

Ted Williams outside Mechanics Institute in Guildford. Picture: Matt Jelonek         d456937
Ted Williams outside Mechanics Institute in Guildford. Picture: Matt Jelonek        d456937

GUILDFORD residents turned out in force at the City of Swan council meeting to speak on the Heritage Precinct Master Plan.

The City wants to release it for public comment, but council must first approve the plan, prepared by an external marketing firm.

Council resolved to amend some of the recommendations, which was passed 7-6, at the request of Cr Ian Johnson, who represents the Guildford ward.

Cr Johnson said his greatest concern was that community consultation on the Guildford Master Plan draft had been ignored and the suggestions of the community had not been taken into account.

“The community consultation does not appear to have resulted in material changes to the report that reflects community use of the precinct,” he said.

Cr Johnson’s amendments included that the Guildford Library and kindergarten both be retained in their current locations, and that the Garrick Theatre retain its current parking rights.

One of the suggestions for the Mechanics Institute to be transformed into a cafe and commercial venture was rejected by Guildford residents.

Former City of Swan councillor Ted Williams, a retired engineer, said he was concerned about the possibility of the Mechanics Institute becoming a cafe.

“This is totally abhorrent to me,” Mr Williams said.

“It would be a wicked commercialisation of this building and I am totally against that.”

Cr Johnson urged the council to defer the item and vote on it at a later date.

Elizabeth Buttfield told the council she was concerned that the kindergarten might be repurposed.

“There are 40 children using the kindergarten per annum and this can not be moved to the primary school as it is already at capacity,” she said.

Professor David Blair, an eminent astrophysicist from UWA, was also due to speak against council adopting the motion but was unable to make the meeting.

Instead, the next speaker was Michelle Holmes, representing Tara’s Book Club, which uses the Mechanics Institute Building for its meetings.

“We are a low-cost alternative to cafes, bars and pubs, and allow people to be part of the social connectedness,” she said.

Ms Holmes urged councillors not to change the format of the Mechanics Institute to a commercial enterprise.

Kim Douglas, a representative of the Clochmerle Petanque Club, also spoke about boules, which her teammates played, and the importance of the location for the club and its members.

“We use the whole grounds in petanque and we have been doing so there for 23 years,” she said.

The petanque club has 50 members.

Members of the Garrick Theatre Club also spoke at the meeting, concerned that parking may be affected if the Mechanics Institute was commercialised.

Vice-president of the theatre group, Ken Harris, said there were not many parking alternatives for patrons wishing to see a play at the theatre.

Other speakers against the plan being adopted included Jacqui Gilmour, from the Guildford Primary School P&C; Transition Town Guildford’s Peter Langlands; President of the Guildford Association, Barbara Dundas; Celia Miller, from the Swan Guildford Historical Society; and Stephanie Holmes, from Guildford Potters.

The meeting voted to retain the Mechanics Institute in its current form as a community meeting place and room for hire; and for the Guildford Potters to continue its work in the old police quarters building on Meadow Street.

The draft plan will now be put out for public comment.