Public Health, the Towers and our Vibrant Community
Great to see so many of the hundreds of people at the Castle Hill Farmers’ and Fine Food Market wearing face masks and happily having temperatures checked and hands sanitized at the carefully controlled entry. The pandemic has changed our lives in a way that few saw coming and heeding the recommendations of health experts is a powerful way to not only protect our own health but to also tell our fellow citizens that we care about theirs too. It should probably have come as no surprise, given the uncertainty of the times that the owners of Castle Towers have withdrawn their most recent Development Application for a major expansion of the shopping mall, understandably our titular town centre.
The DA described a very significant expansion of the mall and embellishment of parts of the existing complex and its withdrawal was as disappointing to me as it would have been to its owners and much of the public. The project would have employed a large construction work force and was intended to see increased employment opportunities when finished. As well as suppressing economic activity, the pandemic has also caused a decline in immigration which, whilst likely only temporary, is still a contributing factor for any business contemplating its strategic outlook. The cancellation of the project is a reminder of how delicately poised economies are but, given the way we have always rebounded from earlier economic setbacks, we can be optimistic that “this too shall pass”. Spring will have the magpies again swooping on our unprotected heads and see us shaking off a cold winter to emerge optimistically into our always bright future.
Last year I raised the possibility of converting a section of Old Northern Rd between Crane Rd and Cecil Avenue into a pedestrian mall or a shared pedestrian and vehicle zone. I believe this would enhance the shopper experience in the area and lead also to a more vibrant nighttime economy. Our experience a few years ago with Christmas lights and closure to traffic demonstrated some of the potential of the area. For now, pending completion of a major traffic study of the Town Centre, Council has agreed to continue to consider various options but at least the options are now on everyone’s radar.
The demolition of the old Council Chambers and entertainment centre has brought home the reality that the areas immediately around all the Metro stations will continue to see high density development. Council and other planning authorities will continue to be challenged in getting the balance right across an urban environment of high and low density living to ensure that The Hills continues to be a desirable place to live, work, play and raise a family. Finally, as I’m sure most of my colleagues will be reporting, construction has started on the new pool complex in Baulkham Hills. Within well less than two years, our community will be thrilled to see what their rates and Council’s careful fiscal management have achieved.