A decade-long row over the proposed destruction of the historic Windsor Bridge in north-western Sydney has been the subject of a NSW Parliamentary inquiry with findings expected to be announced next month.
Since 2008 there has been community resistance to the demise of Windsor’s 144 year old bridge and the oldest town square in Australia, Thompson Square, as proposed by the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).
...an act of extreme vandalism created by political ignorance of basic heritage values
In a submission to the inquiry, former chief bridge engineers for the NSW Government, Brian Pearson and Ray Wedgwood, claimed: “To destroy a healthy Windsor Bridge after only 100 years of service could only be described as an act of extreme vandalism created by political ignorance of basic heritage values.”
“We believe it is wrong to disregard Macquarie’s town of Windsor, steeped in Australian colonial history,” the engineers told the second Upper House hearing this month.
“The action now planned for the Windsor Bridge [by the RMS] would deprive the community, the state and the nation of one of its most historic treasures – one with which a little cosmetic attention could serve the nation for at least another century.”
The inquiry also heard that Thompson Square which would be demolished as part of the project was on the State Heritage List.
Windsor Bridge. (Image/Elyse Popplewell)
However, the RMS insists the bridge must be replaced.
Colin Langford, Director of the North West Precinct at RMS, told the Parliamentary Inquiry in the first hearing that Windsor Bridge is “deteriorating and approaching the end of its serviceable life” and a replacement bridge “is a much-needed piece of infrastructure for the community.”
The RMS maintains that the bridge’s width doesn’t allow for the safe passage of trucks, and there is the possibility of the ageing bridge to detach during flood conditions.
The proposal was opposed by the National Trust of Australia, Heritage Council of New South Wales and Australia International Council on Monuments and Sites, for its historic value.
A number of submissions to the second hearing noted that both the Harbour Bridge and the ANZAC Bridge have smaller lane widths, and higher vehicle speeds.
The RMS representatives cited 52 car accidents as a safety concern, although none occurred on the bridge.
In 2008, the RMS committed a $25million budget to the project. The economic appraisal of the project is now $50.4million.
No demolition nor construction has begun, yet $30million had been spent on the project as of December 2017.
The submissions to the inquiry and the two parliamentary hearings included the perspectives of engineers, individual community members, the RMS, heritage experts, and action groups like Community Action Against Windsor Bridge (CAWB).
CAWB has continually occupied Thompson Square to protest the plans to replace the bridge since July 2013.
President of CAWB, Harry Terry said outside of the inquiry, “If you asked me when we began what chance I thought we had [of succeeding], I would have said 1% of 1%. Now, I think it’s looking good.”
It is expected the inquiry findings will be finalised by the end of June.