Camden Town Strategy Community Consultative Process
A trust deficit has opened up between Camden Council and stakeholders in the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy. It threatens to re-shape Camden’s sense of place and community identity, according to preliminary research conducted by UOW academic Dr Ian Willis.
Stakeholder cynicism has developed for some around the community consultation process. Suspicion has taken hold around an apparent lack of transparency. Some in the community do not feel that they have an effective seat at the table or ownership of changes.
The community consultation process does not line up with the Grattan Institute’s international research for community engagement on urban planning issues. Its 2010 report ‘Cities: Who Decides?’, which looked at the governance of eight overseas cities, found that residents must be involved in decisions. The cities that made, and implemented, tough choices, had early and deep public engagement.
The Grattan Institute findings have been incorporated in new NSW planning legislation that is currently before parliament.
It is unfortunate that the community engagement process effectively commenced with a story in the Camden press about a decked car park in May 2014. The decked car park is a particularly problematic urban planning issue in Camden. It has had a vexed history that raged for over a decade fromthe mid-1990s.
Camden Council might have been better advised to have engaged the community in planning charrettes in the early 2013 strategy discussion.
Early and deep community engagement by council might have better built community confidence. An open up-front community engagement process from the initial formulation of the town centre strategy in 2013 may have been a more positive approach.
University of Wollongong historian Dr Ian Willis has summarised the 2006 decked car park proposal in a paper called ‘Democracy in action in local government, Camden NSW’. The paper is @ https://www.academia.edu/6315782/Democracy_in_Action_in_Local_Government_Camden_NSW
Dr Willis has also prepared a draft discussion paper on the community consultative process around the Camden Town Centre Enhancement Strategy. Interested parties can request a pdf copy by contacting Dr Willis on chn(at)live.com.au