Community feedback on Prince Alfred College's proposal for a new sports building in Tidlangga Park 9 in the Parklands' north-east has exposed the anxieties Adelaide has with private interests encroaching on public land.
Prince Alfred College’s pitch for a piece of the Parklands
Prince Alfred College has spent half a decade trying to get a single-storey clubroom built in the postcode 5000’s north-east Parklands to replace existing ageing facilities on the site.
Adelaide City Council sent out the first plans in 2015 for community consultation, but these were revoked due to requests by the Adelaide Park Lands Authority.
At the end of 2020, elected members approved a revised plan, with a subsequent round of community consultation going out in March 2021 and wrapping up a month later.
There were 129 submissions gathered, with 101 supporting the lease agreement and building plans.
Taking these submission into account, the administration proposed “several subtle changes to the building design, lease agreement and CLMP (Community Land Management Plan)”, as per their report published last Friday.
The proposed agreement, as it currently stands, would see the City of Adelaide and PAC enter into a 21-year lease agreement.
Stipulations of the lease include that the building footprint mustn’t exceed 410sqm, three unisex public toilets — including an accessible toilet — must be constructed, and light treatments, such as path lighting and bike racks, be established.
A liquor licence for the new building, which would allow the service of alcohol between 12pm and 6pm, would also be permitted.
The existing PAC facilities in the park must be razed no later than six months after the new infrastructure is built.
PAC’s main campus sits on almost 9ha, and is located two kilometres away from Tidlangga Park 9. The school’s grounds already has two ovals, a cricket net, tennis and basketball courts, and a hockey and tennis pitch.
Anytime a private entity makes a bid to take over a piece of the parklands, strong opinions on the sanctity of Adelaide’s green belt can be found, and this project is no exception.
An overwhelming majority of respondents to the community consultation had positive things to say, such as “it’s fantastic to see an upgrade of these facilities” and “the use of Parklands for sporting activity provides a vibrant and healthy outcome for the community and ensure assets are not under utilised”.
However, there were 24 naysayers who thought differently.
“Why is so much of our parklands leased to wealthy private schools and universities?” one response says. “These institutions have significant financial wealth to secure facilities on private land without having to carve out huge portions of public land, rendering them inaccessible during times when most people would want to access them.”
“I’m not sure why an incredibly rich private school, with huge amounts of land that it owns already, requires their own building on public land?” says another.
There was also the supremely axiomatic, “The parklands should be the parklands.”
Community group The North Adelaide Society submitted their thoughts via letter, and, among other issues, framed the “new permanent sports building on community land” as problematic.
“The consultation material refers to a ‘new community sports building’, [and] this is at worst misleading and at best ‘puffery’,” the letter says.
“PAC’s own management plan quite properly acknowledges that although he new facility is being ‘redeveloped for the purpose of upgrading the facilities for Prince Alfred College (PAC) and general community use’, in fact the ‘school and associated sporting groups will mostly have priority in booking the facilities at the commencement of the year / season’”.
CityMag reached out to PAC for comment on the feedback, to clarify how use of the facilities will be shared, and to explain why they want the new infrastructure established, but they did not respond before publication.
Adelaide City Council administration recommends council members approve landscape plans next week at the council meeting.
About 16 years ago, the State Government passed the Adelaide Park Lands Act, which, among other things, required a management strategy for the Parklands, establish seven principles for the management of the Parklands, and create the Adelaide Park Lands Authority to operate as an advisory body to the City of Adelaide and the State Government.
In the most recent Adelaide Park Lands Management Strategy, published in 2018, then-Deputy Premier John Rau described the tension of wanting to protect “one of the city’s greatest assets” and encouraging people to enjoy the green space, instead of simply skirting around or racing through it.
This would include the building of new infrastructure, like clubrooms attached to sports ovals, but, in the words of John Rau, the green space also needs to be “enjoyed by all members of our community”.