“This is a battle, the battle of Thompson Square, and if we don’t stand up and say something the State government and the RMS will pull down our heritage bridge and they will put a road through and we will lose this square.”
So said Community Action for Windsor Bridge (CAWB) chairman Dail Miller at an emotional rally at noon on Sunday held in Australia’s oldest Colonial-era Georgian square, aimed at stopping a replacement Windsor Bridge coming up the side of Thompson Square.
The preferred Option 1 – a bridge 35m downstream of the present one but coming ashore at the edge of Thompson Square – was called “historical vandalism” by Natalie Buckett, 16, while CAWB organiser, Pete Reynolds, called Thompson Square, “sacred ground” due to it being the location of the hanging of Vinegar Hill rebellion leader Phillip Cunningham.
Despite the steady rain, around 500 people turned out to hear speakers vent on the former RTA, now RMS, the O’Farrell State government and Liberal members of State parliament, regarding their plans to push ahead with Option 1.
Lead speaker was Jack Mundey, who as a prominent union man in the 1970s, was instrumental in the success of the ‘Green Bans’ which stopped demolition of historically significant heritage buildings and precincts, including Sydney’s Rocks area.
“Thompson Square is not for sale,” shouted Mr Mundey who was still a formidable speaker. “Whatever they do, it should not go through Thompson Square.”
Before the speeches MP for Riverstone Kevin Conolly said he believed most people in the area were for a new replacement bridge and they preferred Option 1.
“While I respect people for coming out here in the rain and showing their concern, I don’t believe that the level of concern people have here is actually confirmed by the facts,” he said. “We have to go through the Environmental Impact Study process and I think that a decision [whether to build the Option 1 bridge] will be made by the end of the year.”
But most speakers at the demonstration were instead calling for a Windsor bypass, a scheme that Mr Conolly said would have a negative effect on local businesses.
This was not a view echoed by local businesswoman Sue Wingate. “I really can’t just stand by and let what I consider to be an absolute monstrosity come through our square,” she said. “If I look at the RMS website, it’s very pretty, but it looks like it’s in somebody else’s town. This bridge would not be in keeping with the heritage buildings around it.” NSW Opposition leader, Labor’s John Robertson said “Thompson Square is the one and only civic square and it’s the oldest and it deserves to be preserved”.
He said Goulburn, Yass, Berrima and Berry were examples of thriving towns with by-
Mr Conolly said “not a single building in and around Thompson Square will be affected.” He said the proposed new bridge would be big enough for an eventual three lanes and that the RMS had considered residents’ concerns.
The last speaker was the personification of ‘Governor Lachlan Macquarie’. “In my most outlandish imaginings, never would I have considered that those charged with the betterment of the community would contemplate the enactment of such desecration,” he said.