Bridges and troubled waters

THE campaign for an upgrade of Victoria Bridge has been under way since the 1950s and Penrith state MP Stuart Ayres last year announced a $20-million commitment to improving the bridge.

But a community action group argues that Mr Ayres is delivering an oblivious Penrith a gift that will wreak havoc on those who frequent the Nepean River and live near its banks.

"What they're talking about is a separate bridge, not an upgrade," said Mr Kelly, the Nepean River Users Group chairman. "Which is not what was promised and not the basis on which he [Mr Ayres] was elected."

While Mr Kelly acknowledged the need for an upgrade he said there were many problems surrounding the proposal and construction of the new bridge.

COMMUNICATION

According to Mr Kelly, public consultation with residents who live near the proposed bridge site has been unacceptable and the first two public meetings were "hush-hush" with small attendances.

"The consultation process has been deeply flawed and indefensible and cannot take the name of consultation," he said.

"I'd need to provide more information to my next-door neighbour if I wanted to build a house than what's been provided to anyone about this proposed $20 million bridge."

HISTORY AND LEGACY

Victoria Bridge was built in 1864 and completed in 1867.

Mr Kelly was concerned the construction of the new bridge would cause destruction to Punt Road in Emu Plains, which was used by explorers Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and William Lawson on their historic journey through the Blue Mountains in 1813. "We have an iconic bridge here that's older than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The argument that somehow building a new bridge will be iconic is just a deceit," he said.

SAFETY AND AESTHETIC CONCERNS

With the need for safety across the bridge, Mr Kelly said the view for people using it would be hindered by cages or walls.

He also believed the bridge would be built 200 metres down from Victoria Bridge on the side closest to Tench Reserve, meaning the current picturesque view from the old Log Cabin hotel site would be compromised.

HERITAGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE

Mr Kelly said it was impossible for anyone to argue that a completely new bridge was better for the environment than fixing the current one.

"It's like saying throwing out your car and getting a new one is somehow better for the environment than using the one you have," he said. "It defies logic."

He also said there had been no consideration during the proposal of the bridge of the Aboriginal significance of the site. "Any imposition on land that doesn't have to occur, as I understand indigenous culture, is not desirable," Mr Kelly said. "And this is an imposition that doesn't need to occur."

IMPACT ON ROWERS

If the pylons of the new bridge are not parallel to those of Victoria Bridge, Mr Kelly said the new bridge would destroy the only open-water 2000-metre rowing course in Australia.

"Rowers have brought real business to Penrith for over 100 years," he said. "What they're doing is basically kicking them off the river which is a disgrace."

Ultimately, Mr Kelly said he wanted "proper public consultation" and for Mr Ayres "to deliver his election promise".

"If they want one of the three bridges [in accordance with the three proposed designs recently unveiled for public opinion, see left] use the straight one and put it adjacent to Victoria Bridge," he said.

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