Campaign to defend historic Windsor Bridge continues

Volunteers Pat Schwartz and Claudia Khouri at Windsor’s Thompson Square sit-in now.

Hawkesbury Council in Sydney's far north-west voted at its January 30 meeting to reject an offer by NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to leave a "viewing platform" made from a section of the historic Windsor Bridge when the proposed Windsor Bridge Replacement Project has been completed.

Residents and local councillors have been campaigning for five years against the NSW Coalition government's plan to remove the old bridge across the Hawkesbury River to make way for a new bridge.

Campaign Action for Windsor Bridge (CAWB) is a grassroots organisation based in Windsor, the third oldest settlement in colonial Australia. They are fighting the plan by the RMS, known as Option 1, to demolish the historic Windsor Bridge and build a three-lane replacement and bulldoze a major arterial road through Thompson Square, Australia's oldest public space.

CAWB said: "Not only would this proposal be destructive to the unique and fragile heritage of an important part of our nation's history, it would also prove to be an ineffective solution to the ever increasing demands of road users."

CAWB activists have maintained a round-the-clock occupation of historic Thompson Square since 2013 in protest against the state government's destructive plan.

As a result of their campaign, the NSW Legislative Council began an inquiry into the Windsor Bridge replacement project in November last year. More than 150 public submissions were received before the January 28 closure date. The committee will be holding public hearings early this year.

As part of the campaign, residents protested outside the Hawkesbury Regional Gallery on November 1 as Premier Gladys Berejiklian unveiled a portrait of herself inside. Protester Jan Sparkes said the Premier and local MP, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, had left residents with no other choice than to demonstrate. 

On January 8, two people were arrested at a non-violent protest at Windsor Bridge, calling for work on the bridge replacement to be halted until the parliamentary inquiry into the project was completed. Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon and Labor federal MP for Macquarie Susan Templeman were among those who linked arms at the site, chanting "Stop trashing our town" and "Save our square."

CAWB president Harry Terry told Green Left Weekly on February 14 the group hopes to make a major submission to the inquiry when public hearings begin. "We have also made an application to the federal government asking for an emergency heritage listing for the current bridge, as well as Thompson Square," he said.

"While CAWB does not have a preferred by-pass option to the current replacement plan, there are at least two obvious alternatives where a by-pass bridge could be built. Despite RMS claiming they would be too expensive, the available evidence is that they would be comparable or cheaper in cost compared to the current project." 

[For more information about the campaign visit cawb.com.au or the CAWB on Facebook.]

 

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