City of Unley CEO weighs in on Public Debate

And so now our CEO has weighed in on the public debate with a statement that can be found by a link on the home page of our web site. To save you the trouble of looking for it though, here is the transcript below.

An update on the development of the Unley Oval precinct

We are aware that there is a high level of community interest about the future of the Unley Oval Precinct and there has been a variety of ideas put forward over the last few years. To ensure that Unley Oval continues to meet the future needs of the community and the sporting clubs, the Council has decided to prepare a redevelopment plan of the precinct. This plan will guide any future redevelopment to ensure that any present decisions do not compromise future opportunities.This update is to advise the community of decisions taken by Council concerning the redevelopment of the Unley Oval precinct.
The Precinct is bounded by Trimmer Terrace (west), Frederick Street (north), Langham Terrace (east) and Edmund Avenue (south). It is approximately 4 hectares in size and is a significant area for both structured sport (including football, cricket, tennis and bowls) as well as unstructured recreation (personal exercise, informal ball sports, dog exercise). It includes playgrounds and public toilets and is used to host events such as the finish of the ‘Ride like Crazy’ cycling event.
Unley Oval is one of 3 sporting hubs within the City of Unley and is considered to be a regional sporting facility. The Precinct also consists of six grass tennis courts, two bowling greens, associated clubroom facilities and two grandstands which have substandard change facilities, storage and training rooms.
After extensive consultation with user groups earlier this year, Council has begun detailed investigations into possible redevelopment options. This includes potential refurbishment of the existing facilities and resurfacing of the oval.
At its meeting on 28 October 2013, Council resolved that:
“1. The Administration proceed without delay in:
a) investigating opportunities to create additional public open space on the Unley Oval precinct.
b) investigating and preparing concept designs to improve the current substandard facilities on Unley Oval, to bring them up to SANFL compliant standards.
2. The Administration report back to Council in January 2014, seeking further direction.”

At this stage, Council has not made any decisions about what any potential redevelopment will include.
The January 2014 report referred to in the October 2013 resolution will address some of the issues raised during the information gathering process: in particular, better facilities for sport, and improved open space for general community and recreation purposes.
Once this report is presented, Council can determine the next steps in delivering an upgrade of this significant community asset.
It is, of course, the intention of Council to continue to engage with the whole community in relation to the redevelopment of the Unley Oval Precinct.  Community consultation will be carried out on any and all proposed redevelopment concepts.
Further updates will be provided via letterbox drops to selected areas and will be accessible on the City of Unley website. We anticipate the next update will be in February following the Council meeting in January.
Peter Tsokas
CEO, City of Unley
27 November 2013

Wrong Again….According to the Eastern Courier

I obviously got it wrong in my post back on the 29th October on this blog site that we now have direction on Unley Oval. According to the Courier the whole thing is stalled.

This must be so confusing to the public of Unley.  And in my opinion only helps to confuse and create the Chinese whispers that have plagued the master plan for so long.

In that post I was proud to write that I put a successful motion to Council, a motion that was designed to move us forward with specific intent on what is needed now.

Yes! what is needed now. While we may play with the parameters on the master plan a master plan is about the future and is long term, but there are issues that are now that need to be addressed.

To remind you all my motion, which was passed, it read

That: 

1. The Administration proceed without delay in: 

a) investigating opportunities to create additional public open space on 
the Unley Oval precinct. 
b) investigating and preparing concept designs to improve the current 
substandard facilities on Unley Oval, to bring them up to SANFL 
compliant standards. 

2. The Administration report back to Council in January 2014, seeking further 
direction.


So, in January we expect a report that homes in on how we might increase the space available to the public. We expect also a report that will identify what is needed for Sturt FC to have SANFL compliant facilities. This will enable us to move forward with a realistic redevelopment project with the benefit of knowing that what we do now will not conflict with possible future plans for the precinct.
This is in lieu of stumbling along trying to come up with the big picture stuff, knowing all along that only parts of it can be auctioned in the near future.
Sorry…………but I simply cant see how this means things have stalled. We have moved from the big picture to the here and now. Not something that might cost in excess of $ 10m but something that might more realistically require and investment of say $ 4.0m.

Moving forward with something that is bite sized rather than stalling things by continuing to talk big picture.
No Unley Oval has not stalled. It is moving into an exciting opportunity for being project ready when funding may become available in the next 12 months or so, which we expect to happen no matter who is in Government this time next year.
Indeed, had we not taken this approach the project would in my opinion have stalled.

A letter to Unley Oval Concerned Citizens

I emailed this letter last night to the group known as Unley Oval Concerned Citizens.

As the mover of the motion noted in your newsletter number 2 I thought I might add to your communication. 
The reasons for my bring the motion that I did was to focus councils attention on that which has been identified during the community consultation phase of the master plan as worthy of looking at. The time for master planning is past in my opinion and the time right for looking at specific projects that have been identified by the process.
I felt we were getting on a never-ending roundabout of master planning and that we needed to get off this because it was not productive and causing stress to everyone elected members, council management and staff, our residents and our sporting clubs alike.
Those specifics I identified that warranted priority include finding ways that can improve general community access to the precinct and to upgrade the facilities that most people recognise have now worn out and in need of repair.
Master planning is essential for any community facility to improve the chances that it is fit for purpose in the years to come. Ie  a plan for the next 20 years. Master planning will therefore continue over the years to evolve as future use is identified and potential recognised.
When master planning is done all possible potential and issues need to be identified and this has happened in this case. That includes things that then can be recognised as not being needed or are in need of prioritising.
That is why we entertained an approach by Sturt Cricket Club who promoted they wanted to return. By looking at the whole precinct holistically (which is what master planning does) we were able to ascertain there was no future for their senior teams to return to the Oval. 
The process had to be undertaken even though many thought that by investigating it was therefore a done deal because simply because we discussed it.
In spite of the rumours that keep abounding I hope my motion helps us all, council and public, to focus now on the “now” rather than the twenty-year plan. 

Finally some progress on Unley Oval’s redevelopment.

As members of the public are getting up in arms complaining and protesting about plans they believe Council has for Unley Oval the motion I foreshadowed last week was debated and approved at last night’s council meeting.

There has apparently been a flurry of protests in the last week or so telling us what we have planned to do with the Oval and why we shouldn’t do it. Some of these I was aware of, many I was not. It was in this climate that my motion was debated last night.

And not soon enough it would appear. As I indicated last night to my fellow councillors the talk fest has gone on too long. There comes a time when master planning must take a back seat to concentrating or focusing on projects relevant to now, to today.

I believe it has been a lack of focus and talking too broadly that has allowed a public anxiety to develop. To the public I apologise. My motion is designed to recognise and deal with that.

It was a lively debate where those against my motion actually spoke in favour of the motion. The argument against the motion was one the one hand it is too broad to this will mean we are tinkering with the edges.

Interesting seeing the aim of putting the motion forward was so that we can get away from being too broad (which you have to be when master planning).to begin focused on where we can go today.

My motion, which as I have said was carried, was:

That: 

1. The Administration proceed without delay in: 

a) investigating opportunities to create additional public open space on 
the Unley Oval precinct. 
b) investigating and preparing concept designs to improve the current 
substandard facilities on Unley Oval, to bring them up to SANFL 
compliant standards. 

2. The Administration report back to Council in January 2014, seeking further 
direction.

I look forward now to one or two projects that we can all get excited about being developed to the point where they are ready for any funding that becomes available.

Yes! Whatever project may evolve out of this project cannot proceed without appropriate funding so we may get to project ready but not proceed because funding is not available.

Time to stop pussyfooting around

Yes! It is time to stop pussy footing around on Unley Oval.

We have been through a very exhaustive master planning process, involving our own investigations up to 7 years ago. 

This was followed by an extensive public consultation last year by an outside consultant, resulting in a concept for future planning. With elected members not embracing that plan we engaged another consultant to pick up on what we had learnt during this time to come up with another concept for the future. This one identified opportunities not previously seen.

We have a pretty good blueprint I suggest for identifying what can happen at the Oval and its surrounds. That being the case Council needs surely to focus on what are the best options for the here and now, leaving the rest for the future.

Unfortunately we still seem to be buried in the public service world of investigating what we have already investigated, I think with elected members from council seeking some direction from our admin as to where yo go from here. At the same time I think admin is seeking to understand where the elected members would like to take this.

This may be why things take so long in local government.
So where to from here?
I have given notice of an intention to move a motion at Monday night’s council meeting to not just move ahead but to focus on what I believe we both want. And what I believe we both want, and indeed the community also want, is 2 things:
1.  We want to above all else maximize the precinct for the use of the wider community. Create more usable open space for ALL to enjoy.
2.  We also want to ensure that the football change room and associated facilities are SANFL compliant.
It is my aim to have our admin work on bringing back to us options for increasing the usable open space for families to picnic, play and simply recreate. 
We no longer need to look at how we might accommodate service clubs or the likes in a multi-purpose facility that all the clubs can use. We have no need to upgrade the facilities of the bowls or tennis. So let’s focus on what we want, and what our community has been telling us. 
There are options that can be looked to improve Unley Oval for the use of the broader community. Lets pin them down, get some design and costings and take it out to the public for their input.

Then maybe we can see something, subject obviously to the availability of funding, happen on the ground.

I hope my elected colleagues see it the same way. 

The Future of Unley Oval Frustrates

Frustration mounts by all and sundry on the “master planning” process that the City of Unley has pursued over the last year. Frustration by the public expecting results and not seeing any, the public believing that certain projects they don’t want to see are a done deal and engaging on these yet to be considered initiatives. Frustration also from the Unley management I suspect that they have to continually respond to misconceptions.

This needs sorting out before we commence (which is soon) a similar process for the Goodwood Oval and Millswood Park precincts.


Before commenting further we must recognise one simple fact and that is the council have resolved to endorse the redevelopment of the Unley Oval precinct in principle only. This endorsement is as a result of extensive public consultation over that time, and subsequent work to identify options for addressing what the public consultation revealed to us. And this endorsement was thankfully a unanimous decision because to do otherwise would be wrong for reasons made obvious later on in this blog post.


Most people recognise that the Oval does need some rejuvenation, many see possibilities to improve the amenity of the area for public use. Sports currently not using the Oval have indicated a desire to be accommodated if possible. So Council would be derelict in it responsibilities if it did not explore what is possible.

There are arguments that we should not be indulging ourselves with grandiose schemes when all we need to do now is………………….. .

Let me say I have been involved in similar exercises as a builder with such institutions as Retirement Villages, Schools etc; organisations that need to plan ahead to ensure current building projects don’t limit opportunities in years to come. I have also been involved in building projects where such forward strategic thinking has not taken place prior.

What I have seen in these scenarios is that organisations that do not think ahead as to what may be needed in the future, make poor decisions with locating the footprint of a building under current consideration. This then makes subsequent development found to be needed later very difficult to achieve or the resultant development is found to be less than effective.

I implore therefore everyone with an interest in the future of the Unley Oval to have patience with the process. The idea of having a master plan or concept or whatever else you want to call it is in my opinion crucial so that decisions this current council does or does not make do not handcuff future councils from also achieving improvements to the precinct.

The touted $50,000.00 we have spent on this project is a wise investment, noting that in the case of council we don’t have just the school or retirement village board of directors to contribute we have the entire public. People from parents taking their kids to the ground to relax and play, to dog walkers, to unorganized and organised sports and a myriad of others.

We have undergone an intensive program to ensure everyone with an interest has been heard. This is not an exercise that can be undertaken cheaply or rushed. Most of that $ 50,000.00 was spent engaging with the public. Preparation of concept drawings was but a fraction of that.

Many issues have been identified and many possible solutions suggested. This reinforces the need for considered forward planning.

Does that mean any of it is going to commence in the near future. That is an emphatic NO!

For instance:

Will there be an underground carpark under the bowling green? Most Unlikely!

Will this be considered well into the future, say 15-20 years from now? Who knows maybe not, but if we plan correctly now we will not restrict this in the future should there be a need established for it.

Will permanent fencing be undertaken in the near future? If an appropriate design can be found, maybe!

Will any such fencing restrict open access to the ground? Absolutely not!

When? Who knows (and this is a topic I might followup on in a later blog).

Will A grade cricket be involved? The process of addressing how the Sturt Cricket Club needs may be met without compromising the use of the precinct by others has seen that this would be most difficult. Council has therefore resolved that future concepts will not include cricket!

Will the McKay Stand be upgraded or extended? Who knows, we have not yet identified whether there is a need to justify this? We are working on this as we speak. It may be that we might upgrade the changing facilities fir the Sturt Footy Club, something that most people recognise needs to happen.

Will Sturt FC offices and boardroom be relocated to the Oval, be it in the McKay stand or the Oatey stand? Yet to be considered as far as I know but this could be being looked at now for all I know and being made ready to present to us. I must say relocating the Sturt Offices to the McKay stand (if it can be easily accommodated) makes sense. It provides Council with an opportunity to better utilise the building known as Jack’s Bar at 39 Oxford Street.

Will the Oatey stand be renovated, extended or will it be demolished? Once again, who knows? If you want my best guess this is unlikely in the foreseeable future, but who knows what the changing face of the population of Unley might show us in time.

What this all boils down to is to provide as with a good platform from which we can now assess the priorities we currently should explore without jeopardising future opportunities. And interestingly we will find that any immediate project may be quite small in stature and cost. No doubt those who believe we have been advocating grandiose schemes will feel they have had a victory and that will be good.

Have we identified what these priorities are? No! It is therefore surprising to see so much public dialogue going on about concepts yet to be discussed by council, let along endorsed for public consultation. When we have determined some priorities and therefore some concepts we WILL re-engage the community. We will welcome and encourage comment at that time.

One thing I will say is whatever projects this current council might consider, assuming there is a budget opportunity or grant funding, is that we MUST make this facility disability friendly. This is something I will insist is included if and when we have a project concept presented to us.

Unley Oval Master Planning Continues to the Concept Detail Stage

Last night Council agreed unanimously to a motion moved by myself, seconded by Cr Anthony Lapidge and amended in a subtle way by Cr Michael Saies, to accept in principle the work done on the planning concept and move onto the next stage of the process.

This allows us to start looking more seriously at the Master Plan for this precinct. The Consultants had put a concept together where they tried to address all the wishes of all the affected parties, clubs and passive users alike. In other words the plan (concept) in front of us last night was recognising as best they could, the issues that were raised by you out there during the consultation phase, and modified as a result of elected member observations and also those of the clubs, via the reference group.

Many attempts to elicit detail by elected members last night, as was the case at last week by the Reference Group, is an indication that the time has come to start looking at a bit of detail. To start shaping the concepts into a model that we can take to the community. The motion has called for a report to be tabled at Council’s September meeting.

During this time elected members will walk the precinct to get a better feel of the geography and the amenity.

During this time questions around whether to shift the northern boundary into the very wide Frederick Street will be addressed, along with is there a need to demolish the Bowling Club and incorporate them into a new building suggested for the south west corner of the oval, will be answered.

We will also look into whether or not we can physically accommodate the return of the Sturt Cricket Club. Whilst the concept plan is suggestive that this can be achieved the current location of the practice nets will trespass into vital open space. It may be possible, depending on what building footprint will be found to be pursued in the south west corner of the Oval, to relocate them to this area and save the many trees that would have to go if left where currently suggested.

Also during this time we will investigate whether or not Council can work toward a mutually acceptable contractual situation, included the financial model.

We are moving now to an exciting stage of this process, the stage where we put a bit of detail to the concepts. If we can navigate our way successfully through this stage, we can start looking at drawings suitable for construction and/or even some on site work where detailed construction drawings are not required and budgets can be established to pursue the work.

Let us all not forget one important thing here. Turning whatever we come up with into reality will depend on external funding, primarily from the Federal Government and will likely have to be completed in stages over a span of years.

Unley Oval Master Planning progresses

Council will receive a report for their consideration on Monday night’s extra Council meeting and will be asked  to agree in principle with the direction of the development of concepts for the Unley Oval precinct.

Two workshops this week, one for elected members last Monday and for the Unley Oval Reference Group last night, were held to obtain feedback on what is now Mark III of the Plan. Mark III is the result of deciding between two original options (Marks I & II) that were presented us a short while back.

The observations by elected members and more importantly, the Reference Group members (made up of the clubs and residents (Only 1 of which attended this meeting) mean that Mark III is well away from what may finally evolve. The exchange of dialogue from all these people was positive however and I believe all can see good reason  for the process to continue.

In true Local Government form however that simply means looking at the concept and while recognising it is only a concept to refine the concept and take it out for another round of public consultation. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed I suggest before this happens.

For all those interested in the future of Unley Oval please be patient. We are far from ready to look at Detailed Design. It is not yet ready for this even though the ability for it to be flexible to accommodate varying scenarios is starting to show through.

Also as I have said earlier and had to repeat to a local resident only an hour after the Reference Group meeting this is not about providing solutions for the Sturt Footy Club’s challenges. It has been my contention for a while that it will be the Sturt Cricket Club’s wish to return to Unley Oval that will challenge us more in ensuring the general community does not lose out. And this was born out last night at the meeting.

Having said that I believe that with continued hard work and a willingness by all who are contributing to come up with a workable solution we are likely to find one that will provide a better facility for all going forward.

As always of course. Watch This Space!

Unley Oval Master Plan set to come back to Council

The second draft of the Unley Oval Master Plan is set to come before Council again at it’s next sitting.

This will be July 8, due to the significant number of issues that have to come before us at this time of year. We will get a look next week in a workshop which will give us time to consider proposals being put before us.

This draft will incorporate observations provided to the consultants from the Clubs, and from Council on the original draft.

We will have to wait and see whether it can move onto the next stage of planning or whether we need to go back to the drawing board and have more modifications or even start afresh.

In the meantime it is my understanding that some informal lobbying is taking place with the Federal Election looming. Who knows there may be some funding available to start some of the plan, when finished, sooner rather than later.

Will Sturt become the Crows reserve team.

Sturt Footy Club President Jason Kilic spoke at the pre-match luncheon before the Sturt v Glenelg match at Unley Oval today and talked of the significant decision he and the other League Presidents have to make in the near future about the Crows proposal to have a reserves team.

Jason is one of nine people charged with a decision that will impact the local competition is ways that cannot be truly comprehended, whichever way they choose. One thing is for sure though he announced to those present at the Luncheon.

Sturt Footy club WILL NOT become the Crows reserves side. That is simply not on the agenda.

In a private conversation at the match he revealed to me his opinion that the Sturt Footy Club would lose their history and culture overnight. In other words Sturt would gain nothing from such a move. They would only lose….,big time.

And he believes the Crows would lose out too. Lets face it the Crows are a team for all South Australians, a mantel they could no longer claim if they took over Sturt.

We did discuss the options for which competition the Crows should play in and I can assure that at least one person responsible for the looming decision is thinking through the issues and options with a clear head.

One option may be for the Crows to become the tenth team in the SANFL league competition. If that happens then the closest the Crows would get to Sturt would be

                              V    

Would be a good first game for the Crows reserves team I reckon. Of course if this were to happen I wonder whether the Unley Oval master plan has anticipated such a scenario.