• Tony Bosworth

Minister snubs Windsor bridge protestors, blames COVID

A group of community protestors seeking to stop demolition of Windsor's historic

1874 bridge who travelled to the NSW parliament hoping to talk face-to-face with Transport Minister Andrew Constance, have been snubbed, with the minister blaming COVID.

Defenders of Thompson Square were met by NSW Labour opposition leader Jodi Mackay, shadow environment minister Kate Washington and Greens MLC David Shoebridge – who along with Hawkesbury Council support saving the old Windsor bridge from demolition - but Mr Constance was a no-show, instead handing a letter to Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston which was read to protestors.

“Unfortunately due to COVID19 I am restricted in my ability to meet directly with your constituents during their protest action today,” said the minister in his letter.

“In his letter to Robyn Preston which she read to us, Minister Constance cited COVID-19 restrictions as the reason he could not meet us directly,” said Cheryl Ballantyne, secretary of Defenders of Thompson Square.

"On Wednesday in Parliament, Minister Constance was lecturing Deputy Premier John Barilaro about community. Ironically, on the same day representatives of the Windsor community were outside Parliament House wanting to meet with him and he refused,” said Ms Ballantyne.

“A news article about the parliamentary session quotes Minister Constance: ‘Just get back to what’s important here and that’s the community – and that’s where Barra is, quite frankly, buggering up. He’s forgetting the people who put him there’.

“We have advised Robyn Preston that the minister’s letter did not address our community’s concerns,” Ms Ballantyne said.

“We have asked for the minister to directly intervene in the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project, to stop the demolition work on the historic bridge and to meet with us in the next week.”

But Minister Constance said in his letter removal of the old bridge would go ahead and work was well underway, with guard rails already down and full demolition slated to start in just weeks.

Mr Constance added the cost of keeping the old bridge in place now the new bridge was open to traffic was prohibitive, though the southern span would remain as a viewing platform, he said.

Estimates for restoring the bridge came in at $18m and demolishing it at just under $2m.

Hawkesbury Council’s petition to keep the old bridge shows 85.5% of respondents voting to keep the bridge. Some 1595 people have voted yes, with 270 voting no, out of total of 1865 votes so far.

Defenders of Thompson Square chairperson, Patricia Schwartz, said they would never give up trying to save the historic bridge, which she says could play a big role in Windsor’s revitalisation.

“There is so much energy going into visions and plans for the revitalisation of Windsor by keeping the heritage bridge,” said Ms Schwartz.

“A walking trail from McQuade Park to Macquarie Park and taking in the business centre is a divine idea.

“A running trail or family walking trail around McQuade Park and then along the river across the heritage bridge and then around Macquarie Park. Wow, wonderful.

“Boutique shops, unique only made in the Hawkesbury wares, exciting eateries, coffee and speciality outlets and so much more.

“The excitement is tangible but we must keep the old bridge.”

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