Living in the Urban Heart of Penrith

Twenty years ago, who would have imagined that a June evening in 2017 would bring fifty local residents together to talk about what ‘urban living’ means for Penrith now and in the future?

As Penrith steps into its new role as the Western City of a polycentric future Sydney, local Penrith residents are keen to participate in this process of learning and growth. The ‘Living in the Urban Heart of Penrith’ community forum was initiated by local residents of Thornton, UrbanGrowth NSW’s urban transformation project of former Defence land within the Penrith CBD. Working with the Thornton community, past and present Thornton Community Facilitators for UrbanGrowth NSW, Casey Holtom and Cinzia Guaraldi, put together a program to explore the liveability impacts of recent and planned changes for Penrith. Discussion panel questions were developed through a community conversation process, reflecting the community’s desire for greater understanding of and involvement in community planning.

Commencing with a walking tour, the community heard about design features of Thornton that offer improved liveability, with contribution from AFFORD disability living, Thornton Hall childcare, Southern Cross Care retirement living, PAYCE/Evolve, St Hilliers/First Point Property/Morton RE and the community’s Masterplanner, UrbanGrowth NSW. When the evening progressed from light rain to a torrential downpour, the tour adjourned to the community centre to hear from the remaining tour hosts over dinner provided by a local resident’s business, Pak Ghar Catering.

The community was welcomed by passionate Thornton local Lidia Misuraca, who shared her memories and aspirations for Penrith, whilst her audience enjoyed dessert provided by First Point Property. John O’Callaghan (Director of JOC Consulting) facilitated the discussion panel, with guest speakers Stuart Gibb (Community Development Manager, UrbanGrowth NSW) and Dr Dallas Rogers (Senior Lecturer in Urbanism at The University of Sydney). Sharing examples from projects around the world that value liveability, the panel also reflected on the importance of the human perspective – keeping people at the heart of planning considerations. The reasoning and results of the diversity of housing choices at Thornton was considered, as well as the Community Development Project’s contribution to community resilience and connection. Together, the community audience and guest speakers explored strategies for overcoming the challenges of engaging mixed tenure residents and maturing households, including both young families and retirees. Inspired by the international examples, local residents brainstormed possible modifications to local public spaces to encourage more active use that reflects the specific needs of the community.

Assistant General Manager for Penrith City Council, Craig Butler was unexpectedly unable to attend the evening due to illness, but is keen to be involved in a future event and speak about Penrith’s new Night Time Economy Strategy and role in regional planning. Due to the interest shown by the community, planning is underway for a second community forum in this ‘Urban Living’ series, this time focusing on Sustainability. Penrith’s suburban history has played an important role in shaping its character, but with passionate community members like those from Thornton helping create a new urban identity, this young city has an exciting future ahead.

? Image courtesy of UrbanGrowth NSW

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