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Kevin Duffy plots to have Lords Place makeover “dismantled”, saying “it looks like a cat chundered”

July 6, 2023

By Peter Holmes

Veteran councillor Kevin Duffy is looking ahead at how he can have the divisive Lords Place south makeover “dismantled”, but said it will likely have to wait until after the 2024 council elections.

Duffy, who has been a brutal critic of the controversial redevelopment, said he didn’t believe enough of the nine current councillors who backed the project last August were ready to concede it hasn’t worked.

“Sometimes councils make mistakes,” he said. “You need to bite the bullet and say, ‘It’s not worth it’.”

Lords Place south was again on the council agenda at Tuesday night’s meeting. The debate centred around a potential design competition for the 20 large grey planter pots that line the strip, but that didn’t stop Duffy from broadening the discussion.

Deputy mayor Gerald Power, filling in for mayor Jason Hamling, asked whether there were any speakers on the pot plant design challenge. He didn’t have time to complete the invitation before councillor Kevin Duffy was on his feet.

Duffy, Jeff Whitton and Frances Kinghorne were the only councillors to vote last August against the $1.4 million project, which was funded with $500,000 from the state government and $900,000 from Orange City Council.

Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

“I’m going to speak against it - not because I don’t like [the idea of pot plant designs] or whatever the case may be - but look, Lords Place hasn’t passed the pub test,” Duffy began.

“As far as I’m concerned, if I stand for the next council, it’s going to be one of my main things … to dismantle it and put it in a further appropriate place.

“Relocate the trees out to the sports ground. Or the ageism policy we have. We even had a woman tripped over the other day in the confusion with all the colours. Could someone advise me what the situation is with that?”

Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

At this stage councillor Melanie McDonell interrupted with a “point of clarification” to say that Duffy was straying from the key issue - the decorating of the large planter pots.

“Councillor Duffy, I think we’re speaking on the motion,” Power - in control of this section of the meeting - advised Duffy.

Duffy wasn’t having it: “I’m just putting why I’m against it, it doesn’t pass the pub test. It doesn’t matter where you go, we've seen it on social media, we've seen it everywhere, 90-something percent of people in Orange do not want it, they want it back the way it [was].”

As Duffy drew breath McDonell raised a point of order. “This is not about the design of Lords Place, this is about the pots.”

“They’re part of the DA (development application),” Duffy said loudly across the chamber.

Power again reminded Duffty that the motion was about the pot plants.

“The pot plants are part of Lords Place,” Duffy said.

“OK,” said Power before moving the meeting along.

In an interview on Thursday with The Orange News Examiner Duffy described Lords Place - with its dining pods, waves of multi-coloured road paint, massive pot plants, concrete slab and wooden seating, steel shade contraptions and nascent trees - as “Disneyland”. It was not meant as a compliment.

Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men, with Weed.

“I call it Disneyland because they are living in Disneyland,” he said of the councillors and staff who backed the project.

And then, referencing the classic 1950s children’s TV show Flower Pot Men, he added: “All this bit about pot plants - strewth, there’s Bill and Ben, but they didn’t mention Weed.”

Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Duffy said Lords Place “looks like a cat chundered, and the IRA’s been down there blowing things up”.

“It’s been a total waste of time,” he said. “The public don’t want it, they want Lords Place back.”

Councillor Kinghorne, while broadly supportive of having school kids and local artists decorate the pots, questioned whether 20 pots with 20 different designs would only add to the visual chaos of what used to be a wide country street.

“We’ve got this sort of psychedelic hippy aesthetic there,” she told Tuesday’s council meeting. “If we started putting other things there on those pots then is that going to be confusing, is that going to detract from what’s on the pots?”

The debate around the pots veered into the realms of the comical as councillors debated aesthetics, how much a printed vinyl design might cost, whether parameters for designs made by primary school kids would need to be set to avoid a blizzard of clashing designs, and the potential need for an expert panel of people with a good eye to be wheeled in to judge the designs.

In a city where the roads are often poor, the footpaths are crooked or non-existent, many people are doing it really tough financially, and many don’t have a permanent roof over their heads, there was a sense that perhaps Nero was fiddling while Rome burned.

Councillors Glenn Floyd and Jack Evans enthusiastically backed the pot plant design challenge.

However the whole debate ultimately ground to a halt as it became clear nobody had the faintest idea how much it might cost to organise and deliver the pot plant project.

Councillor McDonell appeared frustrated that council staff had not been able to supply costings ahead of the meeting, as it meant that despite support from some of her fellow councillors, the whole idea had to be put on ice.

Duffy, meanwhile, will push for Anson Street between Summer and Kite streets to become the focus for outdoor dining and gathering spaces.

Council attempted this in 2020, but the concept - which included removal of the plane trees - was thwarted when a large protest was organised.

Duffy believes Anson Street could be redeveloped without losing the trees.

“That Anson Street protest started because (the late councillor) Glenn Taylor and I went up there to save the trees, then Kate Hook jumped on board,” Duffy said, referring to the independent candidate at last year’s federal election.

He said that the three councillors who voted against the Lords Place south makeover were “long-term, multi-generational families of Orange”.

“We have the feel for Orange,” he said. “My family has been here since the mid-1800s. You get the feel for these things.

“It’s like if you go hunting rabbits - if you’ve never hunted rabbits you might walk over one and not even see it, but if you know how to do it, you know where they hide.”

He predicted Lords Place south “will be a huge point at the next election”.

“There is no way the current councillors will vote to get rid of it, to say ‘We’ve made a mistake’. I can see a few, but not enough.”

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