Community engagement at Callan Park

Co-designing an iconic urban parkland for the inner-west

NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Callan Park Landscape Structure Plan consultation

Callan Park is a much-loved and unique open space on the foreshore of the Parramatta River, inner west of Sydney. Covering 61 hectares, the park is rare generous size for the area, featuring varied landscapes from gardens to native bushland, significant Aboriginal sites and artefacts, sporting fields. It also houses variety of heritage buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries that reflect Callan Park’s previous use as a hospital and mental health facility.

After decades of attempted plans, strategies, master plans and community consultation, a Landscape Structure Plan for Callan Park was endorsed and funded by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment in January 2021, to guide Callan Park’s revitalisation as an iconic urban parkland.

This was an incredible win for the community of the inner-west of Sydney, who’d tirelessly advocated for Callan Park’s protection and investment in it, to ensure it remained a public asset, with its heritage preserved for decades.

Cred was engaged by the Department to assist in providing strategic advice around communicating the intent of the Draft LSP ahead of it going on public exhibition. We provided advice around the language, format and structure of the draft LSP, prior to the draft being finalised for public exhibition. Cred helped to de-risk the document.

Working with the Department and the Tyrell and Terroir landscape architect teams, Cred was also engaged to design, deliver and report on community and stakeholder engagement to understand the level of support for the vision for Callan Park, and the two strategic moves proposed to achieve the vision.

The engagement was a crucial step for the government, and needed to be accepted to be a genuine process by the community for trust in the LSP to be built.

How we did it

We approached this project with a desire to help shift the needle for good community outcomes. Right from the start, we determined engagement principles to guide the engagement design and delivery: Communication; Transparency; Inclusiveness, and Integrity.

Cred, with the NSW DPIE project team, delivered an online survey; an online mapping activity; an online ideas board; Covid-19 safe pop-ups; an online stakeholder briefings; an online Q&A webinar with the designers and NSW DPIE project team, as well as a children’s ‘explorer map’ activity.

A diagram mapping key features of Callan Park

Mapping key community features of Callan Park (Source: Cred Consulting)

Community engagement at Callan Park
Multiple popups across different locations and held at different times were organised by Cred to engage with the community (Source: Cred Consulting)
The Cred team running a market stall for community engagement
Stakeholder engagement was held to understand the level of support for the vision for Callan Park (Source: Cred Consulting)
Making furry friends during engagement within the park
Making new friends as we engage with locals spending time at Callan Park (Source: Cred Consulting)

The outcome

Overall, the community were supportive of the vision for Callan Park in the LSP. In response to the 70-page LSP, there were almost 900 submissions from the community; over 650 responses to an online mapping activity and 300 online survey responses. We spoke directly with 70 people in the park and local surrounds, including dedicated advocate for Callan Park, Member for Balmain The Hon. Jamie Parker, MP.

Cred prepared an extensive engagement outcomes report and a community facing summary document for the Department. The careful analysis of a large quantity of data resulting from the engagement helped the Department to make strategic amendments to the draft LSP, ensuring a stronger plan with better outcomes for the community. The Department were clear what needed to change or be added to the LSP to ensure continued support from the community.

The plan was endorsed by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces in January 2021 as the blueprint for the park’s transformation with additional funding allocated to its implementation.

The LSP was welcomed by the Friends of Callan Park as an “historic and welcome breakthrough.” To read more about the outcomes of the consultation, and how they informed the final LSP, see the Engagement Outcomes Summary Report.