Submission from Naremburn Progress Association (NPA) re GSC Draft North District Plan
A lot of work has obviously gone into the Draft Plan and the GSC is to be commended for the result in a very compressed timeframe. The NPA supports the notion of a 20-year integrated plan with a 40-year vision for Sydney, and endorses the GSC’s actions in coordinating the assembly of the work of various Government agencies and LGAs into a comprehensive single document, rather than an assortment of unrelated and often conflicting scenarios.
Although the reasons for the tight timetable are acknowledged and understood, it is an unfortunate fact that such tight timings often lead to suboptimal community responses as there was insufficient time for proper dissemination of the details of the Plan across the wider community – indeed there are still many residents who understand neither the magnitude nor the intent of these long term planning horizons.
Infrastructure – Public Transport
There is a lot of emphasis on the need to improve transportation systems across both the North District and the Greater Sydney area. That need is acknowledged and endorsed, but the emphasis appears to be almost entirely on improved road systems, whereas one of the keys to improved public transport is to ensure rail systems are spread across a wider network. An area sadly lacking in rail access is the Northern Beaches: with a 40-year planning horizon why wouldn’t we include railway lines into at least some of the Northern Beaches hubs, together with appropriate East-West connections? For example: a line should be installed between Chatswood and Brookvale, then on to Mona Vale, and finally from Mona Vale to Hornsby via Terrey Hills. Through prudent surface routing and tunnelling, land resumption can be minimised. The recent announcement by the NSW Government of the Western Harbour Tunnel and Northern Beaches Link Road is welcome, but the continued focus and reliance on expanded road systems is not the answer.
Appropriate transport infrastructure is also required to the Western Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek, with multi-lane roads and full service rail lines linking the area to the rest of Sydney, especially the Penrith, Campbelltown, Liverpool and Camden areas. These links need to be planned and agreed now, as deferring such considerations only adds to the complexity, frustration and cost at a later stage.
Provision of the above contributes to the Plan’s objective of enabling a greater number of metropolitan jobs within 30 minutes of residents’ homes. The goal is applauded and endorsed, but without robust, high capacity transportation systems (especially rail) this goal will not be attained.
Residential vs Industrial/Commercial Development
Much mention is made in the draft Plan of the need for additional housing, to accommodate the forecast increase in population. The accuracy or otherwise of these forecasts is not the main issue here – it is generally agreed that there will be continuing pressure for additional housing across Greater Sydney. What must be stopped is the removal of existing commercial and industrial areas through rezoning and conversion to high rise residential as these areas are employment generators and providers of urban services, which if removed will never return, to the detriment of the local communities they serve.
The Plan also needs to properly address the need for genuine housing choice, rather than an oversupply of high-rise blocks of units. A range of townhouses, villas and terraces should also be in the offering to provide downsizing opportunities, whilst the protection of local conservation areas such as the Naremburn Conservation areas, with their rich assortment of Federation cottages, is mandatory. Developers are steadily increasing pressure for Council approval to construct medium-to-high density unit blocks with numerous technical non-compliances adjacent to local heritage conservation areas, so local Councils require higher level support to resist these proposals.
Further to this, appropriate affordable housing levels need to be set and achieved. A level of 15% would be well regarded.
Infrastructure – Health, Schooling, Child Care
The provision of appropriate support infrastructure such as hospital and medical care, primary and secondary schools and childcare services must also be factored into the Plan. The North District already suffers from some of the worst schools overcrowding, such that pupils are being rostered for playground access. This is totally unacceptable in any longer term plan, but “vertical schools“ are not the answer. District Plans need to address these critical shortfalls, with recent successes such as Cammeraygal and Anzac Park to be used as templates, but with concurrent activity in acquiring adjacent properties in other areas and then amalgamating the Titles.
The same goes for childcare. Appropriate planning and development control is required in both existing suburbia and new settlements to meet existing demand and future population projections. Local Councils need to ensure that current development proposals meet all DCPs and LEPs, whilst newer areas need space identified and reserved for the centres.
Planning for major new hospitals (such as the Northern Beaches hospital) will occur at the highest levels, but ancillary medical, testing and healthcare services also need adequate planning at a stage where space is still available and set up costs are not prohibitive.
Need for preservation of Green Space
One of the attractive features of the North Shore is its relative abundance of Green Space and Recreational Areas, covering playgrounds, parks, walkways and natural bushland. This feature needs to be preserved for generations to come and further improved, not offered as a potential route for proposed motorways. As a very recent example, the Artarmon Bowling Club transferred its grounds to Willoughby Council at a generous discount on the condition that the area be preserved for community recreation, so it is with great concern that we learnt the adjacent community green spaces may be the preferred route for a section of the Northern Beaches Link Road interchange with the Warringah Freeway.
Finally, completion of the Sydney Metro offers some exciting prospects for large scale commuter movement by public transport. It also offers some opportunities for greater parkland/green space – several stations will be constructed via “cut & cover” techniques, providing airspace above the covered stations, whilst residual land will also be available at Chatswood and Sydenham following completion of tunnel boring. These spaces should become part of an expanded green space program, as any commercial or residential development approved will mean that opportunity will be permanently lost.