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Letter to council on Ashmore Infrastructure

posted 14 Aug 2013, 23:32 by Friends of Erskineville   [ updated 15 Aug 2013, 00:58 ]
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Dear Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and Councillors
I refer to the letter dated 14 August, 2013 from Friends of Erskineville (FOE) and addressed to you, and which relates to community concerns surrounding infrastructure required for the development of the Ashmore Precinct.
I write to advise you that I fully support the sentiment expressed in the FOE letter and request that you take action to stop any further development until such time as all infrastructure issues have been addressed and a firm plan put in place to rectify matters raised in the correspondence.
Yours sincerely

14 August, 2013 

The Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and City Councilors
City of Sydney
G P O Box 1591
New South Wales 2001

Dear Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and Councilors

Ashmore Precinct Stage 2
Currently On Exhibition until 28 August, 2013

I write on behalf of the committee of the Friends of Erskineville (FOE) in relation to the above referenced exhibition.

FOE has major concerns surrounding traffic and infrastructure for this project, and whilst a detailed submission will be lodged for consideration, FOE wishes to raise the broad concerns direct with all members of the city council.

In the document on exhibition which details responses to resident submissions, in a number of places the following wording is written as council comment:

“The planning controls for the Goodman sites (as directed by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure) were also investigated. The results concluded that the scale of development created unacceptable traffic impacts on the local road network and could not be supported”.

“Furthermore the Traffic and Parking Study (2013) commissioned by the city has found that when considering the full redevelopment of Ashmore there is insufficient capacity on the network to accommodate the likely number of cars generated by the development, and that infrastructure modifications would be required. These, and additional public transport services (which the city has no control over) are required to accommodate the new population.”

“The provision of public transport, storm water drains and public schools are all responsibilities of the State government. The city continues to have ongoing liaison with the relevant state agencies ……”

These statements highlight the fact that there are admitted and recognized very serious current and ongoing infrastructure problems associated with the Ashmore Precinct development, and these issues have not been fully addressed or attended to even though construction has now commenced in one area of the site.

The exhibited documents also relate to density. Council has constantly stated that the density of the Ashmore Precinct has to be in excess of the previous plan drawn up by South Sydney Council, when such a statement is blatantly incorrect. In response to resident concerns Council has sidestepped the issue and laid the blame at the State government’s door saying it does not set the required dwelling build, and council’s approval of increased density is as a result of State government pressure. Such an excuse is not supported by fact, and indeed the State government in 2010 revised the target downward to 2033 dwellings per year. When one considers this fact it becomes very obvious that this target is being far exceeded by council approvals - and hence the density/height of the Ashmore development had, and continues to have, no requirement above the original South Sydney plan. Hence the statements from council on this issue and the action of council in increasing density allowance are - in the opinion of FOE - not valid and such action has been taken merely to appease developer demand.

A perusal of the Traffic and Parking Study (2013) would indicate that it contains serious flaws and that the supposed fact contained in the document does not correlate with the actual daily situation “on the ground”. In addition the study only addresses one street when there are a number of streets (at least 9) that are also directly affected but which have been ignored in the report. (This will be dealt with in detail in the FOE submission).

The road infrastructure is already at gridlock status in peak hour without the Ashmore development having been completed, and one only has to observe the peak hour road chaos surrounding the now completed Waterloo development to understand the result of major development without adequate attention to infrastructure. The entire parking situation is further exacerbated by council’s continued approval of development without provision for off street parking – an issue that is a major feature of the Ashmore development.

Whilst FOE acknowledges that public transport, storm water drains and public schools are a State government responsibility, it is also obvious from the documents on exhibition that these issues have not been attended to or finalized – and it is essential that these be addressed and resolved PRIOR to the approval of any further development application. As an example, the proposed public transport “new timetable” will not in FOE’s opinion resolve the issue of peak hour train overload at Erskineville station, and the matter of road flooding and the flood plain on which Ashmore will be built has been raised by residents for 18 months now but no action has been taken to resolve it - and construction has been allowed to commence without this vital issue having been resolved.

The history of these issues in Erskineville tells us that on numerous occasions residents are promised that these matters will be attended to “as development progresses”, but with changes in government and council composition they often never are and residents are left with the resultant often chaotic outcome with which they are expected to cope, when in fact the development should never have been allowed to commence until all the infrastructure issues had been resolved. An example of this is the public rail infrastructure which former Premier Keneally advised FOE had been an issue raised by residents for some 20 years, but as yet has not been attended to or resolved. In addition there has been no resolution to continual road flooding in wet weather caused by run off from the State railway line which borders the Ashmore development.

FOE acknowledges and appreciates the action taken by the Lord Mayor in writing to Minister Berejiklian on these matters – Minister’s letter 10 July to Lord Mayor and Lord Mayor’s letter 14 August to FOE. However, to be frank, the Minister’s response is no better than “more spin”. The Minister has not addressed the issue directly and talks of a Master Plan over the next 20 years, when in fact the ACTION IS NEEDED NOW. The Minister in fact appears to have adopted the same syndrome of response as previous governments over the last 20 years, and as usual, residents are left to suffer and expected to do so in silence. Residents are no longer prepared to remain silent on this issue.

FOE believes that the time has arrived where council should tell the State government that it will not approve any further development application – including Ashmore Stage 2 – until such time as all the surrounding infrastructure and attendant issues have been attended to and resolved. It is unconscionable that any public authority would allow development to proceed when it has already admitted that the existing infrastructure is not capable of supporting the development. (Led by Switzerland, authorities in Europe in general will not allow development to commence until all infrastructure issues have been addressed and a firm plan put in place to address such issues – and the approval of development must adopt the same process in Sydney.)

FOE recognizes that council is constrained by regulation, and that there is concern among councilors that under new legislation council could be suspended by the Minister for delaying development applications such as the one now before it. However at the same time FOE believes there comes a time in every administration where the elected representatives need to “stand up and be counted” on issues that have a direct adverse effect on their constituents, and the Ashmore situation that now presents itself is one of those times. Acceptance of the obvious flaws as detailed in the exhibited documentation not only affects current residents, but at the same time condemns future residents and the area as a whole to chaos and creates a situation which has already been admitted as being unsupportable.

FOE believes that if council were to make a stand on this issue that residents will not only applaud such an act, but would support such a stand in a very public manner.

FOE therefore calls on all councilors and the city administration to make a stand and advise the State government that council will not approve further development in this area or in Ashmore until such time as the infrastructure issues have been addressed - and a firm irrevocable plan is committed to in writing to ensure that all infrastructure issues have been addressed prior to any development application being approved.

We look forward to action by council in support of the constituents that have elected councilors to work in their interest, and would appreciate this request being debated at the next full council meeting and, in the interim, request councilors provide their individual response to this letter indicating support for the requested action.

Yours sincerely

Mike Hatton OAM