We are generally in support of the position taken by the Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations with the following exceptions:
Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations: Greater Sydney Commission Draft Sydney North Plan Submission
- The Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations supports that a 20 year integrated plan with a 40 year vision for Sydney is being developed, and that the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) is co-ordinating development of these plans across Government Agencies and Local Government Areas, rather than lots of separate plans for the same area prepared in different planning silos for different aspects and time periods.
- Authentic Community Consultation needed for additional development work: It is noted that the Sydney North draft plan indicates that there is a considerable amount of additional work to be undertaken by GSC and Councils and other Government Agencies. It is very important that there is authentic Community Involvement and consultation in this additional work.
- The Proposed Growth in residential dwellings is not sustainable as existing infrastructure is already insufficient for existing population: Willoughby alone has had significant growth since 2010 due to the Sydney Metropolitan strategy. It is noted that an additional 6,450- 6750 dwellings being proposed for Willoughby LGA alone between 2016-2036. Enough is enough. What is proposed is not sustainable development. The existing road, school, active recreation space and transport infrastructure are already at or well exceeding capacity, with no plans or ability to increase much of this infrastructure, and the capacity of other necessary services and infrastructure like sewers, electricity and gas has a limit.
Major road routes through the area are insufficient to cope. Eastern Valley way channels huge amounts of peak hour traffic into one lane each way on the Suspension Bridge at Northbridge, The Pacific Highway at Chatswood has been recognised as being very slow, and likewise for Penshurst St, Mowbray Rd and Fullers Road. The major route from the Northern Beaches through to Ryde and Parramatta is not direct (Boundary/Highway/Fullers Rd/Delhi Rd) and parts are also one lane local traffic roads. Likewise Chatswood traffic is often gridlocked at weekends. Some buses are already so full in peak hour by the time they get to Small St Willoughby and Naremburn they don’t pick anyone up at these stops. The capacity issues in our public schools continue to increase despite significant capital works funding in recent years.
It is noted that Willoughby Council was one of the first Councils in Sydney to meet its 21 year Sydney Metropolitan Strategy target to 2031 for additional dwellings, within 6 years, and we understand has now exceeded this target. The Greater Sydney Commission is requiring Willoughby LGA to have 1,250 additional dwellings by 2021 and significantly more by 2036. Our community should not be penalised with significant additional targets because it was supportive of the State Government’s Sydney Metropolitan Plan.
- The proposed amount development does not respect and promote the environmental and heritage qualities of the Willoughby area and is of a magnitude that will ruin them.
- Heritage Conservation areas must be excluded from rezoning and development: It is noted that most of the areas for investigation for development potential for medium and high density development that have been identified by Willoughby Council in its various Strategies to underpin the GSC Sydney North Plan include existing protected heritage conservation areas. These areas were developed with community consultation and were areas designed to protect and retain the valued neighbourhood attributes of our local community and village centres. The Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations is opposed to any existing heritage conservation areas being investigated or rezoned for the purposes of high rise or medium development.
Cutting into our existing heritage conservation areas, and pulling down many buildings and the tree canopy and replacing them with medium rise and high rise will destroy much of the ‘neighbourhood attributes’ that people value about living in our area.
- Genuine housing choice that meets community needs is required not just lots of units: P15 Design Principle 1 on page 15 regarding increased housing choice around centres appears to be more about development numbers than housing choice and appears to be a euphemism for ‘put in more high rise blocks of units’. There needs to be better choice for people from Northern Sydney seeking to downsize, however assuming that people will downsize from their large family homes with garden to a small studio apartment may be flawed. Many would prefer at least 2 bedrooms, and many would also prefer a town house or villa. The plan needs to provide for genuine housing choices and needs to provide for more townhouses/villas/terraces near to transport and services, and not just unit developments in those locations. Developer dollar and maximum population targets shouldn’t be the driving factor, there needs to be good, sustainable planning that will genuinely meet community needs.
- Chatswood’s commercial centre needs to be protected and encouraged for long term sustainability and viability of our area: commercial should not be forced out or replaced by residential development due to the economic cycle.
- Unoccupied Dwellings and Demand from International Buyers: We note that the 2011 census figures indicated approximately 2,000 unoccupied dwellings in the Willoughby LGA area. Rather than additional significant development, GSC should focus on strategies to reduce vacant dwellings in Sydney North through strategies that have been successful in other jurisdictions like a vacancy tax and preventing international buyers contributing to the high demand, rather than squashing in more unsustainable development. Only a small number of other overseas countries allow overseas buyers. Local residents have also indicated that there is a practice currently occurring where some of those marketing developments in Chatswood have told potential buyers that the building is only for particular ethnic group and others of all other nationalities including white Australians are not welcome to buy in them. Discriminatory practices like this need to be addressed so out. If the shoe had been on the other foot there would have been a public outcry.
- There needs to be proper road and rail access to the Northern Beaches: the lack of proper road and public transport infrastructure to the Northern Beaches is putting pressure on infrastructure in the lower North Shore too. For example, there is not a direct main route from the Northern Beaches to Ryde and Western Sydney, as the current route goes via Boundary Rd, the Pacific Highway, Fullers Road (which is one lane in parts) and Delhi Road, which is also one lane in parts. The one lane suspension Bridge at Northbridge is also a major thoroughfare, including from the Northern Beaches and upper North Shore, and is not sufficient for the current traffic volumes.
- Reducing car dependency is a good aspiration however it should not be forced through current practices of cutting car spaces in new developments to clearly inadequate levels or not allowing spaces for customer parking in new commercial developments as this is escalating existing parking and traffic problems in our LGA. There are not direct public transport options even within the LGA, let alone to other parts of the city and some parts of our LGA do not have any public transport at all after the evening peak or on weekends. Our area is also quite hilly and the traffic is heavy and there is not sufficient off road cycleway infrastructure currently in place. For example a recent commercial and residential development in Northbridge was restricted by Council and not allowed to have sufficient car spaces for one per residential unit and even one for each of the commercial unit, when the commercial units required customer access. There should be no fanciful cuts in car spaces without better transport infrastructure and clear indications of change of community behaviour first. It is too late after the development is in.
- Middle Harbour Bushland areas and walking tracks are also important National Park and Reserve areas, and also could be considered for tourism potential.
- Housing affordability needs to be properly addressed. The massive increase in house prices in the lower North Shore may have a lag time but it will have an impact on our community for essential services and trades in the years to come.
- More Active Recreational Space is needed now: There is an urgent need for more active recreation spaces to be planned and provided for now There are not enough playing fields and netball courts etc. It will be too late once additional development occurs.
- Cycleways: There needs to be proper cycleway infrastructure planned for and installed. Northern Sydney has woeful integrated cycleway network compared to other parts of the Sydney region. There needs to be more than just lip service and paint lines on busy roads.