They lied to us!

The “incorrect advice” given to the premier’s office led Ms Berejiklian, the member for Willoughby, to write a letter to the Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations in August 2017 which said there were “no plans or proposal” to sell 1-5 Railway Street in Chatswood.

Yet the property was sold the following month for $38 million to Barana Properties (No. 8) Pty Ltd.

A spokeswoman for Mr Constance said: “Incorrect advice was given to the Premier’s office, for which we apologise.”

The belated apology is another embarrassment for Mr Constance following the Ferry McFerryface saga and the poor performance of Sydney trains.

 But it may not appease Penny Hackett, the secretary of the Federation of Willoughby Progress Associations, who likened information coming from the transport minister and his bureaucrats to an episode of Yes, Minister or Utopia.

“The process for the sale of this site has been anything but transparent,” Ms Hackett said. “It appears that our community and the Premier was given inaccurate information by Transport for NSW and we believe this should be fully investigated.”

The sale of 1-5 Railway Street is also controversial because it appears to have proceeded against the advice of Willoughby City Council and the Greater Sydney Commission.

Mr Constance’s spokeswoman said: “Transport for NSW has advised the site is not suitable for providing additional bus layover facilities.”

But it was identified in a 2016 council report as a potential site to expand the existing bus interchange.

The Chatswood CBD Draft Planning and Urban Design Strategy also provided an illustrative concept for a new bus interchange under 1-5 Railway St.

“The site at 1-5 Railway St has the opportunity to contribute to the pedestrian and transport objectives for this space,” the report said.

The site, also known as Chatswood Central, is on the western side of the T1 North Shore Train Line.

A council spokeswoman said 1-5 Railway Street had been identified as key to improving Chatswood’s overcrowded bus interchange.

“When council became aware of the sale, representations were made by council officers, together with officers of the Greater Sydney Commission (including the North District Commissioner), to Transport for NSW highlighting the need for expansion of the bus interchange and the role this site plays,” she said.

Council officers told transport bureaucrats in August 2017 that the availability of 1-5 Railway Street for bus interchange improvements was “vital”, she said.

“The existing arrangement where buses use Railway St bus stops reflects that the existing bus interchange has reached capacity,” she said.

Chatswood is expected to become even busier once transport projects such as the north-west metro line and new residential developments in Frenchs Forest and the Northern Beaches are completed.

But the council spokeswoman said any expansion of the bus interchange had been complicated by the sale.

“While the property was in state government control, negotiations for improvements to the existing bus interchange would have been more straightforward,” she said. “Negotiations are likely to be more complex with a private owner.”

A Transport for NSW spokesman said in a statement that redeveloping the site at 1-5 Railway Street was not an “appropriate” use of taxpayer funds.

“As it was not possible to provide any additional bus layover facilities at this location without demolishing the existing buildings, this property was considered surplus to our needs,” he said.


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