Most people would be aware that the sports fields in Willoughby are reaching their capacity. Some of the time fields are unplayable due to adverse weather. At other times, there are different sporting codes vying for the same space or timeslot. There is not just a need across
the city for more sporting grounds. Chatswood, West Ward contains six schools, all are growing in student numbers and they have an increasing demand for sporting facilities.
There is a limited number of strategies that can be used to address this situation. Installing synthetic surfaces on existing fields can overcome some of the adverse weather situations. The implementation of lighting on fields can extend the playing time on a particular field. Working out how to facilitate multiple sporting codes on the same surface can address some of the time slot issues. The final approach is to find spaces for new fields. This latter approach can be prohibitively expensive (due to the high value of land in the city.
Twenty years ago, Council proposed to install lights and a synthetic surface on the O.H. Reid Oval site. The local residents object, mainly due to the topography of the area. The idea was shelved. More recently, Council has been undertaking a review of all its sporting facilities. Whilst solutions have been found for some sports that only require relatively small areas, finding locations for new sporting oval has not been successful.
A local Chatswood West resident has come up with an innovative (albeit likely contentious) solution. His idea is to build ovals at the northern end of Chatswood Golf Club. Possibly 2 to 3 sporting fields could be located on public land currently leased to the golf club (the lease is currently up for renewal). He points out that the site is well-serviced by buses along Delhi Rd. There is an existing unformed vehicular road into the area where parking could be located without cars having to go by residential streets.
The downside for this proposal is the impact on the Golf Club. Currently, three of the club’s eighteen holes are located on the public land leased from Council. The proposal would reduce the course to fifteen holes. This would mean golfers would have to play three holes twice. Whilst the proposal to reclaim the public land for more diverse is radical, it does awaken some issues worthy of consideration. It would be quite interesting to see the number of players per year that use our various sporting facilities. Particularly if this is analysed by the size of the facility and the return to Council from fee or leases.
.NOTE: There are a number of viewpoints expressed in the “COMMENTS” section of this site.
The following private submission to Council has been posted by the Editor on behalf of the writer.
Draft Plan of Management of Public Lands used by Chatswood Golf Club
This submission is framed by the knowledge that catering for the diverse range of sporting interest across the City of Willoughby in the future will require changes in the way Council deals with its public lands.
I understand that the need to adopt a Plan of Management (POM) for the Public Land used by Chatswood Golf Club is because a POM needs to be in place before any consideration can be given to leasing the area as a ‘sportsground’.
Somewhere, either in this POM, a higher order POM or a Council Policy there should be a requirement that upon cessation of a lease, before any consideration is given to a new lease of public land, a comprehensive analysis of other potential users be undertaken and that any new lease over the land be subject to open tender.
To assist the above process, there needs to be an evidenced-based framework that documents the ‘state of play’ of competing sporting interests. This could include looking by sport at things such as sq.m required per player; possible revenue; time/day of need and the like.
Any POM/Policy/Lease should also include the requirement to move toward, as a minimum, full cost recovery from the lessee (including the opportunity cost of the land).
Any POM/Policy/Lease should include the requirement for the lessee to demonstrate how they can ‘time-share’ the land. Multi-usage of Council land needs to be de rigueur.
Any DEED/Lease to be exercised over these lands to go to Public Exhibition prior to adoption by Council.
I would like the following paragraph to be treated as CONFIDENTIAL
As outlined on page 52 of the Officer’s Report a new lease will not be enacted prior to resolution of the issue of public access across the lands. It may be in the Club’s best interest to continue on their current lease (don’t know). It would seem prudent to set a date by which time the new lease needs to be executed.
PUBLIC ACCESS ACROSS PRIVATE GOLF CLUB LAND
I fully support the proposal to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding to complete the ‘missing link’ of the Rail to River Walk before any renewal of a lease over Council land.
Comments on the Amendment To: Chatswood West Ward Parks POM
2 DESCRIPTION OF THE LAND
2.2 Physical description
What is the width of the RMS responsibility on the banks of the Lane Cove River and Swaines Creek? It is my understanding that such land has always been available for unimpeded public use.
With respect to inundation of the 5th and 8th fairways, I have a recollection that one of the prior leases required the Club to either raise the levels of the fairways or to build a bund to stop flooding. Is that correct?
2.3 Uses of the land
This is where one would expect to see a detailed analysis of golf as it exists within Willoughby and the surrounding area. Does this information exist in Council’s Recreation Plan. If not, why not?
It also behoves Council at this point in the process to consider if there are any other sporting activities that could co-exist with golf on the land.
Golf Club use of the public lands
It is acknowledged that the Golf Club currently have a right to use the lands for golf (as per their current lease).
However, it seems that the Club could use its own holes (rather than those on public land) for golf practice. Can a specific clause be put into any new lease that precludes the uses of the public land for golf outside of certain hours. This is a form of multi-use of the land. (NOTE: It is understood that the Club recently ceased golf practice on the leased land).
Public uses of the land
Current public uses of the land are significant:
• An ‘informal pathway adjacent to the river’
• A signposted crossing that enables walkers to cross the golf course at the tee for the 6th hole
• Walking of dogs
• Paths from Reid Drive and OH Reid Reserve
• Path from Mooney Street
There appears to be legal precedent favouring the public’s right of use of public land such as Reserves or zoned for Public Recreation.
The ‘informal pathway adjacent to the river’ and a ‘signposted crossing’ are part of the ‘100 ft Reservation’ along the Lane Cove River and Swaines Creek. This reservation was placed in 1880. Since 1921, Willoughby Council has striven to preserve the integrity of the Reservation for public use. There is a sign (erected by Council) at the northern entry to the lands (accessible via the ‘Bogle/Chandler Track’) that documents the public’s right to use this track. In the Chatswood Golf Club (CGC) submission they indicate that this multi-use segment works satisfactorily for all concerned. The other public uses of the leased land have not caused any great angst to the majority of golfers and as such should be enshrined in any new lease.
As a minimum, Council must enshrine the current public use of the land into any new lease for the lands. Preferably, provision should be open to introduce additional public uses of the land. Former leases for the land stated “the general public shall not in any way be restricted in gaining access through the area and carrying on such activities as are compatible with the use of the land for golfing:. The continuation/re-inclusion of such a clause should be paramount in any new lease.
4. ISSUES PERTINENT TO THE LAND
Conflict between golfers and walkers (liability)
The practice of walkers using the leased lands has been extant for decade, likely without the spectre of liability arising. In essence, is there a significant difference between golfers and walkers on the leased land than there is say between walkers and players on the nearby OH Reid Reserve. Surely, this is a matter for the Club to resolve if they wish to continue their lease.
It appears that this is being resolved
Water based recreation pursuits
Rather than consider the use of the riverbank along the leased lands, two or three other locations might be better suited. One is the landing next to the old ‘Lane Cove Steakhouse’ next to Fullers Bridge which has significant local parking. The other is the bank along the ‘Bogle/Chandler track’ although this could be dangerous if the latest theory about ‘swamp gases’ is upheld.
Narrow squeeze points
I am unclear as to where the narrow /squeeze points’ on the pathway between the golf course and the mangroves/saltmash. I have walked that track a number of times without problem. This should be able to be sorted out between the club and Council Officers.
Pedestrian access across the golf course Fairways 6 & 7
I am unclear about this need. As stated, it would seem that the 100ft Reservation walking track should suffice.
5.4 Council Objectives
I fully endorse Council’s objectives for the lands. However, I would like to see ‘sports training and other compatible activities’ included in the objectives (they appear in the performance targets).
Chatswood Golf Club (2013) Comments on Plan of Management, Chatswood
DEED between The Council of the City of Willoughby and Chatswood Golf Company Club Limited dated 1 July 1992
McLoughlin, Lynne (1985) The Middle Lane Cove Rive – A history and a Future, Macquarie University
Willoughby City Council (2013) Amendment to: Chatswood West Ward Parks Plan of Management