Balgowlah Golf Course will go but homes and bushland will be saved as plans for the Beaches Link Tunnel move forward.
The new focus on the golf course was revealed in State Government design plans for the $8 billion tunnel released last month. It is one of several changes adopted by the government as a result of community concerns.
A change to the alignment of the tunnel means the Balgowlah course can now be used for major construction work and later, as the site of one of the two tunnel ventilation stacks. This move not only saves homes and bushland west of Burnt Bridge Deviation but also moves the stack further away from Seaforth Public School. Permanent infrastructure, including the exhaust stack and a tunnel link road, mean that the site will no longer be viable as a golf course. Instead the government has promised that once the tunnel work is done, it will be reconfigured into playing fields or open space.
Changes have been made at Seaforth as well. The second tunnel access point and exhaust stack has been moved 500m further north along Wakehurst Parkway, as a result of concerns that the infrastructure would be too close to houses and Seaforth oval. The government has promised that Seaforth oval sports fields will not be affected by construction work, and that work trucks will be kept off local roads. As well, Wakehurst Parkway will get wildlife crossing sites, and a new cycle/pedestrian path, complete with an underpass.
Northern Beaches Councillor Sarah Grattan, who has been working closely with community advocacy groups, said while the changes were welcome, more needed to be done.
“(The design) is not perfect by any stretch - but thanks to constructive community advocacy we have a much better proposal to work with,” Cr Grattan said.
She said unresolved issues include the tunnel access site on Wakehurst Parkway, which has not been moved far enough north, and remains too close to homes on Kirkwood St. And the Balgowlah emission stack remains a concern as fumes may be trapped in the ‘Balgowlah basin’. Cr Grattan suggests that airflow should be redirected in the tunnel to push the majority of emissions to the Wakehurst Parkway stack, which is on a ridge, and therefore better positioned for dispersal of fumes. Filtering the Balgowlah stack is another suggestion.
Other concerns include construction traffic and road safety around Balgowlah Boys High School; compensation and transfer options for Balgowlah Golf Club members and the effect of a major construction site in Seaforth.
“The community groups and my colleague Sarah have done an amazing job negotiating with the government so far,” Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor and Good For Manly President Candy Bingham said. “They’ve actually persuaded the government to move the tunnel and save peoples’ homes in Burnt St Seaforth and Serpentine Cres North Balgowlah. And don’t forget the tunnel has been classified as a State Significant Project, which means the government basically has the power to do whatever it likes.”
“Of course some issues remain, but I’m excited that something’s finally being done to help fix our traffic.”
The government has allocated almost $560 million on early work so far, with major construction set to start in 2020 and the tunnel to open in 2026. Promised travel times include 14 minutes between Balgowlah and North Sydney; and 53 minutes from Manly to Parramatta.
The design plan is open for community input until November at www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/sydney-north/western-harbour-tunnel-beaches-link
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.