While locals were busy preparing for Christmas, the controversial development application for the Manly Vale Primary School was approved 3 to 2, by the Sydney North Planning Panel.
From a community school of 460 students to a 'super' school of 1,000 students. Is this the right location?
A further 3.65ha of bush at Manly Dam Reserve is to be lost to make way for a mega school, despite the fact that planners believe the new school could be built on the existing footprint, using two and three storey classrooms (as has been done successfully at Harbord Primary).
The former Warringah Council was strongly opposed to the plans in its current form, and Northern Beaches Council Administrator, Dick Perrsons, campaigned strongly against the loss of bushland.
The three year battle has seen the school community divided. Supporters of the $22.7 million development, which would make room for 1000 students on the site, have praised the decision as a win for education.
Parent Stephen Hancock in a previous statement on this blog (13/3/16) said that since getting unprecedented funding in the 2014 state budget, this project has been through an extensive two year design process ensuring the dilapidated 60 year old facilities are updated to a genuine 21st century learning environment.
Those against, including the Save Manly Dam group and the former Principal of the school, David Tribe, believe the loss of precious bushland is unnecessary. Furthermore they claim the site is not suitable for such a large school population due to inadequate local streets, and concerns regarding the evacuation of students should a bush fire occur.
At the core of the issue is the fact no one can argue with. The existing 60 year old school is dilapidated and badly in need of an upgrade. Students are currently housed in demountables, with 65% in temporary accommodation. All the other facilities such as library, canteen, hall and toilets are inadequate and not acceptable in their current condition.
It is understood that the Department of Education is about to call tenders for the new development. But with the appointment this week of Rob Stokes (Member for Pittwater) as the new Minister for Education, there is a slim chance that the Northern Beaches Council could have the matter reviewed, due to ongoing planning concerns.
Community representation wasn't enough to sway the Manly Independent Assessment Panel which approved Manly Council's development application to replace the popular 25 metre outdoor swimming pool with a purpose- built polo pool at the Boy Chartlon Swim Centre.
Addressing the Panel, concerned residents and regular users of the pool cited the detrayal they felt by Manly Council's backflip after they had publicly reassured residents that the 25 metre pool would be retained as part of the $15million redevelopment of the Swim Centre.
Main issues raised were the lack of community consultation (the DA was lodged on December 23 when most people were on holidays); claims that the DA was not displayed at the Swim Centre until the date for submissions had close; the reduction in on-site parking with the new development; increased patronage; lack of public transport to the Centre and disbelief that the Council proposed to replaced a well-used community pool with a deep-water polo pool that would not be suitable for young children, swimming lessons or rehabilitation patients who currently use the 25 metre pool it will replace.
Water Polo has become a major sport on the Northern Beaches with some 300 members currently training in the evenings using the existing 50 metre pool at the swim centre.
Funding is yet to be found for the building of the polo pool.
Breaking News: Update The $15m upgrade of Manly 'Boy Charlton' Swim Centre has now been approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (18/12/13) who previously raised concerns about the traffic & parking plans for the Centre.
Some conditions have been applied to address the traffic and parking issues raised including the provision of a footpath on the northern side of the road. Many locals are still concerned that the road is too busy to accommodate the angle parking proposed. (See video demonstration above).
The traffic report indicated that an average of 1012 vehicles currently use Kenneth Road. Many of these are school buses and commercial vehicles, which, with the width of the road at 13m is simply not wide enough to provide safe 30 degree angle parking on the southern side and parallel parking on the northern side . We believe that the proposed provision of traffic calming and reduced speed limit to 50km will only agitate, not solve, the issue.
Concerns about the scale, cost and design of the proposal have been expressed by community groups, including Manly precincts (resdients' groups) and the Northern Beaches Breakers Water Polo Club, which trains at the pool.
Manly precints' joint meeting last month described the swim centre plan as "not addressing community needs". The meeting asked the council to consider other options "with a view to deciding on a less expensive and more appealing swim centre".
The Manly Access Committee, which considers the needs of people with disabilities, and the Breakers club, which missed out on a dedicated water polo pool, also want the plans reviewed.
Cr Bingham said the Swim Centre proposal had been rushed through with minimal time for consultation. She said the new building would not interact in any way with the adjacent reserve, there was an "unbelievable" lack of change room facilities and that the proposal for five swim pools was excessive.
Cr Bingham said she believed that the main driver for the rush was the council's eagerness to lock in a special state government loan. But the hurry was not necessary as State Treasurer and local MP Mike Baird had confirmed that access to the loan would be maintained even if the pool DA was delayed.
In 2012 Manly Council secured a state government-funded bank interest subsidy for its planned upgrade of the Andrew "Boy" Charlton Swim Centre. The Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme grant will save the council about $3.5 million in interest, as the state government will pay the first 4 per cent interest on a $15 million loan for 10 years.
Confirmation received this week from Planning Minister Brad Hazzard that Far West site will remain zoned 'special use' rather than 'commercial' as was previously drafted in the new LEP is good news for Manly. While this will not impact on the current development proposal it WILL make a big difference should the Planning Assessment Commission refuse their current application. Decision on current highly-controversial application is expected at the end of April.
Clr Candy Bingham moved a Motion at Council Meeting on 13/11/12 to reinstate permanent access to development information on Manly Council's website as is done by other Councils. This was unanimously passed. The motion was:
1. That the General Manager provide to each councillor a copy of the legal advice/s he has received in relation to this matter from Council’s legal advisors.
2. That given the community’s expectation and right for Council to provide open and transparent access to information, this information be provided to councillors a minimum of 14 days before the next ordinary meeting in December 2012 so that the issue can be addressed at that meeting.
3. That Council call on the Division of Local Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet, to acknowledge the problem facing local councils across New South Wales of reconciling the apparently competing provisions of the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 and the NSW Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 regarding the publication and provision of copies of DA plans to the public, and to take a lead role in arriving at a satisfactory solution.
4. That the General Manager also report to the December ‘12 meeting of Council the procedures adopted by other Councils such as Warringah, Mosman. Pittwater & Woollahra in relation to providing full public disclosure of Development Applications on their websites, and present a report on how Manly Council can also resolve this issue.
Here's some background: On 12 March 2012 I lodged a formal complaint to the Office of Information Commissioner about Manly Council not providing access to development applications on their website.
Manly Council received a copy of a letter from the Office of Information Commissioner (Reference IPC12-000132) on 11 April, 2012 stating Council had “misconstrued our guidance” by withholding public information in relation to providing access to development applications on its website.
At the June 2012 Ordinary Meeting Council passed a motion moved by Councillor Cathy Griffin that Council review its process in relation to development applications and consider the permanent publication of reports and decisions on DAs on the Council website.
To date, no report or recommendation has been received in relation to this resolution.
It is acknowledged that the question of whether or not it is a copyright breach to provide copies of development application plans to the community has been an ongoing issue in many councils. Nonetheless it is time for Manly Council to follow the lead of other councils that seem to have overcome the concerns raised.
Despite continual formal complaints since February 2012 the situation still exists where a D.A. cannot be fully viewed on Council's website, nor previous plans viewed should the applicant lodge a Section 96 Application.
Being told that you can "view the application at the Council’s offices, in office hours during the exhibition period" simply is not adequate, transparent, accountable nor acceptable.
This matter appears to have been resolved by other councils including Warringah, Mosman, Pittwater & Woollahra, who have changed their Applicant’s Declaration Terms and provide full access to development applications on their websites so why does Manly continue to restrict access?
Update ... 24/10/12
Have just heard that The Commissioner who heard the matter today regarding the Manly Wharf development has terminated the conference and directed the appeal to a full hearing in the Land & Environment Court. the hearing is expected to be listed in December.
It's one of Manly's most iconic and environmentally sensitive sites, but despite rejection by Manly's Independent Assessment Panel (MIAP) plans by TMG Developments to add another storey with four restaurants, 1,000 patrons and more shops to Manly Wharf, will be heard at an appeal hearing tomorrow (Wednesday 24/10/12) at the wharf at 9.30am. Locals & Council will strongly oppose the appeal. You can get a full background on this story by clicking on "Manly Wharf" under our blog categories.
Breaking into Fort Knox would be easier than getting access to public information at Manly Council!
First it was due to identity theft now the Mayor’s claim that Council is unable to publish Development Application information on its website due to “the Copyright Act in relation to architectural plans and similar documents” (Mayoral Column Manly Daily 30/6/12) continues the farce. Speak to any local architect, as I have done, and they will tell you it’s simply not a concern for them.
In this Saturday's paper the Council listed Development Applications that had been lodged as well as those that had been approved. But don't waste your time going to the website as instructed because despite having to agree that you understand there may be copyright issued, THERE IS STILL NOTHING ON THE SITE! Just the words - document not available. Want to know what has been approved? Forget it!
The Office of the Information Commissioner ruled on 11th April that Manly Council was breaching the Act by not providing open, transparent information on its website in relation to development applications. Who are they serving by not having this information easily accessible?
Sorry to rant but this is really getting beyond a joke. Here's an example: 106 Darley Road (Spring Cove Development) which is a major subdivision as part of St Patrick's Estate originally approved in 2004 comprising 17 residential buildings, 5 townhouses, 15 apartments. The developer wants to make changes to the original DA. Nothing's on the website (expect headings with 'No Document Available' listed again and again ... but that's OK. Fill out the two page form, lodge it with the Council and once you are granted permission, which could take up to three weeks, you can go to the Council Chambers, during office hours, and view the DA. That's this Council's idea of access to public information, which by law, should be easily accessible.
It's time for a change of Council!
Update: The Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) has confirmed that in their view "Council has misconstrued our guidance" in relation to public access to Development Applications. They also stated that "Local councils have an obligation to proactively publish information about development applications (whenever created), including the associated documents received, and decisions made, in relation to developments". The OIC also stated that they will "contact Council directly to assist Council in meeting its obligations under the GIPA Act" in relation to open access information.
Want to view a development application with Manly Council? Make sure you have plenty of time!
It's no longer available on their website like all other Councils in NSW. In Manly you have to fill in a form, wait up to three weeks, and then view it at the council chambers. Another example of their lack of transparency & bureaucracy! And don't believe the line that it's due to 'copyright & privacy' ......
I've been told by the Office of the Information Commissioner that DAs are "additional open access information and must be made publicly available".
Council's new approach completely overlooks the rights of the public to have easy and accessible access to information.
What do you think? Is this bureaucracy gone mad?
Latest Update: 23/3/12: I have received confirmation from the Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) that they are investigating this matter. (Reference No. IPC12-000132) Let's see what they have to say.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.