As part of its Manly2015 Plan, Manly Council's notification to businesses in Whistler Street, Sydney Road and Central Avenue last week of its proposed staged closure of Sydney Road from Belgrave Street to The Corso, and the creation of a cul-de-sac at Central Avenue, was met with concern by affected retailers and apartment owners.
In the meantime, businesses and property owners in Raglan Street, including St Mary's Church and school, are challenging the Council over its current changes to Raglan Street, which include the removal of parking and the lack of a pedestrian crossing in this section of the street. (From Belgrave Street to the Steyne).
The Chamber of Commerce has written to Council requesting the delay of the proposed closure of Sydney Road from Belgrave to Whistler Street (which will become Gateway Plaza), because it would effectively cut off easy access to the existing Whistler Street car park. The Chamber stated that whilst in the past its members have supported the Gateway Plaza the current concept plans do not include the additional parking beneath Manly Oval. The concept concept therefore merely removes parking options and will ultimately increase congestion within the Manly CBD. The Chamber continues, however, to support the overall Manly2015 Plan and the building of a 760 space car park under Manly Oval.
According to Good for Manly Councillor, Candy Bingham, many of the proposed closures are premature.
"The final decisions to build a car park under the oval or to redevelop the Whistler Street car park site have not been made. Closing Sydney Road from Belgrave to Whistler street will simply add to traffic congestion and cause confusion to motorists visiting Manly and looking for parking. It's a crazy idea" , she said.
"With the spectre of an amalgamation hanging over their heads and the current Council term running out supposedly in September 2016, it would seem that those ruling the Council are determined to push through their controversial Manly2015 Plan, despite ongoing criticism of lack of consultation and transparency of the process", Clr Bingham added.
In summary the current Sydney Road project includes:
At present the council is proposing to commence work on closures of Sydney Road in October 2015 - right in the peak tourist time. Again, shop-keepers are not happy!
You can view the Council's plans for Sydney Road below:
Larger Councils are considered the starting point for any assessment being made by IPART on whether council's are 'Fit for The Future' according to its report released last week.
As reported by Anne Davis in the Sydney Morning Herald on 5th June 2015:
"Councils have been told by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) that larger councils of between 250,000 to 500,000 residents as outlined in an earlier independent report into local government will be the "starting point" in assessing whether the council is fit for the future.
IPART last week released its final assessment methodology and clarified what it meant by "sufficient scale and capacity".
While it said it was prepared to entertain other submissions, it said: "We will be guided by the population estimates for the particular local government areas included in the Independent Local Government Review Panel's recommended options. It said the onus was on councils to demonstrate how their alternatives were as good or better if they did not go with the proposed merger clusters outlined by the independent panel....."
This could be a problem for Manly & Pittwater Councils which are actively resisting the One Big Northern Beaches Council being pushed by Warringah and previously recommended by the Samson Report, an independent report commissioned by the State Government. Manly currently has a population of around 44,000 and Pittwater 60,000. Both fall well short of the recommended starting point of 250,000 which would be achieved by the three Northern Beaches Councils merging.
Meanwhile, there is speculation that it is unlikely the State Government will be able to achieve its amalgamation agenda in time for the next Council elections due September 16. This leaves current Councillors faced with the likehood that their existing term of four years may be extended for a further 12 months, at least.
Although many are under the impression that Manly Council has agreed to keep the Whistler Street car park and upgrade the Library - that was last month. Once again, things have changed.
Following on from a resolution moved by Clr Steve Pickering and Clr James Griffin an Expression of Interest (EOI) progress has commenced for the "opportunity to enter into a long term lease (the maximum term offered is 99 years) with Council to redevelop the strategic site .... generally bounded by Whistler Street, Market Lane and Library Place, Manly". Submissions close 12th June. 2015.
(Update: 12/6/15 .... At the EOI closing this afternoon, Council received 3 submissions to the EOI for Whistler Street Village Centre Redevelopment and 12 submissions to the EOI for Design and Construct Car Park Beneath Manly Oval.)
Respondents are invited to submit their interests and offers for at least two development scenarios. They are:
1. Redevelopment of the subject site in totality, which will include the building of a new library and offices for Council and in placed in Council's ownership under a separate stratum and with a total useable floor area of approximately 3,000 sq m.
2. Redevelopment of the subject site with the retention of and adding floor space to the existing library.
Although the EOI outlines that submissions should comply with Council's planning controls many believe that to provide the return on investment needed for such a redevelopment that developers would have to 'push the envelope' and a much higher building would need to be approved (or won in the Land & Environment Court).
The fundamental question still remains - why is Council continuing to push a project, which is linked to the creation of the Oval car park, when residents have clearly stated they don't want it and want to retain the more convenient location for parking. In addition, independent due diligence reports have clearly confirmed that the site would only be viable for developers if Council made the site suitable for the "biggest and best" use scenario
As Warringah Council pushes for One Northern Beaches Council, citing major savings should Manly, Warringah and Pittwater merge into one mega Council; Manly and Pittwater remain firm that they want to make it alone, stating they meet the criteria, except for population size, to do so.
Warringhah commissioned SGS Economics and Planning Pty Ltd to undertake an analysis on forming one mega Northern Beaches council. Manly & Pittwater commissioned KPMG to put their case that remaining independent was viable. The result has been that both reports tend to contradict each other. So who is right? Well it would seem to depend on which financial basis you have used.
With the assistance of Stephen Beckenridge, FAC; M Tax; MA, Good for Manly has reviewed both reports and a summary is below.
Recently the State Government announced that NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has been appointed with the task of reviewing Council submissions due to lodged by June 30, however the criteria still does not seem clear. For example, are Councils required to have a population of around 250,000 to be "Fit For the Future"?
The real question remains however, what price can you put on true local government? While it can be argued that bigger provides potential cost savings, the true strength of local government is that is it just that, local. By creating mega Councils aren't we effectively just creating another regional, rather than local, administrative body?
What do you think?
Manly Council has called for Expressions of Interest (EOI) to build and construct a new car park under Manly Oval which will "accommodate at least 470 cars, but is designed to be expandable, with construction by others, to 760 spaces in the future".
This has surprised a number of Councillors who were expecting that the EOI would be for the original larger car park of 760 spaces, which Council has been stating from day one was what was needed; would be the most cost effective solution; and could be built for $34m.
"Once again this process is flawed", claimed Independent Councillor Candy Bingham. " We are now being told that 'based on the demand study, a car park with 470 spaces now and 760 in the future will deliver the "best value for money outcome” with the additional capacity not needed until 2030' she said.
So why the sudden switch to a smaller car park? Consider these facts:
1. Manly does not currently need additional parking.
2. The new smaller car park will only replace parking removed from the street, and parking currently
available in Whistler St (which is to be redeveloped for mixed use and apartments with no parking).
3. The cost of the smaller car park will be closer to the original budget of $34m.
4. Forecasts show that a larger car park will not be required until at least 2030.
5. A larger car park of 760 spaces is likely to cost $45m-$50m not $34m as originally budgeted.
“Even if the Council is successful in getting a long-term lease for the Whistler Street site to offset some of the cost of building a new car park under Manly Oval, the facts still remain. They are replacing a well-located, very profitable car park with a new car park further away which will carry a very large debt and major ongong operating costs.
“Why? There must be more to this than the vision of 'pedestrianising Manly'.” Clr Bingham said.
The EOI closes Friday 12th June with a report expected to come to Council in July 2015.
Manly & Pittwater Councils have joined forces to reject the concept of one amalgamated Northern Beaches Council, and have commissioned KPMG to assess the financial stability and capability of both their Councils. (KPMG reports at end of article).
While Warringah Council is actively pushing for one large council it has not been successful in gaining support from its neighbouring Councils.
At an extraordinary meeting on 30 March, Manly Council voted unanimously to remain unchanged. Council rejected outright the concept of one mega council for the Northern Beaches citing the fact that of the 33 financially sound Councils out of 152 in NSW, three were are on the Northern Beaches.
At the meeting, it was resolved that Council affirm its support for the State Government’s ‘No Forced Amalgamation’ policy and continue supporting the Manly community’s long-held stance against structural change to the local area.
Good or Manly Councilllor, Candy Bingham, while supporting the no Northern Beaches Council stance, raised the possibility of boundary changes saying it was timely to explore inconsistencies in the current local area boundaries.
"It doesn't make sense that while Manly Council manages Queenscliff Beach, Warringah is responsible for Queenscliff Pool. Many also believe that North Balgowlah and North Seaforth should be in Manly, not Warringah", she explained.
Clr Bingham also questioned the fact that, should the amalgamation go ahead, the Northern Beaches would have four State Members, two Federal Members and one Mayor. "That's not local government by any stretch of the imagination", she said.
According the Manly Mayor, Jean Hay, the one big council idea is not a new one, and has in fact being explored twice in recent times. Firstly in 1978 and again in 2003.
"The 2003 attempt was a repeat of an attempt in 1978. At the time, Manly residents voted 4 to 1 against amalgamation with Warringah to form a single council on the Northern Beaches – there was no Pittwater then, It was formed later in 1992. In 1985 Warringah Council was dismissed. (The first time it was dismissed was in 1967.)" she explained.
During the month of May, Manly ratepayers will be asked to give their views on what they think should happen. They will be consulted on three options: 1. Manly remain unchanged; 2. Warringah to be split in half to from two Councils, Manly & Pittwater; or 3. one Northern Beaches Council.
How will you vote?
Manly Council has effectively opened up the Manly 2015 Plan to developers at Monday night’s Council meeting by calling for proposals for the construction of a car park under the oval, and the long-term lease and development of the Whistler Street car park site.
“After five years of deliberation and two wildly unpopular car park scenarios, the Council has suddenly decided to go out and ‘test the market’. All we know about the brief so far is that it contains the main elements that most Manly residents have opposed all along”, said Good for Manly Councillor Candy Bingham. “Long term lease of public land in Manly CBD, building an expensive car park in the wrong place and no further community consultation”.
“Last week the Mayor (in her blog) announced that the majority of Councillors agreed to retro-fit Whistler Street and that a smaller car park under the oval was being explored. This week it’s back to the original plan. What a joke,” Clr Bingham said.
Good For Manly is now calling for intervention by local MP and Premier Mike Baird.
“We believe a moratorium is needed on high-debt, high-risk projects that councils are trying to rush through, ahead of possible amalgamations later this year. “ Clr Bingham explained.
“The Oval car park has already being rejected twice by previous Councils as not viable and yet here we are now asking for interested parties to come up with ideas on how it could work,” she added.
The council resolution to seek proposals from interested parties was an amendment lodged by Clrs. Steve Pickering and James Griffin. However the wording of the resolution has left many confused, with many people believing that in fact the Oval car park had been stopped. No so. (download copy below).
In the meantime resident precinct groups and opponents to the oval car park plan are believed to be dusting off their protest T-Shirts to start fighting the car park proposal again. After two well-attended public meetings, a letter of concern from the Office of Local Government, a large protest march, hundreds of letters to the Manly Daily and thousands of signatures on petitions they are wondering just what it takes for the Council to actually listen to its community. No Oval Car Park - No Massive Debt
Building a smaller car park under Manly Oval is not the solution according to Cr Candy Bingham following another workshop by Councillors. "It's a typical example of a committee designing a horse", she said.
Building a smaller car park under Manly Oval has emerged as the favoured option by councillors in a Manly 2015 workshop last weekend.
The good news is that councillors have recognised the value of the centrally-located Whistler St car park and agreed to retain it "indefinitely". They have also adopted Good For Manly's idea of refurbishing the car park building and converting its forecourt area into a pedestrian plaza. The car park will be retro-fitted with a new lift and fire stairs, and accessible parking spaces will be relocated nearby or on the first floor. The exterior will also be jazzed-up.
However the majority of councillors remain wedded to the oval car park proposal, but half the size as previously proposed.
The new proposal is for a car park with 460 spaces (down from 760 spaces), which would cost $30M. That works out to a massive $65,000 per car space.
Good For Manly councillor Candy Bingham said building a smaller car park under the heritage oval made no financial or logistical sense.
"The previous KPMG assessment of the viability of a new oval car park was on the basis that costs would be underwritten by the transfer of parking revenue from the Whistler St car park and the sale of the site," Cr Bingham said. "That no longer applies and the total cost of $30m would need to be borrowed."
She called for a new parking demand study based on the changed scenario. Such a study should determine if the car park would function as anything other than an overflow car park, used only on days of heavy demand. It should also clarify the huge cost of such a facility.
As well there are operating costs of $250,000 a year (based on comparable underground car parks) and debt payments of $1.8M a year (based on borrowing the entire $30m at an interest rate of 5%). The car park would therefore have to generate $2.050M a year just to cover costs.
Cr Bingham said this is unlikely given that the debt-free Whistler St car park, which has 342 low-maintenance spaces in the heart of the CBD, makes a profit $1m a year.
Major problems, including the distance of the oval from the beach and the CBD, and the expense of building a car park in a flood plain, remain.
And there is now an additional difficulty. Building half a car park under half the oval means that water drainage will be dramatically different between the two halves. What that will do to the playing surface, or the cricket pitch, is anyone's guess.
"The council retaining Whistler St car park is a good decision," Cr Bingham said. "But Good For Manly can not support spending $30M on a poorly-positioned car park when the need has not even been demonstrated."
Although budgeted at $15.5m, the cost of the new Indoor Swim Centre at the Manly Boy Charlton Swim Centre has reached in excess of $19m, with construction and architectural tenders now confirmed. This represents a cost blow-out of over 20%.
Additionally there is the $1.5m for LM Graham Amenities and $1.3m for the CoGen + Energy Centre for the pools, which have been budgeted for separately.
With the loss of on-site parking, users of the Swim Centr e and Reserve say that parking on Kenneth Road has become a life-threatening activity as Manly Council continues to ignore expert advice and community pleas to fix the problem.
The council created the problem in April by changing parking conditions on Kenneth Rd, next door to the swim centre. It replaced parallel parking on both sides of the road with angle parking on one side. But because parallel parking was retained on the other side, cars exiting angle parking spots have to back out over the centre line creating a hazard for traffic travelling in both directions. Even worse, the angle parking was "nose to kerb", so car drivers were forced to back out blind into fast moving traffic. The changes were introduced as part of the council's controversial $19 M redevelopment of the swim centre, which creates a need for more parking spaces at the same time as taking existing spaces away. They also affect sports groups and dog walkers using LM Graham Reserve next door.
The parking changes have always been opposed by Manly's four independent councillors, including Good For Manly Cr Candy Bingham, on the grounds that they are inappropriate and dangerous for a busy thoroughfare such as Kenneth Rd. They have been joined by angry residents, who have used the Manly Daily to describe the changes as "ridiculous" and "a nightmare".
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has raised concerns with the council several times and, in October, sent a formal letter saying Kenneth Rd did not meet national parking safety standards. RMS senior officer John Begley said parking should only be on one side of Kenneth Rd, effectively making the road wider and reversing safer. The parking should also be changed to 90-degree angle parking, from the existing 30-degree parking arrangement.
Council states it is still in negotiation with the RMS but in the meantime has kept parking on both sides of the street, and maintained its 30-degree parking format. Its only concession has been to change the direction of angle parking, so cars will now park rear to the kerb.
Independent councillor Barbara Aird said that the council’s refusal to fix the parking problem was “unbelievable”. She has been leading the campaign to improve the situation, which she described as “an accident waiting to happen”.
What do you think? Do you use Kenneth Road?
Gone are the days when a visit to the local rubbish tip was a family outing. Dealing with rubbish has become big business, and a major cost to Councils.
Belrose tip has been swallowing our rubbish since 1965. But last month it accepted its final load. That leaves Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre at Ingleside as our only local tip. And at present it can't accept putrescible waste (food, manure or nappies).
The problem has forced the Shore Regional Organisation of Councils - Manly, Mosman, Pittwater and Warringah - to send rubbish half way across Sydney to Eastern Creek Landfill.
It's a necessary solution but it comes at a price, with the four combined Councils now set to pay $14 million annually for the next three years for the service.
But by then both Kimbriki and local residents will have a much bigger part to play.
Residents will then be required to separate food waste from other household rubbish and dispose of it in the garden waste (green-lid) garbage bins.
Kimbriki senior project officer Mark Winser says that step alone would cut in half the amount we throw into our general waste (red-lid) bins. It would mean 55,000 tonnes less "rubbish" going to landfill each year.
"We already separate our recyclables. We already separate garden waste. We're asking people to take that next step," Mr Winser said.
It's all part of Too Good to Waste - the regional waste strategy just released for Manly, Mosman, Pittwater and Warringah. The strategy, which treats waste as a resource rather than a liability, aims to increase household recycling rates to 70% by 2021.
Kimbriki will get a major revamp as well. It's been kicked off with a $1.2 million State Government grant for better recycling and resource recovery capabilities at the centre. By 2017 Kimbriki should be able to sort and recover resources from commercial and household waste, as well as being able to process food and garden waste together to make high-grade compost for sale.
That’s a good step in the right direction.
The debate has started in earnest: Should Manly, Warringah and Pittwater merge into one Northern Beaches Council?
Size matters. That's the message from the State Government which is pushing for councils across NSW to merge into bigger, "stronger" groupings. The government report on the matter, from the Independent Local Government Review Panel, has recommended huge cuts to the number of councils operating in Sydney and across the state. Instead of the existing 41 Sydney councils, the reports says we should have less than 20.
And instead of our current three Northern Beaches councils Manly, Warringah and Pittwater the report says we should have just one.
But it's not that easy. While Warringah Council supports the amalgamation scheme, both Manly and Pittwater are opposed.
What Does Future Hold for Manly Council?
The first preference for Manly and Pittwater councils is to stay as they are. But if that's not possible, the two councils want to split Warringah and take half each, something Warringah Mayor Michael Regan describes as "laughable". Cr Regan says Warringah Council is the best performing council in the Northern Beaches region, so it should be the last one on the chopping block.
It's also the heavyweight of the group, with a population of 140,000, compared with 40,000 in Manly and 57,000 in Pittwater.
However a division of Warringah, using Warringah Rd as the boundary, would mean local council areas would be more in line with State and Federal government electoral divisions. And should an area the size of the Northern Beaches, which supports two Federal Government and two State Government seats, have only one local government body?
Supporters of Manly Council's bid to remain independent, also point to the 8 million tourists that visit Manly every year, massively boosting our nominal 40,000 population.
Current Financial Position Strong
As well, Manly's financial situation is strong. An independent audit of Manly's finances, presented to Council this week (10/11/14) gave the council a clean bill of health. The report from accounting firm Hill Rogers Spencer Steer said Council's books and records were well kept and up to date. It had an operating surplus of $4.6 million, and has good liquidity with available working capital of $1 million and $2.75 available for every $1 of debt.
Manly Mayor Jean Hay said only 32, out of the 152 councils in NSW, were endorsed as financially sustainable, and Manly was one of those. "Small councils can be just as strong financially as big councils," Cr Hay said.
And while the State Government has so far ruled out forced amalgamation, it is ramping up the pressure. Each council has until the end of June next year, to come up with a plan for "future cooperation with neighbouring councils". If not, they risk losing access to subsidised loans and government grants.
Would bigger councils mean more efficient government and greater political clout? Or less access to local representation and a weaker sense of local identity? What do you think?
Now that the tender for the construction of the new indoor Swim Centre at the Manly Boy Charlton Pool has been awarded, a number of Councillors are raising concerns about the price tag for the facility, which is already 22% over budget.
According to Clr Candy Bingham, the budgeted allowance for the indoor facility is $15.5m (Long Term Financial Plan 2013/14). However the cost, including architect fees, is now closer to $19m.
In her Mayoral Column on 25/11/14 in the Manly Daily, Clr Jean Hay assured Manly ratepayers "there is no cost blow-outs ... the approved tender has three separate components: the new indoor swim centre, the improved amenities for the LM Graham Reserve and the new 'co-generation energy plant' " however, this statement is misleading as the items quoted were tendered separately, and listed separately, in the Long Term Financial Plan. The additional items account for another $2.8m, on top of the $19m for the indoor swim centre.
It all started when Clr Barbara Aird broke the story to the Manly Daily prior to the October Council meeting on 13th. This was met with a furious attack by the Mayor claiming Councillor Aird had breached the Code of Conduct by revealing 'confidential information' as the tenderer had not been finalised. In publicity and offensively attacking Clr Aird the Mayor breached the Code herself, but seemed completely oblivious to the fact as she demanded that all councillors attend a refresher workshop on the Code of Conduct.
It has subsequently been revealed that Clr Aird did not break the Code, supported by the fact that the winning tenderer publicity notified neighbours days later saying they were the new contractor for the facility; and Regulation 269 of the Local Government Act that clearly states that the contract price was a matter of public knowledge once the winning tenderer had been selected.
There is no argument that Manly will benefit from this new indoor facility and that Council, in being successful in gaining a 10 year fixed interest loan at a subsidised rate, has obtained a good deal. What concerns ratepayers, and many Councillors, is the continued lack of transparency and secrecy around all major projects undertaken by this Council.
Given the project is already 22% over budget, isn't now the time to reassess the facilities being offered to see where reasonable cost cutting can be made?
What do you think?
Hundreds of Manly residents took to the streets on Sunday in a huge display of public anger over Council plans to build a car park under Manly Oval. (Great coverage in the Manly Daily here.)
The crowd included the full spread of the Manly community, ranging from small children to business owners to older residents in mobility scooters - this group there to protest that the new car park would be too far from the shops for them to manage.
March organiser Candy Bingham of Good for Manly, who welcomed the crowd, drew the biggest response when she criticised Manly Council for its secrecy and lack of community consultation throughout the car park project.
Cr Bingham also cited the car park's cost - at least $34 million; the fact that it will be built in a flood plain; its distance from the CBD and the fact that the existing Whistler St car park, which is well used and well-situated, can be given a makeover rather than being pulled down. She said the oval car park had already been considered on three previous occasions and rejected as not financially viable each time.
Cr Bingham, accompanied by Manly's other independent Manly councillors Barbara Aird, Hugh Burns and Green’s Councillor Cathy Griffin, led the march procession past the oval site and Whistler St car park to Manly Town Hall. The big crowd, helped by a drummer and flautist, chanted "No oval car park. No massive debt" throughout the entire march before crowding into the square in front of the Town Hall building.
According to Cr Bingham the march was a huge success. She said over 700 people had signed the 'No Oval Car Park' petition on Sunday alone, and that the 650 people marched to show just how worried Manly locals are.
"We are not just a vocal minority," she said.
The four independent councillors hope the big turn out will convince their Liberal colleagues, who hold the balance of power, to take the community seriously and rethink the Oval Car Park plan.
A crucial vote to abolish the oval car park plan was lost 5 votes to 4 on Monday night (October 13) with the Liberal councillors stating the matter was “still in process”.
The future of the Manly Hospital site became clearer this week when Manly Council announced approval had now been given for the site to be zoned for health and environmental use following 2.5 years of negotiation with the Department of Planning.
This will ensure that the site can't be sold for residential, hotel or business-related activities once the hospital closes in 2018, following the opening of the new Northern Beaches Hospital in Frenchs Forest.
Suitable uses under the new zoning SP2 Health Services Facility include aged care, rehabilitation, mental health facility, and general medical services.
The land surrounding the built up site, has been zoned E2 Environmental Conservation. This is particularly important because it now means that the land below the cliff line at the rear of Collins Flat cannot be built on and is protected from any kind of development.
The staff at Manly Council are to be congratulated for achieving an excellent outcome for the community.
An advisory group reporting to Local Member and Premier, Mike Baird, is seeking input from locals on what they would like to happen to the site. You can complete their survey here.
While the recent Council resolution to delay lodging a development application (DA) to proceed with the controversial Oval car park has been welcomed by the Independent Councillors Candy Bingham, Barabara Aird, Hugh Burns and Cathy Griffin, it is clear that the 5-4 deadlock will take some time to resolve.
A series of workshops have been scheduled to give the Councillors time to work through the issues. Clr Candy Bingham, while pleased by the delay, questions whether the correct process has been followed.
“In my opinion the process has been flawed from the start. Although the Manly 2015 Vision has been on Council’s agenda since 2008, the Good for Manly group were the only Council candidates who took a stand on the Oval car park in the lead-up to the Council elections in 2012.
“Nowhere in the Liberal campaign materials was the Oval car park or Manly 2015 mentioned, even though the project had been put on hold by the previous Council,” she said.
Without any resolution to proceed, the newly-elected Liberal dominated Council launched the 2015 Vision and in particular the construction of a car park under Manly Oval.
This month, following a mixed response from the Office of Local Government regarding the capital expenditure of the project, the Council administration recommended that the car park move to a DA, even before any design plans had been developed, or discussed by Councillors or the community.
During its term, the Council has remained divided over the car park proposal. The Mayor, Jean Hay, has responded to concerns about the lack of community consultation by stating that “this is the most consulted project Manly Council has ever done …”. However it is the Council’s response, or lack of it, to community feedback and questions that has caused major concern. As has the Council’s refusal to provide copies of relevant due diligence reports to Councillors.
“The lack of transparency is a furphy being promoted by the opponents of the Plan,” according to the Mayor at a recent Council meeting.
Thousands in the community would disagree. As would the nine Resident Precinct groups which still have not had their concerns and questions regarding the financial viability of the project addressed.
In the meantime the Councillor workshops will provide a truce for now, with both sides hoping that the other will ‘come to their senses’ and vote their way.
The likelihood of that happening is as remote as finding a parking spot in Manly during a busy summer weekend.
UPDATE: The Joint Regional Planning Panel has approved Bupa's 76 bed aged care facility, and Manly Council's community centre at the old Seaforth Tafe site.
An information meeting regarding the proposed new use of the Seaforth TAFE site was held at the Balgowlah RSL on 8th April 2014 by BUPA, who has lodged a development application (DA) to revitalise the old building.
The DA is for a 76 bed nursing home facility, specialist healthcare offices. This follows a memorandum of understanding with Manly Council that BUPA will take over use of the majority of the building on a 99 year lease. The building will also include community space to be run by Manly Council.
Following the presentation there was an extensive question and answer session with the audience of approximately sixty local residents and business people.
The following is a summary of the main issues raised:
The Proposed Use of the Site as an Aged Care Facility.
There was some concern expressed regarding the provision of institutional aged care facilities versus home care. The BUPA representatives acknowledged that this is an issue under consideration in the industry, but that there will still be a need for institutional care.
BUPA also considers that the location is ideal for the proposed use.
BUPA is committed to full restoration of the building to a very high standard, including enhancement of the external facades of the existing building, extensive landscaping and use of solar energy.
The Number of On-Site Car Spaces to be Provided.
Varying information was put forward by audience members regarding the number of existing on-site car spaces that were available on the TAFE site, suggesting a range of 30 - 40 spots..
The plans for the BUPA proposal for the redevelopment of the site include removal of some existing on-site parking, and provision of a total of 20 only on-site car spaces. The BUPA representatives advised that this was consistent with industry standards for this type of development, and they were confident that it would be sufficient.
they also advised that during the negotiations with Manly Council prior to the preparation of the plans Council advised that there was a nil requirement for on-site car parking spaces for the proposed community centre.
Audience members expressed concern at the low number of proposed on-site car spaces on the grounds, that overspill of parking associated with the operation of the proposed development will adversely impact on the limited parking available in the Seaforth business and adjoining residential area.
The Location and Design of the Proposed Parking Area, Service Pick-Up & Deliveries, & Garbage Storage.
Adjoining residents on the northern side of the site were concerned that the location and layout of the parking area and service pick-up and deliveries were not in accordance with the DA for alterations to that area that was prepared and approved by Council, after consultation with a local community committee.
BUPA acknowledged the existence of that approval, but said that they had made the decision to put forward its own proposal.
The Role of Manly Council.
Concern was expressed at what was described as the complete lack of information from Council since its original announcements of the proposed use of the site as a ‘hub’ for community activities, and the fact that the BUPA proposal has been developed to the stage that a formal DA has already been lodged, without any prior community consultation.
BUPA advised that it is not able to speak for the Council, but that it was their understanding that Council had found that it was unable to fund the very extensive work needed to restore the premises to the necessary standards.
BUPA indicated that it is open to consideration of changes to the plans for its proposal if there is strong community feelings on any particular aspect, and that any such concerns should be raised by means of submissions to Council during the forthcoming period that the DA plans will be on exhibition.
You can view BUPA's development application on Manly Council's website- reference: DA 54/2014
THE MANLY 2015 PLAN PROCESS
Just How Open & Transparent has it been?
1. In November 2011 the Mayor Jean Hay wrote to those who had made submissions re Manly 2015, saying that “Despite what you may hear to the contrary, no formal or final decisions have been reached, nor will they be, until Council receives a report from staff on the exhibition process over the next month.” No such report was submitted to a Council meeting.
2. Major changes were made to the vehicular entry/exit plans for the proposed car park under Manly Oval without a report to Council.
3. The resolution of the previous Council on the 4th June 2012 that “no new funds or resources are to be raised and/or allocated to the Manly 2015 proposal unless or until the Council to be elected in September 2012 formally resolves to do so” was not reported to, nor formally resolved, by the new Council
4. In October 2012 KPMG was engaged to carry out a financial and commercial review of the Village Centre and Manly Oval car park elements of the Manly 2015 proposal, without a report to the new Council.
5. Clr Candy Bingham’s request for access to the KPMG report, which resulted in lodging a formal GIPA request to Council, was refused, and this refusal was only overturned after intervention by the Office of Local Government some four month later.
6. ‘The Fact Sheet’ published on Council’s website and printed brochure following the adoption of the 2013-2023 Long Term Financial Plan advised that “Manly 2015 has been independently assessed by TCorp (NSW Treasury)”. This claim was incorrect and subsequently removed from the website, but Council refused to publish an explanation or apology.
7. Despite the Council resolution of 3 June 2013 that the preservation of the Whistler Street Triangle and Manly Oval components in Council’s Long Term Financial Plan were subject to “Acknowledgement that Manly 2015 is a master plan requiring the Council to make progressive decisions on each of the components that form the final plan”, a Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) application for approval of borrowings for the construction of the Oval car park was submitted to the Office of Local Government without a prior report to Council and before Councillors had access to the due diligence reports.
8. Inclusion on the agenda of Clr Bingham’s Notice of Motion requesting reports to Council prior to the lodging of any DA or the advertising of any tender in relation to the Manly Oval car park proposal was refused, twice, on the grounds of alleged pecuniary and non- pecuniary interest. This was not only unlawful, but incorrect.
9. There has been conflicting answers provided regarding the proposed source of funding for a car park under Manly Oval; how revenue will be generated; how the proceeds from the sale of the Whistler Street carpark will be used. Although the original 2015 Plan has substantially changed no reports have been submitted to Council on the current Plan
In fact, since the Manly 2015 proposal was first placed on exhibition, there has not been a single progress report submitted to a formal meeting of Council.*
*Council’s practice has been to brief councillors in workshops, which are held quarterly. The information from these workshops is marked ‘confidential’ and nothing is placed on the public record.
Perhaps even more concerning is that this systemic approach of not making public relevant information, (even to the Councillors), has also been used on all other major projects before Council including the $15m New Leisure Swim Centre and building of a Polo Pool, and the Little Manly Foreshore land debacle.
Does this sound like open & transparent government to you?
Manly Council will seek to install noise analysing black boxes in Manly Cove resident’s living rooms to investigate what’s been described as “boom boom” music coming from Manly Wharf.
This comes in response to ongoing complaints from residents who live across from the wharf.
Manly Cove resident Roger James said he and fellow locals formed the Manly Cove Alliance and had received written complaints from 34 people on the issue. “We have a lot of problems with noise late at night, more specifically the music with its constant base beat,” he said.
According to Cr Cathy Griffin part of the problem is that the cove acts as an amplifier. “It’s unique in its location because it juts out into the water,” she said. “It exacerbates the problem as the sound from the wharf refracts off the water and actually intensifies".
Council general manager Henry Wong said noise analysers generally remained in a home for more than 21 days and measured standard background noise as well as determining how many decibels above the norm an incident was.
Meantime, Mr Wong said residents should call council’s Night Owl Rangers to ask them to make a record of the noise from their homes.
Obviously the summer period when crowds at the Wharf's various restaurants are larger, and venues are busier more nights of the week, is the time when the noise issue can be greater. Site lessees of Manly Wharf, TMG Developments property manager Chris Coore , said he took noise complaints seriously.
Residents are awaiting advice from the Council when the noise analysing boxes will be installed.
A simple survey undertaken by the Good For Manly group clearly shows that locals don’t want a car park built under Manly Oval.
Circulated widely, including by the Chamber of Commerce who support the Oval car park, the survey asked four simple questions. So far 754 people have responded with a clear message: No Oval Car Park 75.20%, Keep Whistler Street Car Park 71.58%, Revitalise the laneways in Manly 92.30%, Have a referendum to decide 81.00%.
Strong opposition is building against Manly Council’s 2015 Plan that has at its core the demolition of the centrally located Whistler Street car park and the building of a $34million new car park under Manly Oval. This week former Mayors of Manly, Sue Sacker and Peter Macdonald, publicly came out against the project.
“The community are angry. They don’t believe they have been listened to by Manly Council. Despite hundreds of letters against the Oval car park project, a public meeting attended by 400 people, 8 out of the 9 active resident precinct groups voting strongly against the car park and complaints lodged with Mike Baird’s office, the Liberal majority on the Council seem hell-bent on pushing this through”, claimed Independent Councillor, Candy Bingham.
The four independent Councillors, Clrs Barbara Aird, Candy Bingham, Hugh Burns and Cathy Griffin, submitted independent expert reports to the Office of Local Government raising serious questions about the viability of the Manly 2015 Plan.
“We have come to the conclusion that Manly Council is under estimating the financial cost, construction risk, and community opinion, and over estimating its own ability.” Clr Bingham said.
A final assessment on the Oval Car Park project is expected to be received from the Office of Local Government shortly.
Councillor Candy Bingham has admitted to making an error of judgement when voting for the rezoning of 38 Stuart Street Little Manly from Open Space to Residential at a Council meeting in December 2013.
"I don't know what I was thinking and now deeply regret supporting the rezoning", Clr Bingham said recently.
The Manly Mayor, Jean Hay and her Liberal Party colleagues (Steve Pickering, James Griffin, Alan Le Surf and Adele Heasman) and the Independent Councillor Candy Bingham, passed a resolution to spot rezone 38 Stuart St from Open Space to Residential (E4) at the Manly Council meeting of December 2013.
Photo shows: 34&36 Stuart St in red, 38 predominately grey
The Independent Councillors Hugh Burns and Barbara Aird and the Green Councillor Cathy Griffin, opposed the spot rezoning.
Since 1948, The County of Cumberland Planning Scheme, and each succeeding Manly Council has maintained the Open Space Zoning on all the properties behind Little Manly Beach.
At this time, Manly Council owns three of the four properties behind Little Manly beach, 34, 36 and 40 Stuart St. Only 38 Stuart St is privately owned and has recently had a major new residential dwelling built on it.
Tireless campaigners to maintain the Open Space Zoning, The Save Little Manly Foreshore Group, maintained the Open Space zoning on 38 was important, because it signals that at some future time Manly Council intends to purchase this property as well, but if the property is spot rezoned Residential E4, then the value of the property is substantially increased, making it less likely Council will be able to afford to do so.
There is another concerning aspect to the spot rezoning of 38 Stuart St from Open Space to Residential.
This rezoning was not formally requested by the owners of the property, and therefore could be a gift of a substantial rise in the value of the property to the owners of 38 Stuart Street.
The Manly ratepayers will also bear the costs of the spot rezoning, with NO benefit to the Manly ratepayers at all.
Manly Council's plan for a car park under Manly oval has taken a hit after the Office of Local Government raised seven major issues for the Council to address.
The Office has just released its initial assessment of the Council's capital expenditure plan for the $34M car park. It lists seven major concerns about the plan, which is already questioned by the Manly Chamber of Commerce, and opposed by all of Manly's precinct groups, a growing number of Manly residents and the four independent (out of nine in total) Manly councillors.
Council is required to respond to seven key issues before the Office can complete its assessment. They are:
1. Geotechnical risk. Council's claim that building the car park - a multi story structure under Manly's heritage oval and in an area known to flood after heavy rain - is a low risk enterprise. The Office notes that the Council's own technical report does not support that claim, based on initial geotechnical work.
2. The car park operating costs. The Council has been criticised for not taking these costs into account, as required in plans of this nature. This tallies with concern by residents and independent Manly councillors, who note that Council's one underground car park - in Wentworth St - is by far the most expensive of its four car parks to maintain. This contrasts with the Whistler St car park - slated to be pulled down - which is cheap to maintain and brings in $700,000 a year.
3. Interest rate assumptions. The Office questions Council calculations, which are based on an unchanging rate of interest of 4.3%. This is despite the fact that the rate is floating, not fixed, and the term of the loan runs for 50 years. The Manly Chamber of Commerce has already questioned this claim - understood by them as "an average cost of funds of 5% over the life of the project"-
4. Public support. The Office of Local Government didn't buy the Council's claim that Manly residents were right behind the car park plan. "It is apparent to the Office that there is a growing level of community concern and opposition to this project", it wrote. That's no surprise to the 400+ Manly residents who recently attended a Car Park opposition public meeting, or to Local MP and State Treasurer Mike Baird who has publicly aired his own concerns about the car park project.
5. Project management expertise. The Office also didn't believe the Council's claim that it was experienced at managing large projects, noting that previous Council projects have not been as large or as complex as the oval car park. Residents, who remember Manly Council's recent botched job of repaving the Corso, would agree.
6. Cost to fix Whistler St Car Park. The Council has been asked to explain its wildly varying estimates for this job. Council says $5M is needed to fix the car park, and gives this figure as a reason for pulling it down and building under Manly oval instead. But the Office points to the Council's own 2012/13 financial reports, where the car park is listed as being in "average" condition and "requiring no maintenance expenditure".
7. The sale of Whistler St Car Park. The Council was criticised for not taking into account the risk of the sale not going through.
While the Office of Local Government does not have the power to stop Manly Council going ahead with the oval car park plan, Mayor Jean Hay is on the record as saying she won't proceed unless the plan is assessed as financially viable.
Manly Council has acted to shut down debate on its controversial Manly 2015 plan, by gagging independent councillor Candy Bingham.
The move came just days before the March Council meeting, and was repeated again for the April meeting, with the rejection of a motion for the agenda which simply covered a number of procedural matters in relation to the proposed carpark under Manly Oval.
The council firstly claimed that Cr Bingham's role as president of the Good For Manly residents' group, which has opposed several aspects of the Manly 2015 plan, constitutes a conflict of interest in relation to the plan. As a result she was banned from participating in, or even listening to, any debate on Manly 2015 and notified that she must leave the council chamber whenever the Plan is discussed.
Clr Bingham thought she had resolved the matter by resigning as President of Good For Manly, however the same notice of motion was rejected again. Why? "it is considered you have a pecuniary and non pecuniary interest in the subject matter".....
"As an advocate who has no financial ties with any business in Manly, can someone please explain to me how I could possibly have a pecuniary interest in whether or not the Council builds a carpark under the Oval?" Cr Bingham asked.
In an attempt to rectify the matter, Cr Bingham's motion at this week's Council meeting requested that a number of sections of the Council's Code of Meeting practice be amended to bring them back in line with the Local Government regulations, which by law, over-ride the Council's Code.
It became clear during the debate that a number of other Independent councillors have also had motions rejected on the basis they were 'out of order' and that this practice was in fact systemic in Manly Council.
Stating that "this is the way we have always done things" and "Our Code was approved by the Division in 2011" the Liberal Councillors voted 5-4 against amending the Code of Meeting Practice.
“Frankly, this is an outrage,” Cr Bingham said. “The political views of a councilor do not constitute a private interest and therefore cannot constitute a non-pecuniary interest, which is what Manly Council is saying.”
“There is no conflict between my views and my public duty. As a councillor I am required by the Local Government Act to ‘represent the interests of the residents and ratepayers and to facilitate communication between the community and the council’,” Cr Bingham said. “Just because the council does not like the fact that there is now major opposition to the Oval Car Park proposal does not give them the right to shut down the debate.”
(A copy of the rejected 2015 Motion and the Motion in relation to the amendment to the Code of Meeting Practice are below).
Manly's digital parking system was brought in to end the "black market" in residents' free parking permits. But, according to many Manly locals it's awkward, unfair and unnecessary, although the right to four hours free on the oceanfront as from 3rd April, is definitely seen as a bonus.
A new Facebook page "Manly Council Parking - Wrecking our Beach Lifestyle" already has 543 likes, and its authors are busy establishing a committee to persuade the council to ditch the digital system.
The new system, which began in February, requires residents to apply for a permit online by registering their car's licence plates with the council.
Then, whenever they use a metered parking area, such as the bays at Manly ocean beach, they must type their car's licence number and intended length of stay into a meter. They then then print out a parking ticket and display it inside the windscreen.
It's a huge departure from the simplicity of the previous system, when residents got one sticker a year and all they had to do was fix it on the car windscreen.
Complaints on the Facebook page include the sheer inconvenience of the new system, with mothers complaining they now have to join a queue at the parking meter every time they park for 10 minutes to pick up a child from school. Elderly drivers and people with poor near vision say they have trouble using the small keyboard on the parking meters.
Many people are also annoyed that they have to carefully specify how long they will need each time, when the nature of a trip to the beach is that it may expand due to good surfing/swimming conditions or meeting up with friends.
A "Wrecking our Beach Lifestyle" post ridicules the "digital" tag, as in fact, the new system means residents now need to print out a ticket every time they park. "It's really going more manual," the post says.
"Now instead of getting a sticker once a year, a resident could potentially have to get a ticket once a day! Privilege and convenience gone in one fell swoop. And why? I don't see any of the net benefits. A case of fixing something that wasn't broken in the first place."
What has your experience with the new system been?
The entire Ivanhoe Park site including Manly Oval is listed as a Heritage item in Manly Local Environment Plan (LEP) 1988, yet this has not been considered by Manly Council as part of its Oval car park development. This listing prohibits any excavation or development unless a proper assessment of the impact on the items Heritage significance has been carried out and yet Manly Council has made no assessment as part of its Manly2015 Plan which includes digging up Manly Oval to create a two-level car park underground.
According to local historians The Oval and Ivanhoe Park are of extremely high value to Manly both in a heritage sense and in Urban Design terms as the "village green” and is an integral part of the historic and current fabric of Manly.
It is believed that Manly Oval, in its natural context, is the best example in Sydney and possibly Australia of a Public Recreation Oval integrated into a "village" area. For this reason together with the rich history of recorded events which have taken place in the Park, careful preservation and celebration of this place is essential and is currently at serious risk.
Former Manly Council Town Planner and Urban Design Consultant, Rob Burgess, has headed a team of local historian which has championed the documentation of the heritage significance of Manly Oval in the light of the proposal to build a major car park under the site.
"Whilst design details on the works to the Oval are limited, a number of Architects, Planners, Engineers & Quantity Surveyors agree that the extent of building work will devastate the Park and destroy this much loved place. The structure will involve massive excavation in excess of 100,000 cubic meters of material and construction of a two level mechanically ventilated 800 space car park." he said.
"The structure will be below the water table and will interfere with the underground creek which traverses the site. Numerous exhaust stacks will extend above ground level and dewatering pumps will be used extensively. There will be three substantial vehicular ramps providing vehicular access from Sydney Road and extreme traffic disruption is predicted, with impacts to the whole of the area" Mr Burgess concluded.
Of greater concern is that inevitably due to cost, ventilation and reduction of ramp lengths issues, the concrete structure will be above existing ground level, at least in part, and thus will destroy for all time the historic 'village green'.
Manly resident, Jeremy Bingham , former Lord Mayor of Sydney and eminent Local Government Lawyer and the person most responsible for the preservation and restoration of the Queen Victoria Building and Sydney's Capitol Theatre, is also seriously concerned at the ramifications of Council's destructive plans.
“The whole of Ivanhoe Park, including Manly Oval, was added by Manly Council to the heritage list in Manly LEP 1988 after a heritage report in 2010. I am staggered that at no time in the recent debate over the Manly 2015 Plan did the General Manager draw this recent heritage listing to the attention of the Council", Mr Bingham said.
Clause 18 of Manly Council’s LEP prohibits any excavation or development of a heritage item unless a proper assessment of the impact on the item’s heritage significance has been carried out. It is essential this be done before Council proceed any further with the Oval car park plan.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the proposed Oval car park will destroy the heritage elements of Manly Oval/Village Green,” Mr Bingham concluded.
At the public meeting on Saturday 22nd February, organiised by Good For Manly, over 400 attendees unanimously opposed the Council's plans to build a car park under the Oval and demolish the existing Whistler Street car park and 18 year old library.
A report on the proposal from the Office of Local Government is imminent.
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.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor & 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.