We saw "people power" at its very best in Manly last Sunday afternoon.
Despite 150 kph winds and torrential rain approximately 300 concerned locals turned up at a church hall for a "Save Manly Oval" public meeting.
It seemed ironic that a meeting raising concerns about a 500 space car park to be built under a reinstated Manly Oval, was in progress while Manly Oval was actually flooded, particularly around the area where the new detention tank had been installed by Council earlier this year.
Expert after expert informed the meeting about major concerns in relation to the DA which was lodged the day before Manly Council was amalgamated into the new Northern Beaches Council.
The proposed $28m cost was dismissed by experts claiming the cost would be closer to $45-50m. Traffic experts explained the impact of reducing Sydney Road into one through lane in both directions, and the issue of there being no break-down area. (That afternoon a truck broke down in Sydney Road . Under the proposed new arrangement it would have totally blocked and stopped the traffic proceeding into Manly for hours causing traffic jams likely as far as the The Spit.) And what about emergency vehicles? How are they supposed to access this major road in an emergency?
A proposed roundabout at Eustace Street simply will not work, the gathering was told. Dozens of buses, trucks and the dual carriage Sydney Water Sewage trucks which use Sydney Road daily, will be unable to negotiate such a tight turn.
But then there was the flooding issue. As torrential rain fell on the roof of the hall, and water was gushing down Sydney Road at a great rate, the sober reality of building an underground car park, in a flood plain at the bottom of a steep hill, sent shivers up the spine. And the DA does not allow for a 1 in 100 year flood, in fact the DA falls well short of the requirement.
For many the reality that the existing historic oval will be completely demolished, with road barriers, entry portals, ventilation stacks, public toilet amenities, and other bulidings blocking the existing vista of the oval from Sydney Road, came as a shock. For years they had been told by Council that the oval would be reinstated in its former glory, but the harsh reality of what is required to service and ventilate a large underground car park means that in fact this will be far from the case. Even the historic Merritt Memorial gateway (erected in 1927) which now proudly provides the entrance to the oval, will be relocated further away - with the toilet amenities as its backdrop.
But that's not all .....
The DA plans clearly show the relocation of the picket fence reducing further the playing field, which is already short of desired length. This raises serious safety issues, particularly for the rugby players where strict rules apply in relation to the size and standard of the playing surface. The Manly Marlins, who have played on the field for 133 years, have now lodged a submission outlining their concerns. (A copy can be viewed the end of this post).
(A recent tongue in cheek cartoon in the Manly Daily by Buddy Ross, captured this concern well.)
The final presentation was by former CEO of Wilson Parking, Craig Smith. With more than 30 years experience in building and operating major car parks all over Australia, he left no doubt that the location of the Oval Car Park simply would not work. It was too far away from the CBD and beach, the revenue projections were way out and the operational costs would be very high. Northern Beaches ratepayers were looking at huge annual ongoing losses that could never be recouped.
So why is this flawed plan even been considered? That's a question Good For Manly has been asking the former five Liberal Councillors on Manly Council, and Local Member Mike Baird, for four years.
The Save Manly Oval Alliance (SMOA) has recently been formed to continue the fight against the Oval Car Park proposal. Already close to $20,000.00 has been raised in a fighting fund which is being used to engage experts to prepare reports against the Oval Car Park DA and engage legal counsel. The Environmental Defenders Office has taken on the case on behalf of the SMOA, and the advice of a leading barrister sought.
What Can You Do?
1. Put in a submission against the Oval Car Park DA No.116/2016. Send your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org before July 1.
2. Consider making a donation to the Save Manly Oval Fighting Fund.
Details on how to make a submission and how to make a donation are on their website.
Save Manly Oval Alliance
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.