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.
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.