New South Wales
I write to request that the change of use of 211 Pacific Hwy St Leonards from commercial offices to a school under Project 10661 be rejected. Although there is no objection to the site being used for commercial offices or medical purposes, this is not a suitable site for a school.
It is also asked that this rejection be considered with additional weight, in light of the fact that typical users of the public playground and those most impacted would not be on the DA notification list as they don’t live in the surrounding office properties e.g. local families in 5 Greenwich Rd approx. 200m up the road, were not directly notified of the DA.
The site itself is far too small to accommodate a school as the school footprint cannot even cater for basic essential school facilities that a functioning school demands. The site area is approx. 1500m and is effectively the equivalent of 2 house blocks. The change of use proposal wants 2 house blocks to cater for a capacity of 210 children plus approx. 15 adults. This is impractical and unrealistic and the school on a postage stamp cannot provide for basic school operations as it is only 2 storeys, not a self-contained high-rise. The site is so small, there is no space anywhere on the proposed site where the entire school can gather together for regular school life such as for daily assemblies and school activities. There is no provision for a school hall, nor is there sufficient outdoor space around the school building that could hold all 210 students and 15+ adults, nor on-site space for students to participate in essential PE classes. The proposed site does not even have enough toilets for its 210 students as required by school standards.
The proposed school would need to permanently rely on use of the adjoining public parklands, toilets and facilities which are public amenities for all. The school’s use of these facilities, particularly the public playground and toilets will prevent local families and businesses with young toddlers from using the playground on a daily basis. The students would dominate the playground near the start of the school day, every day during recess, every day during lunchtime and shortly after school ends, excluding others from using it. This is an inequitable restriction on the community. It must also be noted that the public playground is non-compliant for school use purposes as it contains equipment prohibited by Dept of Education playground rules. For this reason alone, the proposed site should not be used as a school. It will impose undue pressure and the real risk of unnecessary litigation on Willoughby Council when a child inevitably seriously injures themselves and the playground is non-compliant.
If the site used as a school, it would also dominate the limited local parking facilities during end of school and after school pick-up when the carpark is already filled by patrons from sports clubs, the local public and schools who have bookings for the newly upgraded sports oval facilities.
The traffic and parking statements in the report are somewhat inadequate as they do not cater for driver behaviour. The assumption that school drop off will take place over an hour’s duration is erroneous, hence all related calculations and conclusions based on this must be disregarded. It will instead take place over 15 minutes as students are not able to attend school until a teacher can supervise them. Excluding 25 before-school places, supervision of the remaining 185 students begins at 8:45am with the bell going at 9am. The kiss & drop zone only caters for 10 cars. These students are from out of area and cannot walk to school. This will result in a backlog queue of cars blocking the Pacific Hwy T3 transitway and buses, and will impede traffic flow on a major road. For this reason alone, the proposed site should not be approved for use as a school.
This application should not be deemed a new school for the purposes of SSD, as it does not open up new enrolment placements for the local families in St Leonards/Greenwich as children of local families will not be able to enrol their children at this school because it is affiliated to a specific church with a very specific demographic with out of area students from 5kms away.
This site is suited to commercial type offices as there would be minimal additional traffic, and adult workers use local public transport options and have no significant impact on the very limited local parking. Commercial office users casually use the park facilities for exercise etc but they would not be dominating public facilities it to the exclusion of others like hundreds of school kids will.
Points expanding on the summary above are outlined below, with fuller substantiation of these points as an attachment to this response:
1. It’s a nationally historic cemetery site and a school is not appropriate for the dignity of its solemn heritage
2. Kiss & drop zone use disrupts consistency of The Avenue and depletes the heritage experience
3. It is not a new school, it is an existing school just relocating and does not provide new placements to local families
4. The site is too small for a school – insufficient space for basic school operational facilities
5. The site is too small for a school – not enough toilets as per school standards for 210 children
6. The park playground is not compliant with school playground rules and cannot not be used
7. School children will dominate the park to the unfair exclusion of others
8. Environmental impact to over-utilisation of Gore Oval around the carpark area closest to the school
9. Safety risk to students accessing the school from the playground as it crosses a traffic thoroughfare
10. School traffic through the carpark hinders disabled users
11. Traffic issues – school drop-off and pick-up congestion overview & comparison
12. Queueing on the Pacific Hwy blocking a T3 transit lane and the public buses
13. Cars queuing up block left-hand lane into Herbert St to return to Chatswood
14. Increase in dangerous U-turns on Greenwich Rd, near cnr Pacific Hwy
15. Carpark capacity & usage
16. Parents parking in visitor parking at 5 Greenwich Rd, Greenwich
17. Vehicles parked in The Avenue drop-off/pick-up area may block service vehicles
18. School excursions – where will buses park and wait to pick-up and drop-off?
19. School users take away parking accessibility from ill & elderly patients
20. Further lack of street parking and strain due to simultaneous residential developments
21. Vegetation plan – risk to historic tree
This is not a new school as it does not deliver additional school enrolment places to local residents. This site is far too small to sustain a self-contained, functioning school. The proposed site cannot provide for a school hall/major assembly area, or rehearsal spaces for bands, choirs or string ensembles. There is insufficient on-site amenity to properly cater for 210 children with a proper school library or break out spaces. It cannot provide safe traffic management where children in the playground have to cross traffic zones to enter the school. It degrades the emotional experience of a very widely important, nationally significant cemetery – the noise of bells and shrieks from children will ruin what our community holds dear as respectful solemness for reflection and history of our dead. It’s not just a school being located to an historic heritage building. It’s a cemetery.
There is no on-site space for the students to all play outside. If approved for school use, it permanently relies a non-school compliant public playground, and puts the local Council at high litigation risk. Local residents will be restricted from utilising their local facilities as the playground and toilets would be dominated by the school’s daily use. If the school doesn’t use it daily, they will be cooped up in classrooms during playtimes.
The concentration and volume of traffic at drop-off and pick-up times for the proposed school will block traffic and buses in the Pacific Hwy T3 transit lane, risk accidents for buses coming around the blind corner at speed, is likely to cause additional dangerous u-turns in Greenwich Rd, and will unnecessarily impede on an already strained public parking situation increasing the likelihood of parents using the visitor parking at 5 Greenwich Rd.
The location is unique in that it borders 3 LGAs (Willoughby, Lane Cove, North Sydney) but only serves to benefit existing students of a school 5kms away.
I fully support the establishment of new schools for local residents, but the negative impacts of the proposed school being shifted from Chatswood to this particular site far outweigh any merit it could deliver to our local community. How do local residents and business benefit from this proposal? In every way, they don’t. In fact there are no demonstrated merits, only domination and over-utilisation of local public facilities. The change of use proposal to a school for this site not enhance the local community, it just serves to exclude it.
What makes a school? Creating a school from an office block design involves more than just refitting the insides of the building. A school has very different needs, amenities and learning facilities to an office block! There is no practical “fit out conversion” solution to make a small 2 storey office block on a postage stamp into a school for 210 students.
No on-site playground, non-school compliant off-site playground, no on-site school assembly area, not enough toilets, blocked traffic on Pacific Hwy? No school.
I request that this proposal be fully rejected, and the site remains as per the current commercial office use.