As a Ku-Ring-Gai resident living near the proposed Lindfield Learning Village (previously "Lindfield School of the Future"), I wish to make a submission regarding the road access, parking facilities and bushfire safety.
The NSW Government plans state that the site will cater for over 2000 Kindergarten to Year 12 students as well as childcare facilities for 94 children and administration facilities for distance education. There will additionally be around 200 staff. These massive numbers for a site with very limited road and no rail access make it urgent that the resultant traffic issues are given very serious consideration before they grid-lock the North Shore Pacific Highway and local roads morning and afternoon.
In addition to the merits of the School's academic program, upon which I do not comment, issues regarding safety and accessibility for staff and students to the School, as well as the safety and amenity of nearby local residents, are of primary importance!
Previously, through the good offices of Minister Adrian Piccoli, a copy of the NSW Government document "Proposed Lindfield Combined K-12 School - Traffic and parking impact assessment" dated 23 October 2014 was made available to me by Sue Low (Acting Director, Public Schools NSW, Ku-Ring-Gai Network). I provided a commentary on this in July 2016 to all relevant members of the NSW Government and of Ku-Ring-Gai Council. I had previously expressed concern about traffic, parking and bushfire issues in a letter to former Premier Barry O'Farrell dated 12.8.14 that was passed on to Minister Piccoli who responded to me in a letter dated 9.9.14.
Having digested the contents of this earlier NSW Government Document and now the updated Traffic and Transport Assessment (13.6.17; "TTA document") which is similar in its conclusions, as well as the "Social Impact Assessment" and "Bushfire Assessment Report", I wish to make the following submission on these issues.
From the TTA document it is clear that access of school pupils and staff to the School, in addition to those already accessing the new Crimson Hill area of Lindfield (335 new dwellings), will add significantly to the traffic in this area of unclassified residential streets and that especially in the mornings, this will be at peak hours. Furthermore, a significant part of this extra traffic will consist of buses that are unsuited for these narrow residential streets with parking on both sides.
If coming from the south along the Pacific Highway, the School traffic will need to turn either into Shirley Rd, Westbourne Rd/Abingdon Rd, Eton Avenue or Grosvenor Road. Having dropped their children, parents' cars will then need to get back on the Highway via Grosvenor Road or Shirley Rd in order to turn south. Both the Grosvenor Road/Pacific Highway and Shirley Rd/Pacific Highway junctions are already badly congested at morning peak hours, hence this will create further substantial delays for local residents and commuters to the CBD and Chatswood and probably gridlock.
If coming from the north along the highway, School traffic must also turn right into Grosvenor Road or, less likely, Shirley Rd, and to return north it must also exit from Grosvenor Road, or possibly Eton Avenue. This again puts unwelcome and probably unsustainable pressure on the Grosvenor Road/Pacific Highway junction.
Similar problems will occur when pupils are collected at the end of school hours, ostensibly reduced by some degree compared to the morning since this will be - just - before peak hour homeward traffic north on the Highway from Chatswood and the CBD. However, since there is a lot of extra traffic at this hour around Lindfield Public School located at the junction of Grosvenor Rd and the Pacific Highway, congestion is likely to be as bad as in the morning rush hour.
It is clear that Eton Avenue and Austral Ave, although classified as local roads, are already carrying in excess of what would be acceptable for a residential street. Therefore, with the extra traffic resulting from the School, they will be subjected to usage even further above that expected or desired for a residential street for several hours per day. It is suggested that "Good practice would be a staged opening of the school to locate inappropriate traffic concentrations and shift them to better capacity roads". However it does not identify these "better capacity roads", perhaps because - in my view - they do not exist in this neighbourhood. Major road building projects would be required.
While the TTA and Social Impact Documents recommend staggered starting times and gradual occupation of the School together with traffic monitoring and review before full usage, I believe it to be already clear that the traffic situation will become untenable. In recent years, there has already been considerable extra traffic from multistorey apartment building on and near the Pacific Highway in Lindfield and in the surrounding suburbs of Chatswood, Roseville, Killara and Gordon and this will be added to by the proposed extensive shopping centre developments on each side of the Pacific Highway in Lindfield itself. Already, this section of the Pacific Highway is recognised by the Roads and Maritime Services as one of the five slowest in the city at rush hour, with average speeds as low as 20km per hour. Our observation is that morning rush hour on the Pacific Highway in Lindfield extends from around 7am to 9.45, with a similarly long period in the afternoon. Thus having three large school cohorts starting at 7.30, 8.30 and 9am would simply extend the traffic congestion problem, not solve it.
Access to the School from Lady Game Drive via lower Grosvenor Road is equally fraught as anyone trying to travel this in peak hours will confirm. The junction of Lady Game Drive and Millwood Ave/Delhi Rd Is already a major problem area at peak hours. This is recognised in the TTA document.
The TTA document makes it clear that the School does not have enough parking spaces and I believe that further consideration needs to be given as to how to satisfy the shortfall. At the least, a two or three storey car parking station will be needed. Council should not accept any on-site parking shortfall, as is suggested.
It is entirely unsatisfactory to rely on parking outside of the School grounds for the planned (!) overflow of 100+ cars. Nearby residents have already had to put up with such parking by UTS students when UTS selfishly sold its parking lots while they were still needed, leading to unacceptable congestion in nearby residential streets. The student parking left only one lane for traffic on all nearby roads, including Grosvenor Rd, and made them yet more dangerous, especially when trucks and buses were trying to pass.
Given the above conclusions re the poor access to the School, it is clear that bushfire danger is a real concern, especially given the history of bushfires in this particular area and the nearby destruction of houses in the recent past (see, for example, "Region faces high fire risk" referring to East Lindfield, in North Shore Times 23.10.15). It is recognised that this site is on bushfire-prone land in the Bushfire Assessment Report. I am therefore dismayed that the site does not comply with the targets of Bush Fire Protection 2006, has no compliance with Asset Protection Zones and has no easy accessibility to bushfire areas. Especially with the increased frequency of bushfires predicted from Climate Change, and with 2000 children on site, this seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
My conclusions are that the proposals in the TTA Document are highly optimistic and indeed unrealistic in not predicting that unacceptable extra congestion of the surrounding road system will unavoidably accompany the establishment of the School.
This will be exacerbated by insufficient parking on the School grounds, forcing School-related parking on local streets and increased resultant dangerous congestion and inconvenience for local residents. I would regard it as essential that at the very least, a multi-storey parking station be built before the School opens.
It is totally inappropriate to say that local residents will accept problems caused by access and parking associated with the School because of "real benefit to the community" received from the presence of the School. There are few benefits for nearby residents, who will bear the brunt of the traffic and parking problems
(unless their child happens to attend the school). This is an expensive residential area and residents are entitled to expect their amenities to be maintained.
In summary, it is my view that the NSW Government should reconsider the real-world viability of the entire concept of a very large school at this location so difficult of access.