I acknowledge that PLC has been on site for many years. Property owners and residents who move to the area know and accept this. Indeed, many people purchase in the area in part because of proximity to PLC. So, I am not objecting to the project per se. I am objecting to the lack of conditions and restrictions PLC is volunteering to undertake and abide by to obtain approval for the Project.
In particular, I object to the lack of appropriate traffic measures being offered by PLC as part of the project. From PLC's submission and , importantly, its limited genuine consultation with the community, it is clear that PLKC wishes to downplay the impact of the Project on its neighbours on Pymble Avenue. It does not concede there are problems now and so, do not see any increases in problems with the Project.
While the Planning Panel's job is not to consider existing arrangements, in this instance PLC's approach to current issues is highly predictive of the attitudes and approaches it will take during construction of the Project and, importantly, in the longer term.
So, my objections and comments relate to the lack of suitable robust conditions suggested in PLC's application to address the impact on Pymble Ave traffic from the location of the new buildings and, in particular, the creation of an Early Learning Centre - which is not part of the current school approved usage - and which will be open to non PLC families.
Many students access PLC on the side where this new development is to take place via the Grey House Walkway on Pymble Avenue (Walkway). That Walkway was originally intended (and I understand it was a condition of its use when originally created) as a means for students living in the local area to access the school on foot as an alternative to walking up steep Pymble Ave to the main entrance on Avon Rd. The Junior School Handbook refers to the Walkway being available for junior school students who live locally (the rationale being that this only includes pedestrian usage by a small number of junior school students).
In recent years that entrance has increasingly been used by students of all ages who are dropped off by parents in cars who choose to use this method of transporting students to school rather than using either public transport or the substantial infrastructure already in place for vehicular access on Avon Rd, which was a requirement under previous development applications by PLC.
This is problematic and dangerous for several reasons. Primarily, it is dangerous to the students using the entrance and the vehicles which use Pymble Ave generally. It also impedes the access rights of property owner and residents along Pymble Ave to safely enter and leave their properties via both cars and on foot.
This is not a case of residents just not liking traffic. This is a case of public safety especially the safety of children.
The Walkway is on the crest of a steep hill. There is a pedestrian crossing on the crest of the hill which, due to the topography, is not clearly visible from further down the hill or from the other side of the crossing where, while the slope is less, there is still obstructed vision. In the majority of trips where parents drop students off they do so by double parking, parking in No Standing zones (which were installed by Ku-ring-gai Council several years ago specifically to address this Council assessed safety issue and to provide greater visibility of the pedestrian crossing). PLC parents also park in residents' driveways. While some parents use these methods to drop off and pick up , some leave their vehicles while they escort students in. This results in cars parked in No Standing zones for considerable periods of time and cars being left in driveways unattended, thereby preventing vehicular access in or out for residents. Residents coming back into the properties , through no fault of their own, contribute to the congestion because they can't get back into their properties.
This is not only dangerous and illegal when they stop or park. When PLC parents do this they then reverse out onto the busy road obstructing both oncoming vehicles and visibility of the crossing. The risks created by this behaviour is exacerbated by students, eager to get into school, picking up bags from the rear of vehicles often oblivious to oncoming traffic while their parents remain in the vehicles or are themselves on the road supervising bag collections, themselves often on the road.
The only reason this set of traffic induced risks exist is because PLC allows students who do not walk to school to access the grounds via the Walkway.
While this behaviour is the result of existing improper usage of the walkway by students accessing Pymble Ave by vehicle, it will be further exacerbated and risk of accidents, injuries and death will be considerably increased by the construction of the building on the Pymble Ave side of the school grounds.
The other usage - which is new and not part of PLC's current development approvals - is the creation of an Early Learning Centre (ELC). PLC asserts that this will mainly be used by teachers and current parents and will., therefore, not impact on the use of the Walkway or traffic more generally. However, the ELC will be open to the public and so has the potential to bring in more traffic to Pymble Ave through additional people using the site. Traffic will increase because of a new cohort of parents who will not drop children off but will bring them into the ELC and will stay for sometime settling children in. Those children will not be "dropped off". There will be prams and other equipment t o be loaded and offloaded from vehicles, increasing the time parents are parked in the street, ;legally and very often illegally. When existing school parents use the Walkway for both current school students and younger children attending the Centre, they will bring in both their school age students and their younger ones. So, even if the ELC is mainly used by current PLC parents, traffic on Pymble Ave will be increased.
PLC advises that there will be parking for the ELC on site. However, it is clear from the plans that using these spots will require parents to enter via the main gates and traverse the grounds to get to the designated car spots. As the Centre is to be located on the Pymble Ave side of the grounds, there is clear incentive to look to access the grounds via the Walkway on Pymble Ave.
When the implications for traffic on Pymble Ave has been raised by the community and individual neighbours as a major concern PLC advised that their traffic study showed a relatively small number of students using the Walkway when compared with Avon Rd and so argue that there will be no increase in traffic. This is a flawed argument. PLC's "traffic" counting has, to my knowledge not included any study of vehicular traffic. It purports to count only students using the Walkway. Having noted that, the figures quoted by PLC on the number of students accessing the Walkway do not coincide with on the ground observations by the community. Hundreds of students use the Walkway every school day and PLC students and other children use it during the holidays for out of school activities. There is no apparent oversight to ensure that only local children use the Walkway.
On the basis that PLC's own traffic counting of use of the Walkway only monitors foot traffic, it it is difficult to see how claims of no impact on traffic on Pymble Ave can be maintained with any credibility. Due to school closures during the Pandemic it has been impossible for the community to undertake its own monitoring. However, there are numerous members of the community who have advised PLC of the actual extent of usage over an extended period of time (not only during the preparation of the Project)
and who would attest to their observations on the volume of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic which is caused by the unrestricted use of the Walkway. Residents can also attest to the number of vehicles with P plates parked in the street, often encroaching over driveways, which are driven by Years 11 and 12 students who use the Walkway (again, demonstrating that the assertion that the Walkway is only used by local junior students is incorrect). W hen this behaviour is brought to the attention of PLC they have advised that they have no control over where senior students park. That is true, but they do have control over whether they permit senior students to use the Walkway. Remove that access and students will not park illegally on Pymble Ave.
In any event, even if volume of traffic is disputed and not acknowledged as an issue, a more important consideration in this instance is the way in which traffic behaves- fifty dangerous parking events in a short period of time with the resultant cumulative risks to children and others using the crossing and the area creates a higher risk that one hundred drivers obeying traffic rules.
There is also the issue of traffic and use of Pymble Ave and the Walkway during the construction phase. The conditions PLC is suggesting do not comprehensively address the issue of construction workers using Pymble Ave to park and using the Walkway for access.
In the construction Phase, I request the Planning Panel to put in place strong and robust requirements on PLC to require its builders and contractors (as part of their contractual obligations) to refrain from using Pymble Ave for parking and not to use the Walkway for pedestrian access to the site. Further, there should be an obligation on PLC to enforce these contractual obligations.
In the longer term use of the Walkway, I request the Planning Panel to require PLC as a condition of use, to restrict access to the Walkway to local junior school students. This can be done via a gate restricting access to students issued with electronic tags and monitoring by teachers and senior students.