The Warriewood Valley Strategic Review was endorsed by the Director General of the Dept of Planning and Infrastucture on 1st May 2013, and was adopted by Pittwater Council on 12th June 2013, and determined that densities for the remaining undeveloped land should not exceed 32 dwellings per Ha, and varied from one sector to another depending on development capability. WRA President, Chris Hornsby wrote to all members on 13th June, with details and background on Council’s decision.
While the maximum of 32 DPHa was still more than most people wanted, it was important to see the Strategic Review adopted, to prevent further gross over development of the valley, as is still being requested by one developer in particular in the recent rezoning application Council received on 7th June 2013. Click here for the details on Council’s web site, and you only have until 3rd July to submit your comments. Needless to say, the WRA have done so, and a copy of our submission can be found here.
The recent “Strategic Review”, was initiated by the PAC and DoP&I as a result of the PAC’s approval of the Meriton Development on the corner of Boondah Rd and MacPherson St. According to Council’s website, over 450 submissions have been received by Pittwater Council with a clear message that we believe cannot be ignored. A final version of the Warriewood Valley Strategic Review in now available here on the Council’s web site, together with the submissions report and a copy of all of the formal submissions made. The final report has:
The WRA made a submission to Council detailing our concerns with the original draft version of the Strategic Review Report, and we have summarised our major concerns below. We have included more detail and explanation further down the page.
The major concern expressed by the community in more than 450 submissions received relates to the proposed density of development for the remaining land. Given that the approval of the Meriton development resulted in between 2 and 3 times the number of dwellings in that sector than originally planned, a number of people seriously concerned about the ability of our roads and other infrastructure to handle the increase argued that the remained development should see a reduction in dwelling density to compensate, and certainly none of us expected the densities proposed in the draft report.
Both the above are current development in Sector 11 at 25 dwellings per Ha
The 1997 Planning Framework proposed a maximum number of dwelling for the Valley of 1,510 dwellings. When the Sewerage treatment works odor mitigation issue was resolved, the Buffer areas came on line and the 2001 Planning framework for that area increased the total dwellings by 412 to 1,922.
In 2010, a review of both these planning frameworks formed the 2010 Warriewood Valley Planning Framework and the total number of dwellings proposed was increased to 2012.
The draft Strategic Review published only one year later proposes an increase to a total of 2544, and this we are determined to fight. The number itself seems bad enough, but when you look into the detail, it is apparent that this number could become even greater. There are a number of areas that were not allocated yield in the report, and the report suggested that because these areas could not support a minimum of 25 dwelling per Ha, they had been excluded. Recent masterplans and studies submitted to Pittwater Council in recent years have suggested that these lands in a number of cases are developable to at least 15 dwellings per Ha, so these numbers need to be properly considered as part of the review, and included in any revised total to be considered. Clearly the infrastructure to support the final development yield cannot be properly planned if the total does not include all of the development potential. In addition to the potential dwelling yield not counted above, we have also been seeking clarification for some time now as to how the total number of dwellings was arrived at, because it seems to us that the total has not properly accounted for the Anglican Retirement Village’s 260 self contained dwellings and 119 bed nursing home when completed, which like Meriton’s development, was considerably in excess of the numbers originally planned.
Aside from the totals above, a more detailed analysis of the density increases proposed reveals some substantial increases in some areas where in fact it is least appropriate, and are in direct contradiction to the Hill PDA report commissioned for the Review.
For example, the land identified as sector 901A in the report proposes a density of 32 dwelling per Ha (or 36 dwellings per Ha if the land parcels in that sector amalgamate). All this land in the 1997 Planning Framework was part of Sector 9 and allocated a maximum number of dwellings of 206 for the sector. The sector is 17.1 Ha, so this works out to an average density of 12 dwellings pr Ha. In the the 2010 Planning Framework the maximum number of dwellings for Sector 9 was increased to 246, which works out as an average of 14.3 dwelling per Ha. So the suggestion that sector 901A in the draft report could have up to 36 dwellings per Ha would result in a density 3 TIMES that proposed in the original 1997 Planning Framework. To put that in perspective, that is a density 3 times that already developed in sector 10 (Fernbrook Sanctuary) on the other side of Orchard St from Sector 9, or Sector 12 (Sheerwater) on the other side of Garden St from Sector 9. We believe that both Sector 10 and Sector 12 are excellent examples of good development in the valley. Sector 9 was planned at 15 dwellings per Ha for good reason. What has changed to suddenly justify a 3 fold increase in density?
As part of the Strategic Review process, a report was commissioned, and completed by Hill PDA to review the economic feasibility of development in the Warriewood Valley. This report modeled the economic feasibility of the same sector we referred to above (sector 901A). Pages 24 and 25 of the Hill PDA report clearly say that increasing the density beyond the current planned 13.5 dwelling per Ha will make that sector less feasible to develop, and will make the land less valuable for land owners to sell.
On page 24, Sector 901A is modeled at 13.5 dwelling per Ha (basically the same density as Sheerwater and Fernbrook Sanctuary) and suggests a Development Project Internal Rate of Return (Project IRR) of 22.21%, a Development Margin of 48.7% and values the land (RLV) at $380/sqm ($3.8m/Ha). If however the density is increased to 33.5 dwellings per Ha as modeled on page 25, the Project IRR reduces to 16.87%, the Development Margin reduces to 25.69%, and the land would be worth less to landowners at $250/sqm ($2.5m/Ha).
It is unfortunate that the consultants report does not provide a simply explanation as to why development up to 15 to 25 per ha is viable, then becomes non viable at the type of densities proposed by the Review, and then again becomes viable at much higher densities such as 60 dwellings per ha. If it had done so Council would have been in a better position to understand that up to 15 to 25 dwellings per ha it is possible to use simple on-ground building techniques to produce conventional dwellings, including two storey townhouses. Past this point other challenges mean that more expensive building construction, and sophisticated infrastructure provision, is required and the amount of land needed to handle infrastructure and water management can significantly lift costs while producing less desirable building forms (three and four story). Eventually it is necessary to go to high densities to make the lifts, underground car parks and other infrastructure viable. That is, there is a window of development densities that are non-viable because they have to be more sophisticated than conventional buildings but where the densities are insufficient to support the required complexity of construction/services, and the Review has recommended a density that, based on the consultants report, is within this non-viable window.
The answer on densities, without undertaking a far more rigorous and truly “strategic” review, is to reaffirm the current plan and make it clear to developers that mixed development to achieve the currently accepted yields will be the dictate.
It needs to be recognised that it is the uncertainty that the PAC decision regarding the Meriton development and the associated instigation of the Strategic Review that has caused both developers and potential purchases to take a cautious approach with a resulting stalling of development in Warriewood Valley. Completion of the development of Warriewood, so that focus can be shifted to getting on with South Ingleside, requires a restoration of confidence in the past, successful planning outcomes, prior to the Meriton decision, not creating even further uncertainty and potential contingent financial liability by fiddling around with densities on selected landholdings.
Given the above, and the outrage expressed by the community over the proposed increases in density, we are at a complete loss to understand why there is any suggestion in the draft Strategic Review report that the densities should be increased from those originally planned.
The review also fails in a number of other areas as described in a submission provided to Pittwater Council by Angus Gordon, who served as General Manger of Pittwater Council for 9 years, before retiring in 2005. Angus is well aware of the issues involved, and the content of his submission below, highlights some serious concerns with the some of the conclusions and recommendations in the daft Strategic Review Report:
It would appear the Review has relied on seventeen “base map layers” in undertaking the assessment of land capability. However, with the exception of one layer, flooding (discussed later) there are no reference documents made available upon which to judge the validity of the mapping, or to support the criteria for selecting certain parcels of land while rejecting others. Of concern is the fact that Council has, on file, detailed reports from specialist consultants that present a significantly different view to that shown by the mapping, yet these are not referenced nor the discrepancies discussed. Further, even the most rudimentary field inspection by a non-expert and examination of the aerial photography clearly indicates at the very least the “Biodiversity” layer is decades out of date. Given that several tens of millions of dollars worth of land has been excluded on the basis of the “base map layers”, it is only reasonable that Review be based on current specialist reports for construction of the map layers. Further, there needs to be justification and discussion as to why the consultants advice on file has been excluded. To not do so raises questions as to the equity, and probity, of suggesting an increase in densities on some properties while excluding others from the Review.
The Classification methodology appears to rely on a subjective assessment of severity in regard to constraints, yet many of the constraints identified have been successfully managed in the past for other properties in Pittwater. It would appear the person(s) (unidentified) who made these subjective assessments do not understand the issues nor Council’s policies and are not aware of information provided to Council by State Authorities. Just one example is provided to make the point but others can be given if required. Pittwater has a Geotechnical Policy that applies to almost half the currently developed land in Pittwater. The policy does not apply a planning constraint that prevents, or limits the ability to develop, rather it provides the engineering criteria that must be addressed to allow development to occur, that is, the policy facilitates rather than limits development of land which has geotechnical and slope issues. The policy is clearly therefore not a criteria for limiting land capability rather it allows land with geotechnical constraints to achieve its capability. To use this as a constraint to development in Warriewood demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding by the Review.
In regard to other issues such as water and sewer availability as constraints, implies that Sydney Water’s repeated undertakings that it can supply water and sewer to any development in Warriewood, is either a dishonest undertaking, or the Review Team was unaware of this correspondence to Council, from Sydney Water.
Proximity to watercourses is yet another “interesting” constraint given that most land in Pittwater has proximity to some form of watercourse; it is the nature of the terrain of Pittwater. Hence, proximity to watercourses should only be used as a constraint if the term “watercourses” is properly defined and the reasons why, and distances from are fully detailed. Again, the generic use of this term to imply a constraint demonstrates a lack of understanding by the Review. For the Review to have credibility it is vital that a far more professional approach is adopted and that a transparent process for “sieving out” properties is detailed. Further, the consistency of any classification process must be in keeping with existing Council practices and policies for development in Pittwater. It is of concern that the Probity report failed to pick up the inequitable application of Council policies and practices to Warriewood in determining land capability as compared to other land, including Council land, in the rest of Pittwater, this would suggest the probity review was limited to process and did not cover the all important probity issue of fair and reasonable outcomes.
Following on from this, and over and above issues regarding the accuracy, or lack thereof, of the basic data the Review chose to use, the criteria, and methodology for assessing the validity of the Land Capability Classification assessment technique, it is important to undertake a basic “sanity check” to see whether the outcomes of the review make sense in terms of existing development in the overall Pittwater Local Government Area. Given the vegetative cover in Pittwater, the geotechnical issues on approximately half of the developed land, the bushfire situation, the many watercourses, the foreshore, coast and estuary situations, to just name some of the 17 map layers, it seems obvious that, utilising the Capability Classifications of the Review, over at least 40% of the existing development in Pittwater would fail the Land Capability criteria. Clearly this demonstrates that the criteria used to determine land capability is not consistent with current, or historical practice, nor, it is argued, with what has in the past been successful development of land similar to that which has been eliminated by the Review on the basis that it failed the “sieving test”. In fact, the need to address the specific constraints affecting particular land has long been recognised as an essential step in both rezoning and DAs of properties in Pittwater because of the nature of the Pittwater area.
To now use this need to address constraints as a reason for eliminating properties from the Review is to negate the entire LEP/DCP philosophy of Pittwater that has underlain Council’s approach to developing what is a relatively complex environment. The Strategic Review needs to be just that, a review consistent with and, in the context of, the historical and future proposed strategy for development in all of Pittwater, unless this is recognised it sets a dangerous precedent for the future of all of Pittwater.
Interestingly one layer is missing, that being a mapping of contaminated land. This is a serious omission as the land the Council owns and proposes for commercial development, in the Southern Buffer, is sited on an old, uncontrolled landfill. It is also a site that is flood prone and has acid sulphate soils as well as geotechnical issues. That is, it fails the land capability criteria and its intent, on several counts. The inconsistent application of land capability criteria and the omission of the contaminated land issue could be seen to favour Council owned land, while private land has been excluded based on the questionable map layers. This raises further questions as to the probity of the outcomes of the Review. It is noted that the probity report is silent on this matter of Council advantage over private owners.
Why the level of concern regarding both the basic data and the methodology of the Land Capability Assessment? The real issue is that while increases in density are proposed for some land, the Capability Assessment has excluded other land from the review, however this excluded land has demonstrated capability (as per reports on Council’s files). Further, the review leaves open the door for this capability to be explored in the future, thereby recognising the potential but without including it in the yield.
Given that the Review raises potential limitations in regard to flooding and traffic (to be discussed later) any later attempt to include the currently excluded property would raise issues as to the ability of the infrastructure and waterways to cope. Interestingly, the inclusion of the currently excluded land would, even at reduced yields per property (to account for real land capability constraints), have resulted in a similar increase in overall yield for the Valley as compared with the proposed increases in density. That is, approximately the same number of additional residences would result from a proper analysis and inclusion of the excluded properties, as from the density increases in the report. Without going into the
technicalities, it is noted that site limitations on some of the properties identified for increased density will not yield the numbers based on area, as only some of the property is developable (unless of course the yield is based on the entire property which in turn means the actual density will have to be greater than suggested in the Review). Clearly, if the density increases on the included lands were to be accepted, and the currently excluded lands were later included, then significant adverse infrastructure issues could be expected.
Hence, by excluding properties in the manner adopted, the Review cannot claim to be a “Strategic” Review as it is only a partial examination of some factors involved in the future development of some of the properties in Warriewood. A Strategic Review should be just that; a strategic look at the overall development potential, and the sustainability of development, of the entire Valley. It is important to understand the end yield for the entire Valley as the Review figures combined with past increases suggest that the overall number of residences could be double those originally planed for with the 1997 Release yields, yet with no apparent matching increase in infrastructure.
The Hydrology Study
The caveats contained in this study are most revealing. The authors carefully point out that they were not requested to re-run the flood models and therefore had to rely on 2005 data. They acknowledge this data is seriously out of date, as significant development has taken place since that data was obtained. In particular the development of concern is that associated with the sites towards and around the Boondah Road/Narrabeen Creek area such as the Meriton development. Interestingly both Council and the Department of Planning were advised, in a written submission, before the PAC was engaged to determine the DA, that while the Meriton Consultant’s studies examined the impact of flooding on the proposed development and made recommendations for site alteration to address flooding, they did not examine the potential impact of the proposed site works on flooding in the rest of the valley even though their proposals required the removal of flood plain storage. The hydrology study for the Review confirms that this was the case but is unable to make anything other than assessments of the likely impact because the modelling of the Meriton, and other post 2005 developments, has not been carried out. It is also important to note that the consultants have, as required, adjusted the results of the 2005 study to include climate change impacts and this has altered the results as compared to previous studies. The climate change assumptions included in the study for the Review were available at the time the PAC made their determination however, as noted, despite the States policies at the time, do not appear to have been taken into account.
The hydrology study now clearly shows that the Sewerage Treatment Works (STP – located just to the left of the picture above and at left) will be significantly impacted by flooding; the diagrams show 1 to 2m of depth for the 1 in 100 event with over 2m water depth in the PMF. The reasonable conclusion that can be drawn is that untreated effluent will be released into Narrabeen Creek and flow across the proposed playing fields down through the Warriewood Square (which is also shown to be flooded) and then through the school area and into Narrabeen Lagoon thereby also impacting on flood prone houses and Lakeside. That is an environmental disaster a major health hazard and an adverse economic impact because of the extended clean-up time due to the release of pathogens. At a recent National Conference, held in the first week in May in Canberra, the Deputy Commissioner for the Queensland Flood Inquiry referred to the flooding of the sewerage works on the Brisbane River as being the longest lasting serious impact of the flooding event. He criticised the State and Council for exposing residents and the environment to the release of effluent and the associated pathogens, some long lasting, into the river because of a failure to ensure the treatment works was adequately protected. That is, there is now, on public record, an acknowledgement that it is inappropriate to have unprotected sewerage works in areas subject to flooding and that authorities who allow this to occur, or continue to occur, are placing lives, property at risk and may have a significant adverse impact on the economy of a region.
The hydrology study for the Review now demonstrates the urgent need to protect the STP from the identified flooding which has public health, environmental and economic consequences. The practical way to do so may well be with a levee constructed around the STP; a matter which the Review has now effectively put the State Government on notice as being required.
However there is a problem, any such levee will both remove significant storage from the floodplain and constrict the flow between the levee and the Meriton site. Both of these consequences have implications for altering the flooding of existing development both upstream and downstream of the STP because of the restriction at this new “throat”, and this will of course have associated potential liabilities for any resulting damages.
While, following a proper flood investigation, it should be possible to undertake works to manage the flood through the gap between the STP and the Meriton site, it may well be necessary to resume land and carry out additional civil works. It is noted that none of this has been foreseen by the “Strategic” Review even though it is a direct consequence that can be drawn from the hydrology study.
The hydrology study also suggests use of excavated areas in the floodplain to offset storage losses due to suggested filling of certain areas, in order to allow development. The problem with this approach is that once a site is flooded it doesn’t matter how deep the excavated area is, it will not store more water. That is, the approach only works if the excavated site mirrors the staged loss of floodplain resulting from the filling. This does not appear to be the case based on the diagrams in the report; only some of the suggested sites have the potential to offset flood plain storage loss. It would also appear that at least one site in the southern buffer, and possibly two, involve excavation of contaminated lands; a matter that would require far more study before being seriously considered.
It would appear that the “hydrology study” was limited to overall flooding issues and not commissioned to include the necessary Water Management matters associated both with the specific development areas. That is, the proposed increases in density and the capacity of the re-configured Sectors to actually achieve meaningful water management have been overlooked. Water Management is a separate issue to overall flooding as it includes both the water quality and quantity within a development area in order to achieve the water quality and discharge rate the streams and creeks can manage. A separate study is required to ensure the Water Management of the proposed density increase can be actually achieved without further compromising the flooding and the water quality of both the creeks and Narrabeen Lagoon. It needs to demonstrated that, at the proposed densities, there is sufficient room to construct the necessary water quality and quantity management infrastructure in an economically sustainable form (while it is possible to treat water in relatively confined spaces this requires high capital and operating cost infrastructure that would impose an on-going financial burden on Council so should not be lightly dismissed).
Overall, the Hydrology Study Consultants have responsibly sought to alert both the Council and the Department of Planning to the significant limitations of their advice. But of real concern is that again there has been a lack of STRATEGIC OVERVIEW and integration of the implications of the consultant’s work. In particular: the serious nature of the identified flooding of the STP, and hence the need for State action; the negation of the effectiveness of using excavated areas in the floodplain to offset reclamation if the excavation is below the intended design flood levels and; the absence of a study on the impact of the proposed density changes on water management. In summary it would seem the Review did not understand the difference between a “hydrology” (flood) study and a water management study.
In short, both Council and the Department should be very concerned about the flooding and water management issues the Review has exposed and/or failed to address.
The debate on the SES evacuation requirements is a separate issue that is not addressed in detail in this submission, as it is more of the nature of a State policy decision. However it is important to note that while the SES’s generic position on flooding may prove overly conservative, when considered in the light of traditional flood management, for areas affected by inundation flooding the real problem in Warriewood is that the studies indicate that high velocity flooding will cut access on all three major roads in the Valley. Hence the SES concerns for Warriewood are in keeping with traditional flood engineering/management concerns in that evacuation becomes problematic in such circumstances (note that helicopter evacuation is untenable in the sort of atmospheric conditions likely to be present in major flooding in a catchment the size of Warriewood – small catchment means very heavy rain and generally unpredictable wind gusts at times of major flooding). Given the existing density of population and the size of the retirement village, the SES concerns regarding evacuation will remain valid even if the generic policy changes.
Finally, on the issue of the STP, it was originally designed with an ocean outfall to cope with peak flows during by-pass events (although Sydney Water seems to have conveniently forgotten this, those of us who worked on the design at the time have not). The reason the outfall was only originally built to the cliff face was that the loadings at the time meant it was reasonable to postpone the implementation of the outfall component, and there were construction difficulties associated with the rock shelf at the headland. However, as demonstrated during the past 12 months, by-passing of all but the primary treatment effluent has had to occur on many occasions resulting in poorly treated effluent being released at the cliff face. The time has therefore come for the State to address the Warriewood outfall issue in the interests of public health.
The Traffic Study
It is noted that the “traffic study” is, in reality, mainly a desk top look at the intersections rather than being a proper traffic study, and that this is all the consultants were engaged to undertake. It is therefore not surprising that it fails to mention a number of the issues the more detailed previous traffic studies identified.
Given the rather surficial study, as compared with the strategic traffic review undertaken for the 1997 release, it is not intended to comment in depth other than to draw attention to the value of assets being considered, and the likely contingent liabilities, as compared with the meagre investment in the study; clearly not a sound basis for major decision making.
However it is important to highlight again the lack of STRATEGIC OVERVIEW as demonstrated by the intersection analysis. Apart from missing the previously documented issues associated with the Warriewood Road/Pittwater Road Intersection, the traffic study identified the need for an upgrade of the Jacksons Road/Pittwater Road intersection and the Garden Street/Powderworks Road intersection.
Interestingly the required Jacksons Road/Pittwater Road upgrade suggested by the consultants takes no account of the potential impact of their suggested design on the viability of the large community centre at this site. Presumably it was assumed this centre would be relocated to make way for the intersection (the viability of re-locating the community centre will be discussed later). Similarly, the re-design of the Garden Street/Powderworks Road intersection eliminates all casual parking at the small “drop-in” shopping centre on the corner, yet the likely impact on the viability of this centre is not addressed anywhere in the Review. The answer provided by Council to-date that: “alternatives would be explored to reduce the impact”, clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding on the strictures of the site.
What is of equal concern is that the results of the Garden Street/Powderworks Road intersection imply that there will be a significant increase in traffic on Powderworks Road however this has been excluded from the study. While there is some flexibility in addressing the need for widening of other limiting roads such as Wakehurst parkway and Mona Vale Road there is no such flexibility with Powderworks Road. The topography and the limited width of the road reserve dictates that any requirement to upgrade Powderworks Road will be prohibitively expensive. Further, Powderworks Road is a key connector for any later development of South Ingleside.
The Powderworks Road issue again highlights the non strategic nature of the review because, in failing to recognise the likely future problems that will occur in the topographically challenging region of the steeper section of Powderworks Road, the only practical future solution is to re-open Bolwarra Road in order to provide a more direct route for traffic from the Valley, up to a section of Powderworks Road where the existing road reserve could accommodate upgrading. While this is clearly an undesirable outcome it is a logical solution and, despite its likely coast, would be far less expensive than upgrading the steeper portion of Powderworks Road.
It would therefore seem that the unintended consequences of density increases have again been overlooked because of the restricted nature of the Review and that landowners in what are currently safe streets not apparently impacted by changes in the valley may not realise the potential implications because the Review failed to examine them. To this end it is important to again note that the infrastructure issues the Review has failed to identify stem from a potential doubling of the number of residences than the Valley was originally designed for. This results from increases in density, over and above those initially determined for the 1997 release by existing Council reviews that have already increased yields, the PAC decision on the Meriton development and the implications of the current “Strategic” Review. That is, there has been a failure to consider and alert the community to the cumulative impacts of previous decisions and current proposals.
Again it would seem that the Strategic review in fact lacks significant STRATEGIC OVERVIEW in examining the adverse impacts of the current proposed increases in density in Warriewood Valley, on not only the Valley, but also surrounding communities.
It is clearly essential that realistic and viable solutions be found for the road network of the valley and its key connection to Elanora and Ingleside prior to any further consideration of the Strategic Review. To not do so will unquestionably impose significant future financial and amenity impacts on the community, businesses, and the Council.
The Southern Buffer
The proposed commercial development on, currently, Council owned land in the Southern Buffer is sited on an old, uncontrolled, landfill, known to contain “restricted substances” and therefore suffers a potentially serious contamination problem if disturbed. The land also is known to subside (the existing buildings had to have their heavy tiled roofs replaced with lightweight steel and additional windows fitted to reduce the brickwork load in order to manage the subsidence). In addition the site is flood prone and is underlain by swampy ground suspected of being acid sulphate soil with geotechnical foundation issues (before construction of the buildings commenced, the underlying material at Warriewood Square had to be removed to a depth of approximately 2 m below the original ground level – approximately 4m below current ground level – and then replaced with clean fill, in order to manage the acid sulphate and geotechnical issues).
With these severe strictures on land capability it is difficult to understand how the Review can justify the inclusion of this Council owned land while excluding other, less severely affected privately owned land through the supposed “Land Capability” classification “sieving”. Interestingly, some of the private land owners have, in the past, put forward proposals to Council, however these are not mentioned, whereas it could be seen that Council has used the Review to promote a proposal to develop its own land. This whole issue certainly raises questions about the credibility, or restricted nature, of the probity analysis, as such a conflict should have been identified and specifically addressed.
However there is an even more concerning aspect to the Review and its analysis of the Southern Buffer proposal. The proposal would see the demolishing of the extensive community facilities on the site and the removal of the Council Depot nearby to allow for replacement of playing fields. Given the costs of re-building equivalent facilities, the Depot and new playing fields plus the costs of purchasing land to replace the existing playing fields and the additional costs of remediation of the contaminated land, it is vital that before the proposal proceeds any further an independent study, by a recognised specialist, be undertaken to demonstrate that the proposal is in fact at all financially viable. The sale of the land alone is unlikely to provide the required funds, particularly when considering the impediments applying to the land, hence the proposal could leave Council with major financial liabilities.
When considering these impediments the proposed “solution” for managing the flooding issue requires close scrutiny. It implies filling of the site that will remove volume from the flood plain. The offset excavation proposed has several problems such as contaminated land issues, the non-viability as playing fields (too low compared with the groundwater table) but mostly that as the proposed excavated area is below even the modest flood levels then it will provide no relief for the filled area, as the excavated area will be fully inundated before its offset is required, and therefore provides no offset. The implication being that flooding in the Warriewood area will be increased as a result of the proposed development (with associated Council liability).
It should be noted that there are potentially ways to successfully develop the Southern Buffer, however it is not obvious that the proposal in the Review is not one of them.
The District Park
The concept of a district park was embodied from the beginning of the 1997 Land Release. Its shared development in Sectors 8 and 9 as a 2 ha park has been a feature of both the overall Warriewood Plan and the Section 94 Plan. Many people have purchased properties on the understanding that this park was to be created and developers have being paying S94 contributions towards the creation of the park. The proximity of the park to the Marter Maria School was also an important aspect of negotiations with the school for the inclusion of land behind the school into the Warriewood Escarpment. Council’s proposal in the Strategic Review to utilise the proposed Sector 9 area of the park for development is a total breach of faith with the community and the previous developers. The mooted replacement of the other half of the park elsewhere fails to achieve the primary object of a district park. This type of uncertainty of outcome is precisely what developers have been publically saying is one of the reasons why development has stalled; there is a lack of trust of Pittwater Council.
Where to from here?
The draft report is currently being updated to take into account the 450 submissions that so many concerned people have taken the time to write and submit to Council. The latest advice from Council is that the final report will be available early in 2013. The above suggests some major re-work is needed if the current draft Strategic Review Report is to ever be an acceptable document for adoption. The current draft report is so inadequate and flawed, that to allow it to overturn the current 2010 Warriewood Valley Planning Framework, would have serious and frightening repercussions.
And the latest …..
The final report was posted on Council’s web site on 2 May 2013. This report will be considered by our elected Councillors sometime in June, with a date yet to be announced. You will find under the campaigns heading above, our detailed analysis of the original version of this report. It seems unbelievable that despite the 450 submissions and all that has been said by the community, that the final report still recommends increasing the density of undeveloped land to 32 dwellings per Hectare. A density of 32 dwellings/Ha will force the development of more apartment blocks like the Meriton development, because at that density, if you still want some detached housing, to achieve the average of 32 dwellings/Ha, you have to go a lot higher – and that means more multi-storey apartments!
The densities were only recently increased in the 2010 Planning Framework adopted by Council, clearly limiting the maximum density to between 17 and 25 dwellings/Ha. We know so many of you said you don’t want the densities increased, and the fact that this latest report has done nothing to reduce the 32/Ha clearly seems to suggest we need to speak louder, so please leave us your comments below for us to pass on to Council, and we encourage you to speak directly with your elected Councillors, as they will be deciding whether to adopt the Strategic Review or not in June. We will certainly let you know when the meeting is planned, as soon as we hear.
The only good news on dwelling numbers in the latest version of the Report is that the land already purchased for a park in sector 9 is to be retained, rather than developed. Having said that, of course it should never have been proposed for development in the original report anyway!
We will keep you posted. In the meantime, please send us any comments you would like to make via the comments section below.