Saving Newtown from Westconnex

One of Sydney’s best known and loved precincts is King Street. It’s a busy street and is already a clearway in the morning and evening peaks. The traffic does not move fast during day but that makes it tolerable for pedestrians. The fear is that all the thousands of extra trucks and cars that would flow into Inner West roads from the New M5 massive St Peters Interchange will wreck it as a place where people can work, shop and enjoy themselves.  At any time, the far too powerful Roads and Maritime Services Department could declare it a 24 hour clear way.

The Minister for Roads Duncan Gay doesn’t much like King street or the people who campaign to save it. But he has recently come to understand the strength of opposition in the community. He says the community should trust him when he says it will not become a clearway.  Somehow he expects us not to realise that in a few years, he will have retired from NSW political life. In any case, the EIS for the New M5 provides convincing evidence that guarantees given at the time of construction come to mean nothing. If the New M5 goes ahead residents down at Kingsgrove are losing conditions for Parks and preservation of bushland that were imposed when the old M5 was built.

“Small independent retailers are the shops that bring colour and originality to an area and make it a desirable place to be. We suffer most from clearways already and rely on our weekend trade to survive. More clearways would spell the end for us, and a slow creep to the destruction of the entire precinct.” Celia Morris, Owner, Dragstar and Shorties, King St Newtown

The New M5 EIS does briefly acknowledge the value of the street life of King Street. Despite this, the EIS contains no information about what the traffic would be like North of Alice Street which is in South Newtown, nearer the project.  After that point, all modelling ceases. There are a few allusions in the EIS to future plans to steer traffic away from King Street and block the turns from other roads but residents know that all these changes would accomplish is forcing thousands of cars and trucks back into the streets of Alexandria, Enmore and Erskineville which is not acceptable. Anyway, quite a bit of it would inevitably end up in King Street.The Westconnex EIS team did not consult businesses in Newtown but they could be in no doubt that there is extremely strong opposition to the project from the many small businesses along King St and Enmore Rd. Save Newtown group developed a sticker campaign. Why is there no recognition of this obvious and visible feedback in the EIS community feedback report?

Newtown Stickers # 5_0038
Photo by Lorrie Graham
Newtown Stickers # 5_0015
Photo by Lorrie Graham

Today Save Newtown group, which is part of the Westconnex Action Groups, delivered more than 3000 separate submissions to the Planning Department today. These submissions cover hundreds of issues from the 8000 page EIS. They have been  completed by many locals but also by people from all over Sydney. They cover issues relevant St Peters, Haberfield, Kingsgrove, Alexandria and Beverly Hills – and of course King St and the rest of Newtown. Many people felt that the EIS period was too short and should never have happened over the end of year holiday period. They jumped at the opportunity to contribute to the campaign with their own submission

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Lola campaigning in Newtown. Photo: Lorrie Graham

“We are completely opposed to the WestCONnex which we believe will be a hugely expensive disaster for the whole of Sydney. It could even suck funds from badly needed rural infrastructure and services. We will be continuing to campaign while we wait to hear how Westconnex responds to thousands of arguments from citizens and groups about why this project should not go ahead,” said Save Newtown spokesperson, Greg Ricketson.

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Campaigning in Newtown, Jan, 2016.

By Wendy Bacon 

Department of Planning Submissions are open online until midnight tonight – WAG submission site will be open until then. If you have your own thoughts and experiences  be sure to add them in where relevant.

 

 

 

 

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