WestCONnex gift to Beverly Hills – lower noise walls and traffic congestion

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment received more than 12,000 submissions from members of the the public and community organisations in response to the WestCONnex New M5 tollway proposal. 99.91% of these submissions objected to the project. The People’s M5 EIS team could only find one submission that supported the project.  Ten submissions  raised concerns rather than outright objecting to the New M5.

Hundreds of residents living in the Kingsgrove and Beverly Hills area were among those opposed to the project.

Many of these residents have been living near the old M5 for 15 years. They know from experience that living near a motorway is nothing like the glossy images produced by the WestCONnex graphics team. If the New M5 goes ahead, 0thers would live close to a new unfiltered ventilation stack and tunnel opening proposed at Kingsgrove; or near the Beverly Grove Park that is going to be carved up by WestCONnex, along with most of a critically endangered remnant of Cooks River Ironbark Forest.

There are many more residents living along Stoney Creek, Forest and Bexley Roads who don’t know yet that if the new tollway goes ahead the plan is for their environment to be more congested and more polluted. This is documented in AECOM’s New M5 EIS although most residents have not yet been informed of these impacts. ( We will come back to this in a later post.)

What most people don’t know is that WestCONnex has already been given approval by the NSW Baird government to begin widening the intersection at King Georges Road and the existing M5. This project, which is known as the King Georges Interchange Upgrade, is massively disrupting the lives of residents, some of whom have watched with dismay as vegetation and parks that slowly grew after the M5 sliced up their neighbourhood are torn down by WestCONnex.

The King Georges Interchange project doesn’t make the WestCONnex’s Stage 2 New M5 tunnel inevitable but what it does do is provide an excellent place to start if you want to understand some of the key arguments against the WestCONnex. It  also provides a strong warning against trusting promises by Sydney Motorway Corporation (WestCONnex) or the Department of Planning of future mitigation of the worst impacts of motorways.

NSW Premier Mike Baird recently told the Sydney Morning Herald that some “displacement” and “loss of green space” is an unfortunate consequence of building  ‘infrastructure” to cater for future growth …otherwise the city will come to a halt.”

The problem with Baird’s argument is that there is lots of evidence that the WestCONnex won’t solve traffic congestion. Yes, residents would suffer both during the construction and operation of WestCONnex, but no, traffic congestion will not be solved. In some suburbs it will be worse.

You will notice that Baird also made no mention of the consequences of increased air pollution and noise for those living near congested roads. Continue reading

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Clover Moore speaks her mind on ‘disruptive’ WestCONnex

People’s M5 EIS editor Wendy Bacon reports:

‘Stop Westconnex’ flags fly from City of Sydney poles in Newtown

City of Sydney’s “Save Newtown Stop WestCONnex flags” have appeared in King Street, Newtown, just in time for the Easter crowds. As thousands of visitors  from outside the Inner West flow into the famous street, the City of Sydney Council and local campaigners hope they will take the message home.

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This is just the latest sign that City of Sydney, Newtown Business Precinct and Save Newtown Westconnex Action Group (WAG)are continuing to campaign hard against the Baird government’s WestCONnex tollways that will dump thousands more cars into already congested local roads. They’re not convinced by a promise made by Minister for Roads Duncan Gay that however bad the congestion gets, clearways that would  kill off businesses and street life will not be created on King Street.

There is no doubt that the NSW government is troubled by the scale of the campaign in Newtown. WestCONnex has recently indicated that it may also consider plans for a new ‘Gateway’ to steer cars away from King Steet. But this would only happen after the NSW Planning Department has approved the New M5 and would not form part of the current project.

WestCONnex opponents are sceptical of these suggestions. They are at best only promises aimed at deflecting WestCONnex critics. They know from experience that when traffic is pushed onto other local roads,  it usually finds its way back back to its original destination. The main problem is that rather than solve traffic congestion, WestCONnex will dump more cars on many roads in Inner Sydney.

Disruptive WestCONnex

This week was also the Green Cities Conference – celebrating ‘disruptive ideas’.

Disruptive Ideas

Of course there could be nothing more disruptive that a massive motorway carving through our suburbs but that wasn’t a topic that found favour with the conference program organisers. You would think the biggest transport infrastructure project in Australia’s history might have been on the agenda but while many planners privately acknowledge that WestCONnex is a poor idea, most prefer to play safely by keeping quiet. But City of Sydney’s Mayor Clover Moore was not going to let the conference pass without a little disruption of her own. Continue reading

Why I object to #WestCONnex : Dr Victor Storm of Haberfield to NSW Planning Department

( Ed: Dr Victor Storm  is a psychiatrist who has spent much of his life living and working in the Inner West.  He now lives in Haberfield, in the heart of a community where many are losing their homes or will be badly affect by the M4 East. People’s M4 EIS published his submission to the M4 East EIS. This project is still being assessed by the Department of Planning.  Victor Storm objects to the whole WestCONnex. His submission to the M5 EIS took the form of a letter to the Secretary of the Department Carolyn McNally.) .

Ms C McNally

Secretary,

Department of Planning and Environment

re: WestConnex New M5 EIS, project number SSI 14_6788

I strongly object to this project and the entire WestConnex of which this is part, and ask that you reject this proposal on the basis of this environmental impact statement (EIS).

I object to the fact that the process and rationale for Westconnex has been constructed after the fact. This is the core problem. Someone had a thought bubble and managed to convince a number of others that building Westconnex was the solution to Sydney’s transport woes.

Victor Storm speaking at Uprooted
Victor Storm speaking at Stop WestCONnex Uprooted Rally in 2015

A new Federal government with a desire to be seen to be in action and state government wishing to be seen as open for business were caressed and conned by large engineering firms desperately seeking work as state sponsored finances shrank in Europe & Asia. A $10 Billion project has grown to $17 Billion & is yet to include costs for the links to the port & airport, so the prediction of $20 Billion price tag does not seem far-fetched. This demonstrates that the politics of the process jumped ahead of the planning logic.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Janet’s Westconnex Journey – “we’re fighting to save the community we love”

Sydney Park Photo
Janet, Michael and their son, Fred in Sydney Park – 14,000 square metres of which will be taken by WestCONnex. Photo by Martin Brady

( Ed: Janet Dandy-Ward is a founder and key member of the WestCONnex Action Group WAG). She lives in Roberts Street St Peters, a suburb that will be devastated by WestCONnex . She is a friendly and familiar figure in the streets of St Peters, Newtown and in Sydney Park, squeezing the organisation of weekend campaigning stalls  into her busy life.  In this edited version of her submission to the New M5 EIS she describes why she is fighting WestCONnex and her observations of the planning process and impacts the project will have on her community and the rest of Sydney. You can help the WAG campaign by using their site to send your own submission to NSW Planning or go direct to NSW Planning site.  These will be open until midnight Jan. 29.)

My husband and I emigrated to Australia in 2011 (leaving all our family back in the UK) and we moved into this house in Roberts Street deciding that it could be a base whilst we think about what area we might want to move to. We fell in love with the street, our neighbours, our community, the community pre-school and our surrounding green spaces such as Sydney Park, Tilman and Simpson Park – all will be affected by WestCONnex. Incidentally, the neighbour I mention above is like a surrogate grandparent to our son. It is likely that she and her 80 year old husband will move from the street if this project goes ahead.

We have decided that St Peters is where we want to live and have already invested so much in the community – this is something that is worth fighting for; for my family, for our neighbours who are potentially losing their homes due to forced acquisitions, for those older and vulnerable residents who are now feeling uncertain about their future in this and other suburbs. Sydney deserves better.

As a social worker, I have a deep sense of social justice. I believe that this project will not meet its key objectives including reducing traffic congestion. This is a fundamental flaw. The social and environmental impacts briefly described in the EIS are unacceptable and far outweigh any benefits of the project. There are so many aspects of the traffic modelling that as a mum and a full time trainer in a large children’s charity, I have not had time to address in my submission. I have read the research about traffic inducement and I firmly believe that if you build more roads then more traffic will come, I saw this back in the UK with the development of the M25 London Orbital Motorway. Continue reading

Vanessa & Gary from Alexandria: We want infrastructure that moves people not cars

( Ed: Vanessa Knight and Gary Speechley live in Alexandria, which is close to the proposed St Peters Interchange and Sydney Park. Their suburb is in the thick of the push for development that will bring more residents into inner Sydney. Some developments are well planned but some are not, so there is plenty of work for their local Alexandria Residents’ Action Group to do.  Last year the group put up a great fight to save the heritage Alexandria Hotel. After a huge community campaign, they saved the building but not the hotel itself. Now they are faced with the possibility of 71,000 cars pouring out of  WestCONnex into their already congested suburb. Vanessa and Gary have been at the forefront of those struggles. Below, we have published their strong submission objecting to the New M5 EIS. We asked Gary how why they became involved in the fight to stop WestCONnex.  

Gary :

Vanessa and I got involved in ARAG because we love where we live and want to contribute to our community. We endorse ARAG’s goal of not dictating opinion, but putting information before our residents so that they can formulate their own views on issues and make up their own minds.
We like to be doing something positive and pro-active for the area – the Alexandria Sunday FunDay will be held in Alexandria Park on 20th March from 11am to 3pm.
But we spend most of our time fighting over-development and hare-brained schemes from governments: the sale of ATP; WestCONnex; council amalgamations; pro-developer changes to planning laws (which we helped, through BPN and many other groups, to overthrow); the Central-to-Eveleigh redevelopment; the “privatisation” of the Bankstown railway line; the sale of the Alexandria Hotel; dodgy building certifiers; the Ashmore Estate development; lifts for Redfern and Erskineville stations; adequate bus routes; . . . Sadly, the list is a long one!
We just want government to deliver evidence-based, open and transparent decision-making, and to leave us alone to live our lives normally!!!
WestCONnex is a joke of a project that has no valid business case – despite the spin from government and the redacted text from the “revised” business case. We need alternative proposals to be costed and compared to the purported “benefits” of WestCONnex. $16.8 billion, blowing out more and more each day – WITHOUT considering the unfunded third stage to link the M4, M4 and the Airport – can buy a hell of a lot of public transport, public housing, schools, childcare, hospitals, …
Vanessa and Gary Speechley
Vanessa and Gary Speechley

Here is Vanessa and Gary’s submission to the M5 EIS consultation process which closes at midnight tomorrow January 29th. It provides lots of ideas for other submissions.

Submission

How appropriate that we make this submission on Australia Day.

We strongly object to this project and the entire WestCONnex of which this is part, and ask that you reject this proposal on the basis of this environmental impact statement (EIS). Continue reading