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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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

Beverly Hills resident rejects WestCONnex impacts on South West Sydney

By Kathy Calman, spokesperson for the Beverly Hills/Kingsgrove WestCONnex Action Group

For those of you who are not familiar with our suburbs, the communities of Beverly Hills, Kingsgrove, Bexley North, Earlwood and Arncliffe lived through years of construction for the first M5 circa 2001, (Legacy M5).

The legacy M5 resulted in a ‘Berlin Wall’ effect that separated our community into two. The North and South sides.  It also had a devastating impact on residents in regards to pollution. Turrella and Earlwood, with an unfiltered exhaust stack, and Bexley North and Arncliffe with tunnel portals (openings).

Homes, the trees and parks taken. Years of construction, and then, to thank us for our endurance, we were handed cheap, visually divisive noise walls and poor urban design.   The urban design and landscaping was of such a poor standard that Allambee Crescent Nth Beverly Hills actually features in the RMS Landscape and Design Principles as an excellent example of what NOT to do.

Allambee Crescent Nth Beverly Hills circa 2015.

Screenshot from the RMS Urban Landscape Design Principles
Screenshot from the RMS Urban Landscape Design Principles
The noise wall is visually divisive and bears no contextual relationship to the setting in this residential area on the Northern side of the M5 East
The noise wall is visually divisive and bears no contextual relationship to the setting in this residential area on the Northern side of the M5 East

It is a credit to Council and a few residents of these communities that they took the repair of our environment into our own hands.  We had no choice because the RMS would not.

“Landscaping” by the Community & Canterbury Council – maturing growth circa 2015.
“Landscaping” by the Community & Canterbury Council – maturing growth circa 2015

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The M5 turned out to be a noisy congested old fashioned solution to traffic congestion. But the NSW government has learned nothing. Again last year we found ourselves faced with new projects.  Firstly there was the expansion of the King Georges Road Interchange and now a duplicate of the old failed M5 – call the New M5

Continue reading

Westconnex threatens few surviving Green and Golden Bell Frogs at Arncliffe

 ( Ed: This piece is by scientist Grant Webster.  He writes that the EIS underestimates the negative biodiversity impacts of the New M5. As Grant informed the Federal Department of Environment last year, he has photographed a Green and Golden Bell Frog breeding event on the Kogarah Golf course, a large part of which will be taken over by Westconnex for a massive construction site for the New M5.  Many hoped that the Federal government would refuse consent for WestCONnex to occupy the site which is home to what is probably one of only two colonies of Green and Golden Bell frogs in Sydney but instead the Federal Minister Greg Hunt delegated the decision to the NSW Department of Planning. You would have assumed the consultants would have contacted Webster or at least read his submission. The People’s EIS finds it disturbing that the consultants who prepared the EIS seem to have ignored the photographed breeding event. You can read the Biodiversity EIS study in Vol. 2h Appendix S  

The new M5 (WestCONnex) EIS makes it clear, there will be unavoidable serious impacts to the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea) and the critically endangered community Cooks River Castlereagh Ironbark Forest, if the road is to go ahead.

 Green and Golden Bell Frog threatened

The Green and Golden Bell Frog was once one of the most common frog species found on the east coast of New South Wales and it was once abundant in the swampy eastern suburbs of Sydney.

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Traffic and Transport – Comment on New M5 Construction impacts

This post  by Anthony McCosker provides an assessment of the New M5 Environmental Impact Statement Traffic and Transport section which I have summarised here.  It deals with the impact of construction as assessed in the 150 page Chapter 9 of the EIS and associated 298 page Appendix G. In a further post I will  provide an assessment of the information in the EIS relating to the operation of the project.

The scope of the modelling does not allow for the full, system-wide effects of the construction traffic to be analysed sufficiently. Increasing the scope of the assessment would go some way to identifying the true impact of the construction on traffic, and would also better allow the cumulative impacts of the project on traffic and transport to be gauged.

Continue reading

Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong says Christmas release of EIS is unfair

Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong has accused the Baird government of unfairness and cynicism in its release of a massive EIS for the new M5  last week just weeks before Christmas. She has called for a review of the end of January deadline for submissions.

“The NSW Government has released the New M5 Environmental Impact Statement just before everyone breaks for the year but it’s no gift to the residents, councils or organisations that will be forced to digest this massive document – made up of 149 individual multi-page attachments – during the holiday period.  Submissions are due at the end of January, just as many families will be returning from summer holidays.”

“The Government is trying yet again to avoid community accountability.

“It’s such a cynical move, requiring residents, councils and organisations to comment on a huge planning document like this over the holiday period, when they should have the opportunity to spend with their families and friends. Many councils are having their final meeting for the year in the next couple of weeks and aren’t due to return until February.

“Giving residents only until the end of January to make submissions on the New M5 is completely unfair and is yet another example of the Government attempting to fast track this project without due diligence or concern for those people who will be severely affected by this project.

Read more and sign the petition.