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In Woonona NSW on “Residential - demolition of...” at 481-485 Princes Highway, Woonona NSW 2517:

Peter Green commented

Woonona ~ Bulli School of Arts Inc. Est 1862
479 Princes Hwy, WOONONA, NSW.

The directors of the Woonona ~ Bulli School of Arts Inc (established 1862) have a number of concerns we would like considered as we have concerns the proposed development might signal the end of the Woonona ~ Bulli School of Arts Inc (SoA) which has operated from its current location since 1862. The proposed residential development runs the entire length of our southern boundary.

We believe any development should take serious consideration as to its effect on the SoA as of the original 811 Schools of Arts and Mechanics Institutes; only 75 private and 30 on Crown Land remain. 29 are in name only with no buildings or land (AMASA meeting with NSW Govt 2018 at Sydney Schools of Arts and Mechanics Institute, Pitt St Sydney, Govt White Paper, Crown Lands Act).

The Schools of Arts and Mechanics Institutes are a part of Australia’s heritage which should be protected and not put under unnecessary threat or duress likely to lead to their end.

The SoA is listed on the NSW Environment and Heritage register: “is of significance for the local area for historical and aesthetic reasons, for social significance that it has for the local community and as representative of Interwar period buildings in the area. This c. 1935 building makes an important contribution to the streetscape and the area and presents a local landmark”.

The items of concern we are raising about the development as follows:

1. Traffic congestion, traffic management and the Woonona Public School

Traffic congestion on Gray street is a real concern. The school drop off- pick up is already a nightmare for residents living on Gray Street and surrounding streets. The addition of 12 Townhouses to the corner of Gray Street will create further traffic congestion and frustration among residents.

There are also concerns about danger surrounding the construction of the townhouses. With regards to the development of an Aged care facility on Hospital Road Bulli, on May 1st 2018, an assault on an aged pensioner over a parking spot by a tradesperson working on the construction of the Bulli aged care facility was just part of the on-going problems suffered by local residents on an almost daily basis by the road being taken up by trades and construction vehicles. The same type of construction traffic can be expected on Princes Hwy, Grey Street and Gordon Streets with parents and children attending Woonona Public School. Parents drop their children off to attend this school in all of the above-mentioned streets. Having trades and construction vehicles causing the same levels of frustration plus the additional risk to school children cannot be left to “she will be the right mate”. Proper time management of parking based on the school and NOT on traditional building work hours needs to be implemented and enforced by the police before a child is killed or injured.

What provisions have both the developers and WCC put or are putting in place to avoid the conflict situations that occurred on an almost daily bases with the construction project on Hospital Rd Bulli where residents were in constant arguments with builders, particularly the finishing trades who were there for over a year taking up ALL the available on-street parking. What measures will be in place to protect the quality of life the current residents enjoy? Additionally, what compensation will businesses be paid by the developers while this disruption is occurring?

Longer term danger to children at school drop off and pick-up time. People have expressed to us either personally or through social media their fears for children’s safety with new 12 units in that location.

2. Effect on established commercial businesses directly affected by this proposed development

Have the developers made provision in their development so close to an existing commercial operation such as at minimum: double glazing, sound insulation in the walls facing the SoA. Screening using vegetation and distance from the existing commercial operation. No development should be approved that is not providing at least these very basic measures if not more to ensure that the residents are comfortable in their new homes and the SoA is not impacted by complaints from these residents if such measures are not undertaken by the developers.

If a development is approved without consideration to the existing commercial operation then WCC & developers should take all responsibility for complaints and not pass any of this on to the existing commercial operation now or at any time in the future. Our records will contain a permanent record of events and outcomes. Or is it seen as only the problem of the commercial enterprise and it is the entity that pays the price by ceasing to exist?

The School of Arts Inc has not been approached or consulted by the developers of the DA in relation to any matters. We conclude then that the School of Arts Inc is considered expendable in their plans for this site.

How will WCC handle complaints by residents of the new housing complex against the Woonona ~ Bulli School of Arts Inc?

3. Loss of the Woonona ~ Bulli School of Arts Inc

An institution that has operated at this location since 1862 operation directly adjacent to the proposed development. Schools of Arts were introduced to Australia from Scotland in 1827 by Dr James Ross.

At some stage the area of Woonona where the SoA is located obviously allowed and indeed would have encouraged commercial development while under the Bulli Local Council, now under WCC the area has been rezoned residential which puts the SoA in a position where after over 150 years of continued operation it is at the mercy of any of the new residents to complain about the SoA and its operations to have it closed down or it’s operations restricted to a point where it becomes unviable to continue operation. All the people who run their social businesses and community operations have lost yet another “affordable” place of operation.

If there is no protection and the SoA closes, not a single member of WCC should utter one word of complaint or objection at that time because the time to protect historical assets is now not when the inevitable happens as a result of your current decisions.

Once a historical institution such as the SoA is gone it is never coming back, the history, culture and service to the community is gone forever as the resources would not be available to recreate such a historical facility again.

In Australia very few of the original 811+ schools of arts and mechanics institutes remain. Of those that do remain 75 are privately owned and managed, the other 30 exist on Crown Lands and receive government funding and assistance. The private schools of arts and mechanics institutes are usually totally self-funded and like any other historical institution become lost to the community if they cannot pay their way in today’s very expensive world.

The annual running and maintenance of an institution like the Woonona ~ Bulli Schools of Arts Inc is expensive and any restriction in parking near the facility drives away customers. With COVID-19 the School of Arts Inc was closed to business, we did not qualify for any government financial assistance and had to absorb all the associated costs and loss of income. A reduction in customers for the demolition and construction time of the proposed development if provisions are not put in place will likely result in the demise of the Woonona Bulli School of Arts.

4. Continued loss and change to the Streetscape of Woonona.

A number of residents lament the loss of the old church located across the road at 488-490 Princes Highway, which was demolished to make way for home units which appears to be part of a continued loss of historical streetscape in the pursuit of development seemingly at any cost to history.

Many towns like Woonona lose their individual character as the history and streetscape are washed away by development. A town's character and personality are characterized by a sense of community, familiarity of surroundings and being comfortable with memories. All of these are compromised by the loss / changing streetscape.

We consider the streetscape of Woonona should be preserved and the facade of the proposed development should be preserved and factored into the design. This has been done with developments all over the world where developments do not wipe out history, replacing it with new buildings that are not at all preserving the character or personality of a town.

5. Loss of social amenities.

Any Google search on mental health issues quickly indicates the importance of social outlets such as the SoA provide along with the social and educational support in supporting mental health and wellbeing. Several groups operate from the SoA in providing music, dance, yoga, medication, lectures and mental health support services along with social hub activities such as children’s parties, amateur theatre, musical rehearsal and concerts.

As venues like the SoA are forced out of existence and given the links between lack of social venues and increased vandalism from bored youth what safeguards has WCC proposed to protect venues like the SoA that provide employment and activities to the community or are they just sacrificed

6. Residents quality of life and commercial businesses during and after construction.

Consideration must be given to the quality of life enjoyed by existing residents and the parents and children attending the school for drop off and pick up of their children without having to run the gauntlet of builder’s trucks and additional parked vehicles from then on. Situations should not be allowed to develop that results in conflict or reduced quality of life for people already living in the area. Another 12 units in such a location is probably too many units, the plans should be scaled back to maintain the quality of life resends currently enjoyed. The council should examine the impact this density of development will have on the current community.

What guarantees are to be put in place before this DA is approved to deal with the following:

Compensation for any and all loss of business experienced by local businesses due to lack of on-street parking that all aspects of this development will deliver.

We hope the Developers and WCC consider these comments and act with a lot of consideration to the residents of Woonona, its history and heritage along with the unique qualities of Woonona.

Peter Green
PP.Eng., B.A., M.Sc., MAPS
Public Officer. Woonona ~ Bulli School of Arts Inc

delivered to the planning authority

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