The proposed expansion of a car park and increase in student numbers from 1200 to 1600 students at a school in Brookvale has some neighbours anxious that it will contribute to local traffic congestion.
There are further concerns that an escalation in traffic will encourage risk-taking by parents in a hurry, leading them to deliver or collect their children outside the designated safe zones.
St Augustine’s College on Alfred Rd, Brookvale, which has been on its present site since 1956, has submitted a Development Application (DA) to Northern Beaches Council to increase their parking bays and student capacity.
The DA, Development Application DA2021/2567, was submitted to Northern Beaches Council on 11 Jan 2022, seeking permission for “demolition works, construction of a car park and increase in student numbers at an education establishment.”
The demolition concerns removal of an existing house at 60 Federal Parade, Brookvale, and the creation of a 24-space carpark in its place. The new DA takes into account issues such as storm water drainage that previously saw Northern Beaches Council reject an earlier St Augustine’s College request to demolish the property.
The initial trigger for the residents’ concerns was that the school, like many across Sydney, had reached its student capacity limit. Manly Observer was told by the residents’ representative that the college had exceeded its cap of 1200 students in 2020. In March 2021 they approached Northern Beaches Council and requested a Development Control Order be implemented to curb the surplus.
Northern Beaches Council responded by allowing St Augustine’s College to submit a retroactive DA to permit an increase in student numbers and to extend the teacher’s parking off the central school site to the opposite side of Federal Parade.
Since the DA was published in January, the concerned residents have lodged over 40 complaints. A spokesperson told Manly Observer, “How can a school increase student numbers by 400 students simply by adding a car park to accommodate teachers’ parking?”
However, analysts employed to determine whether an increase in student numbers will add to the current traffic problems described the impact as “negligible”.
A Statement of Environmental Effects by planning consultants DFP Planning of Thornleigh, commissioned by St Augustine’s College, and dated Dec 2021, includes a Traffic Generation Assessment (Chapter 5, page 41). The assessment states: “The proposed increase in enrolments to 1,600 students is expected to generate an additional 131 vehicle trips in any peak hour from the existing approval, and an additional 56 vehicle trips in any peak hour compared to current conditions.
“The SIDRA modelling results indicate that there are only negligible differences to intersection operation from current conditions as a result of the additional traffic movements. Based on this, Stantec has concluded that there is adequate capacity in the surrounding road network to cater for the traffic generated by the additional students…”
Brookvale Oval upgrade brings construction vehicles
When contacted by Manly Observer, St Augustine’s informed us that a significant reason for the heightened traffic congestion in the area was attributable to construction crews building the new grandstand and a ‘Centre of Excellence’ at neighbouring Brookvale Oval.
The home of Manly Warringah Sea Eagles rugby league team is a mere stone’s throw away from the school, across Alfred Rd.
The construction project, a $33 million upgrade to the stadium, began in Oct 2020 and is expected to be finished in time for the commencement of the 2022 NRL football season on 10 March.
According to AusStadiums it includes a covered grandstand at the northern end of the sports field with undercover seating for 3000 spectators and “training and administration facilities for the club, elite level gym, aquatic recovery and rehab pools, food and beverage outlets, disability access and seating, new toilets, female changing rooms and multipurpose community education facilities and community meeting rooms.”
Manly Observer contacted St Augustine’s college with a few questions about traffic management, which they kindly answered.
If traffic reduction and student safety are the main issues of contention, can adoption of any of the below four suggestions (or perhaps a combination), improve relations with anxious neighbours and resolve their primary concerns, whilst simultaneously reducing traffic congestion?
(1) Improved signage at drop-off zones.
“Signage at drop-off zones is extensive; Council has not raised this as an issue. However the College will address any concerns that are raised from the DA during the assessment process.”
(2) Stricter enforcement of no parking or loitering in No Stopping areas (such as employing marshals to facilitate traffic flow).
“The College already rosters marshals during drop off and pick up times each day. On most occasions, our Principal Mr Jonathan Byrne can be found on duty at our Alfred Rd entrance!”
(3) Redirection of incoming student drop-off/pick-up traffic to the College Reception on the main street (Alfred Rd) and away from the side streets (Gulliver St and Federation Pde).
“The Gulliver St drop-off/pick-up was a requirement of Council as part of the previous DA. With the acquisition of additional properties along Alfred Rd the College made application and received consent from Council to have a drop-off/pick-up zone placed at the front of the College on Alfred Rd.”
(4) Creation of a turning circle for cars to deliver students and move on (like drop-and-go sectors outside airports).
“Council advised we cannot do this.”
St Augustine’s added a few other reference points.
“The College has been on its current site since 1956, and its students live in the local community. We are a northern beaches school serving northern beaches families. Like many Independent schools, St Augustine’s College has been experiencing strong demand for enrolments. The College and Council are currently discussing an increase in the enrolment cap, as permitted in the Education SEPP.
“The Department of Planning has, in a Planning Circular for development assessment of schools, discouraged councils from imposing arbitrary caps on student numbers and has advised them to ‘consider whether an outcome-based condition would mitigate the impact, rather than a prescriptive, numerical cap.’ It also says: ‘Caps on development consents should not be used as a mechanism to address planning impacts that can be reasonably addressed through amendments in the application (as negotiated during the assessment) and other conditions of consent.’
“We will continue to work with Council and our local community, to ensure we can offer northern beaches families the opportunity to access world-class and award-winning facilities close to home.”