The Ingleside Place Strategy, a controversial development scheme to build 980 houses plus a shopping centre, sports fields, parks, community centre and infrastructure in Ingleside, has been scrapped by the NSW Government.
On 10 June 2022, Planning Minister Anthony Roberts said the NSW Government had been “working closely with Northern Beaches Council, Rural Fire Service, Police and community to get the planning right for this beautiful part of Sydney.
“This has taken some time, but important and extensive investigations were carried out, widespread consultation conducted and all feedback carefully considered.
“As a result, I have decided the best way forward is for Council to manage the future of the area.”
Management of the region, approximately 180 hectares between Powderworks Road and Mona Vale Road, Ingleside, has now been turned over to Northern Beaches Council.
Council immediately declared they would scale back any future Ingleside housing and infrastructure schemes.
Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan said, “Planning for Ingleside will be handed back to Council and we’ll consider it as part of the development of our new Local Environmental Plan which we are working towards for the whole Northern Beaches area.
“However, we will not be considering any new housing development of the scale proposed by the government given we now have all the studies to demonstrate the significant bushfire risk, the environmental and Aboriginal heritage impacts and the need for costly infrastructure in order to make such a development feasible.”
In November 2016, a joint project between NSW Planning and Environment, Urban Growth NSW and Northern Beaches Council proposed a Ingleside Land Use and Infrastructure Implementation Plan.
The draft vision, which involved rezoning State Environmental Planning Policy 2006 to make Ingleside a “Priority Growth Area” was released for public exhibition and consultation.
It envisaged 3400 dwellings and a primary school plus a number of urban amenities and related infrastructure over 700 hectares, between Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Garigal National Park and Ingleside Chase Reserve.
It would also have included land on the north side of Mona Vale Rd, around the Baha’i Temple, a prominent nine-sided domed building, built in 1961 for adherents of the Baha’i religious faith.
However, a bushfire risk assessment to the draft plan, responding to the Planning for Bush Fire Risk Protection 2018, which contained specifications for building on land identified as bush fire prone, warned of a potentially catastrophic outcome in the event of emergency evacuation.
In November 2018 the Department Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) withdrew the Ingleside scheme due to “recommendations of the Royal Commission, other bushfire-related studies, community feedback and broader findings.”
The devastating 2019-20 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires (in which 26 lives were lost, 2,448 homes were destroyed and 5.5 million hectares of land incinerated), necessitated a further revision.
On 25 May 2021 the draft strategy for the urban development of Ingleside was released, and remained open for public comment until 6 July. The revision included a two-thirds reduction in proposed dwellings from the original scheme, shrinking of the geographic area from 700ha to 180ha, and cancellation of the primary school construction, but the community centre, sports fields, parks, and shopping precinct remained.
The former NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes, announced after the revision, “we’ve listened to concerns raised by the Rural Fire Service about bushfires and we’ve put the safety of residents and homes at the centre of this new plan.
“We’ve been working closely with Northern Beaches Council, NSW Police, Rural Fire Service and the community to get the planning right for this beautiful part of Sydney.
“The right infrastructure is also key to support our planned renewal of the area, with upgraded roads, more parks and sports fields, a neighbourhood centre, water management plans and environmental conservation.”
Nevertheless, the new proposal of 980 new homes bringing an estimated 3000 new residents – despite 100 of the dwellings allocated to affordable housing – was met with significant community opposition. Primary concerns centred on traffic congestion and a lack of public transport because there are only 130 existing dwellings in the region identified for development.
The 10 June announcement that the Ingleside Place Strategy has been cancelled will be met with relief in some quarters, not least Ingleside locals Residents Against Inappropriate Development (RAID).
In July 2021, Northern Beaches Council sent a submission to DPIE to halt the strategy in its current form.
Environmentalists also raised concerns about conservation of native bushland and Indigenous sites. According to the 2021 draft, “the Ingleside area contains numerous rock engraving sites with various motifs… A 2016 Aboriginal heritage assessment identified 25 Aboriginal archaeological sites—mainly rock engravings, some grinding groove sites (including one with an associated water hole) and a rock shelter with art and archaeological deposit.”
Northern Beaches Council also welcomed the announcement that the NSW Government will no longer be pursuing the development of Ingleside as a growth area.
In a statement Council revealed, “Council had questioned the viability of the revised plan, raising concerns of continued bushfire risk, lack of traffic and transport planning, the significant cost to ratepayers to provide the most basic infrastructure, significant impacts on biodiversity and the ability to deliver any affordable housing in line with Council’s adopted policy.
“Mayor Regan said Council would continue to advocate for the NSW Government to transfer into Council ownership, at no cost, the NSW Government land on which planning infrastructure is sited and ask the government to transfer surplus NSW government land for other public purposes such as sports fields, passive recreational spaces and biodiversity offsets.
“We now have an opportunity to repurpose some of this less environmentally sensitive land for broad community use.”