Balgowlah residents are urged to sign up today in order to be enrolled for tomorrow’s virtual information session on the Northern Beaches Tunnel.
This is the official Transport for NSW Beaches link tunnel consultation for the Balgowlah area. The session is from 6pm to 7.30pm (Wednesday 20 January). RSVPs close at 10am tomorrow. Sign up here: https://caportal.com.au/rms/bl/virtual
Ward Councillor Sarah Grattan said Northern Beaches Council was in the process of preparing its own submissions, which will come for consideration at the February Council Meeting.
In a nutshell the Northern Beaches Tunnel – or Beaches Link –is scheduled to start in 2023 and be completed by 2028. It will have two portals (entries/exits) – one in Balgowlah and one in Seaforth – taking vehicles through 7kms of tunnels under Middle Harbour and the lower North Shore, connecting with the Warringah Freeway in Cammeray. It is part of a broader plan, including a Western Harbour Tunnel and Warringah Freeway upgrade, which will eventually connect Balgowlah with the West Connex at Rozelle.
The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) went on display in December, it looks at all the various ways the community and environment will likely be affected (short term and long term) by the project and plans to mitigate the negative impacts. Community concerns range from habitat and groundwater impacts along Wakehurst Parkway, significant disruption to residents and Bally Boys students near the major intersection, loss of Balgowlah Golf Course, placement and filtration of tunnel stacks, to construction traffic and underground tunnelling noise under homes.
With a promise to significantly reduce travel times and ultimately reduce street level congestion and pollution, the project has the general backing of all levels of government locally, including Council, Manly MP James Griffin and Warringah MP Zali Steggall.
But political consensus doesn’t mean the current plans are perfect, and community insight, attention and feedback may make a critical difference to the impact this project has on the local community. So, if you can, get involved.
A number of local groups have been intensely involved in the project for many years, and currently have concerns that more time is needed to properly look at the documents in front of them.
Executives from North Harbour Community Group, Balgowlah Residents Group, Baringa Bush Residents Group and Clontarf Residents Forum wrote to the Transport Minister Andrew Constance on 7 January requesting an extension on the consultation period given the disruptions with COVID-19 and lockdowns over Christmas and the “formidable and intimidating” length and detail of the project environmental impact statements (EIS).
Our understanding is this request has not been addressed and there is no intention to extend the consultation period.
The EIS will be on public display until Monday 1 March 2021, and kicked off in December. The legislated minimum requirement is 28 days.
We shared the current resident concerns about virtual and online-only communications with the project team and were told face-to-face engagement will go ahead in February if health restrictions allow it. It was also suggested that residents uncomfortable with technology could call 1800 931 189 and the team would do its best to find an alternative arrangement for project discussion.
The following formal quote was provided by a Transport NSW spokesperson in response to our queries highlighting resident concerns:
“We’re continuing to work with the community, including on the Northern Beaches, and to adapt to the changing and challenging circumstances around COVID-19.
Extensive doorknocking of more than 1,000 local homes has already taken place around the Northern Beaches, including at Balgowlah.
An interactive portal, including a virtual information booth and EIS summary guide has been produced by Transport for NSW so the community can learn about how Beaches Link will transform the way we move around Sydney, and how we’re working to minimise any potential impacts.”
What can I expect?
So you’ve gone to the portal and registered for tomorrow’s discussion, what can you expect?
It will most likely kick off with a presentation about the project broadly then specific changes that will be occurring in the Balgowlah area. Attendees can then ask questions from the panel of experts – curly questions are expected so come with your burning curiosity.
Recap on Tunnel project consultation contacts:
Phone: 1800 931 189
Interactive Portal: nswroads.work/blportal