A campaign to save Ultimo Public School from being sold to developers has kicked off in earnest, with concerned parents, students, teachers and local community members coming together last night to hatch a fightback plan.
The meeting at the Ultimo Public School auditorium was told the O’Farrell Government “concept plan” would see the school sold to an apartment developer, who would demolish it, build a high-rise apartment tower on the site, then move the school back in as a tenant on several floors of the building.
The unprecedented plan, branded “madness” by the school’s P&C Association, would see 600 students share the building with 200 apartments. An “exercise yard” – covered with wire mesh to prevent children being injured by any objects falling from balconies – would replace the current playground under the plan.
Children would be forced to attend other, already overcrowded inner city schools during a construction period lasting several years.
Bill d’Anthes, president of Ultimo Public School P&C, said the school community would do everything it could to fend off the plan.
“We could not be more strongly opposed to this so-called concept plan, which on the face of it seems like utter lunacy,” he said. “Nobody except the State Government thinks it’s a practical idea to put a school in an apartment block.
“The issues are endless. There will be noise issues for residents; there will be strata issues when it comes to repairs. Who will get preference if there are any disputes – the school or the residents?”
Local community groups backed the school, with organisations such as the Pyrmont Community Group weighing in.
“This project is no good for the school or the wider community,” said Pyrmont Community Group president, Jean Stuart.
“Children need and deserve the optimum learning environment. Who in their right mind could think this was optimal?” she said.
Ms Stuart also expressed concerns about the scale of the building and its potential impact on the area.
“We don’t know how many stories they’re proposing but with 200 apartments and a school, it would have to be big,” she said.
Apartment buildings of similar size represent some of Sydney’s tallest residential towers.
The Horizon building in Darlinghurst, which contains 260 apartments, rises to 43 storeys and 144 metres.
The 158 metre, 48 storey Cove Apartments in the CBD contains 212 apartments.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education declined to comment as “no plan has been released at this time”.
However NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson said: “There is no excuse for selling off school land and then forcing teachers and students to share a building with apartment tenants.”
State Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich said: “I will oppose this ridiculous plan in Parliament.”
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said: “While the State Government may be tempted to sell this land to developers, they must ensure the result would be better school facilities and quality education for future generations. The land can only be sold once.”