BY JOHN MOYLE
Local councils and developers are both prolific and usually untruthful when they describe areas as “village precincts”, but in the case of the residents living in and around Ultimo’s Bulwara Road, that is an apt description of their neighbourhood.
The area consists of Victorian terraces, single story dwellings, re-purposed factories and ancient pubs, and is bounded longitudinally by Harris and Jones Streets, and bulwarked each end by Fig and William Henry Streets.
Once only known for Festival Records at the Fig Street end, Bulwara Road is a narrow way shooting straight through this area.
While developers TWT say their New Life apartment project will “hasten the gentrification of this fringe CBD suburb”, this is not what the residents are complaining about.
The longer-term residents have already seen Pyrmont/Ultimo bloat from 3,000 residents in 1990, to close to 30,000 today.
Their one complaint is about the placement of a work zone for the development that they say will endanger the lives of children going to and from school, and nobody with power is making a decision.
At 247 to 257 Bulwara Road is the KU Ultimo childhood centre, catering to babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, while Kindy Patch Ultimo, another childcare centre, is located nearby at 38 William Henry Street.
“The work zone was approved without much thought, and the issue we have is a large number of school children from ages six to eight using the very narrow footpath,” Patricia Johnson, co-convenor, Friends of Ultimo said.
The problem in resolving the placement of the work zone currently rests with the organisation with the most ungainly acronym of all time, LPCTCC, or the Local Pedestrian Cycling and Traffic Calming Committee.
The Committee consists of representatives from the City of Sydney, the Police, Roads and Maritime Service plus local MP Jamie Parker.
The Committee’s website says the LPCTCC “is an advisory body only, having no decision-making powers. It is, primarily, a technical review committee that is required to advise Council on traffic related matters referred to it by Council.”
Council is not bound by the advice given by the LPCTCC, but if it does not wish to act contrary to the unanimous advice, or when the advice is not unanimous, it must notify the committee with 14 days.
What should be a simple question of child safety is turning into a buck-passing match with Roads and Maritime Services and the Police handballing their responsibilities for resolving the issue, while the City of Sydney saw the light too late.
Local MP Jamie Parker said, ”I discussed it with the residents, then I wrote to the City of Sydney saying that the placement was inappropriate, pointing out the impact on school children and the wider community.”
In 2012, a four-year-old girl was killed in Harris Street, and as the City Hub reported at the time, solutions were sought from the City of Sydney and Roads and Maritime Services.
The timeline for this procedural debacle began when Parkview, the New Life constructors, applied to the City for a work zone, contravening conditions imposed for a DA approved in 2016.
After consultation with City staff the work zone was approved in principle, and was passed by the LPCTCC.
On October 18, at a LPCTCC meeting, Councillor Phillip Thalis recommended that the City approve the work zone for a period of up to 16 months, and Parkview paid the City $180,000 deposit.
“According to Parkview, they want to have trucks coming down the street to load and poor concrete and the small street with narrow footpaths is not suitable for this,” Yimmy Seifert, member, Ultimo Village Voice said.
After local opposition grew, Cr Thalis had a Road to Damascus moment and had a change of heart.
“Following the concerns raised by the Ultimo community, Cr Thalis visited the proposed work zone area and agreed that there were a range of genuine concerns, including potential public safety and amenity issues,” Cr Thalis’ office said. “Councillor Thalis then worked with the City staff to revoke the work zone.”
The staff member added that the issue now rests with the Roads and Maritime Services and the Police for a response to resolve this.
While a Police media representative said it was unlikely to have a response by our time of publication, the response for Roads and Maritime Services is a brilliant piece of non-speak for non-action and buck-passing.
“As the committee is a technical committee, its recommendations are non-binding on the City of Sydney, a RMS spokesperson said.
At the heart of this matter is the fact that no one listened to the concerns of the people who know the area best: the local residents.
“It is really disappointing that the Council did not consult with us,” Kate Davidson, resident, said.
“All across Sydney, where construction is taking place, we are seeing that the lives of local residents are made miserable, and it is up to the LPCTCC to make sure they support the community,” Jamie Parker said.
With unbridled development occurring across Sydney this quiet local protest might be a sign of many more.
Parkview executive chairman Tony Touma was approached for comment but did not respond.