by John Moyle
It seems that for the City of Sydney moving forward means putting the lever into reverse, as they have done to the residents of Bulwara Road in inner city Ultimo by overturning the decision to rescind a work zone.
The battle between the residents of the narrow street, the City of Sydney, Roads and Maritime Services and the NSW Police has now entered the realm of farce and is a slap in the face for democracy at a local level.
Reversing our own gears to recap the story covered by City Hub in December, it was looking like the residents may have had a win as the Local Pedestrian, Cycling and Traffic Calming Committee, chaired by City of Sydney councillor Philip Thalis, looked to RMS and NSW Police to make a deciding vote after Cr Thalis changed his vote to being against the proposal.
The fourth member of the LPCTCC is MP for Balmain Jamie Parker, who always opposed the work zone in Bulwara Road to service constructor Parkview’s New Life apartment site at 185-521 Harris Street Ultimo.
All was looking good until Cr Thalis and the City of Sydney changed their minds, and without further resident consultation voted in favour of the work zone.
“The applicant has already been given permission to use Harris Street for a work zone as part of their original development application, so it seems like overkill that the City of Sydney have granted a second work zone on Bulwara Road,” Jamie Parker, MP for Balmain and LPCTCC member.
Roads and Maritime Services, oblivious to dangers the work zone would present to school children using the road and the unanimous opposition from residents stated “Roads and Maritime Services supported the work zone on Bulwara Road at Ultimo because it did not present an unacceptable risk to residents and the general public.”
What is making the residents even angrier is they say that the current work zone within the boundaries of the construction site on Harris Street is more than adequate and there is no need for another work zone on Bulwara
“If the work is confined to Harris Street, where the work is, it means more work can be done from Harris Street, which was everybody’s original intent and would have less impact on Bulwara Road,” Patricia Johnson, Friends of Ultimo said.
“While this may not be the best of the process, it certainly an issue, and as I understand speaking with staff, this is the first time in 14 years that a work zone has been contentious in this way,” Councillor Philip Thalis, City of Sydney said.
It is because of the particular situation of Bulwara Road looping around into Jones Street and there is no way in or out unless you go past the care centre, primary school and a church, and there aren’t many situations in the whole city where an innocent technical decision has become so contentious and the residents are rightly upset.”
“It’s only Clover’s team that have approved the work zone, and Philip Thalis has had to go along with it,” Patricia Johnson said.
Until 21st February the residents, Friends of Ultimo and Ultimo Village Voice thought that they were just fighting a development application for a work zone.
Then, constructors Parkview lodged a Section 96, which is a modification to a development application under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act as a compromise for lessening the traffic on the Bulwara Road site.
The Section 96 calls for extensions to work hours on Harris Street from 6am to 5.30pm weekdays and 7.30am to 5.30pm Saturdays in return for shortened operating hours on Bulwara work zone, with breaks to allow for students walking along the pavement to and fro school.
Trucks using the site have also been limited to nine metres in length, which is still a bloody big truck for a very small street.
It’s a bit like a dentist hitting your knee to distract from the root canal treatment.
“We are hoping that the application for the extended hours will be rejected because we cannot have any more disruptions,” Yimmy Seifert, chair, Ultimo Village Voice said.
Due to the construction project being valued at over $50 million, it is to be referred to the Central Sydney Planning Committee, but the committee’s next meeting on 15th March does not list the item.
“Who can decide, they are questions for the Director of Planning and he probably can’t answer you without seeking advice?” Cr Thalis said, adding “It’s day one of the new world.”
Which leaves the residents even more determined to fight on.
It’s not that the residents don’t have external support. MP Jamie Parker has been on their side all along, and councillors Kerryn Phelps and Linda Scott are counted among their City of Sydney supporters, but most of all, they will rely on their own well developed networks of resident action and support groups.
Social media and e-mails through the various local organisations have rallied at least 30 objections to the Section 96, and this weekend the fight will continue with Bulwara Road residents placing banners on their balconies.
“The point we want to make is that the community has never asked for any compromises and we have never said that we will accept any compromises and we have always said ‘no work zone’,” Patricia Johnson said.