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Lord Mayor pushed to block Ashmore Estate

Ms Moore began by telling the combined meeting of Alexandria Residents Action Group and the Friends of Erskineville residents group, held on August 12 at Alexandria Town Hall, that Ashmore would increase the local population by 6,000 people.

Therefore it was “crucial that the right infrastructure is in place by the time all these people move in”. Trains at Erskineville and St Peters station are so full that “people cannot always get on”. Previous Transport Ministers have promised improvements but have not delivered and urgent action is now needed, said Ms Moore. She gave the current government credit for the light rail, describing it as a “serious catch-up”, but said that “we can’t keep adding more and longer buses”.

Traffic in the area is only set to worsen, given the state government’s current plan for WestConnex, which will see tens of thousands of extra cars exiting from the St Peters Interchange, not far from Ashmore. Ms Moore criticised the failure of the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) to plan for the increased congestion this will cause. Dennis Cliche, WDA CEO, had told her that the additional traffic would simply “disperse” in the neighbouring streets.

The Mayor said that there is already a shortfall of 300 school places, and a further 600 childcare places will be needed by 2020. There is also an urgent need for an upgrade of the stormwater system. Moore said that while it was in principle more sustainable for the state government to house increasing numbers of people in the inner city, rather than to expand the outer suburbs further into Sydney’s food basin, it was “shocking” that the state government was refusing to provide train lines and other infrastructure to support the increased population: “Those in successive governments haven’t provided what they are responsible for.”

Audience members asked the Mayor if Council was allowing more development than is required to meet State Government targets for population density. Darren Jenkins, the President of Friends of Erskineville, pointed out that the Planning Act provides the capacity for councils to take into account social amenity and infrastructure.

Clover Moore replied that she would do what she could to defer signing off on further development of the Ashmore Estate, unless there is a firm commitment by the state government to provide the infrastructure identified in the Council’s Ashmore infrastructure assessment report.

Subsequent communications with the Lord Mayor’s office appear to suggest that “what we can do” may be little to nothing. Developers have a right to rely on the Council’s Development Control Plan, even though “successive state governments” have not delivered the infrastructure that the Development Control Plan depends upon.

Subsequent statement from the Lord Mayor in response to the article [online only]:

“I share the concerns of Alexandria and Erskineville residents about the failure of the former Labor Government to provide essential infrastructure for the new Ashmore development. The City is working with the developer and the State Government to ensure essential infrastructure is provided.

“I explained to residents at this week’s meeting that I could not make any promises as Council and the Central Sydney Planning Committee (CSPC) do not have the legal power to refuse to consider a valid development application.

“I have committed to talk with the CSPC about what we can do to ensure that needed infrastructure is in place as development occurs. The CSPC must consider the Ashmore Development Application without prejudice after submissions close on 31 August 2015.

“In 2013, the City prepared an Infrastructure Plan for Ashmore, identifying what is needed and who is responsible for its delivery. City staff are updating the plan to reflect the pace of development. It will form the basis of our ongoing discussions with relevant state agencies to make sure their services meet the growing demand.

“The City is also working to meet Ashmore’s needs directly, by building three new childcare facilities in the area, as well as a new library, aquatic centre and creative hub at Green Square, about one kilometre from Ashmore.

“In 2010 the former Labor Minister for Planning directed the City to increase densities and heights for new buildings in the area from nine storeys to 19. The City has worked with the new government to scale back development to eight storeys maximum.”

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