Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) (18:22): I speak on behalf of the dedicated and committed parents and staff of Burwood Public School, who for the past year have been fighting against the construction of a massive block of apartments right next to their school. When completed these apartments will tower over their playground forfeiting the school's privacy as well as casting a shadow over the grassed area where the children play on a daily basis. I want to tell their story because, sadly, it is not unique. My community is not opposed to development, but we want development that takes into consideration the character of the local area. We want development that involves genuine consultation with residents and is in the best interests of the community, not developers.
The complete opposite is occurring. Developments are approved quickly and with little consideration, and more often than not community opposition falls on deaf ears. This is what is happening in my area and this is what happened last Monday night when the parents, friends and even students of Burwood Public School gathered in the Burwood Council chambers to voice their concerns to the Sydney Eastern City Planning Panel.
Many parents, including parents and citizens association representative Sally, argued that when this development is completed it will cast an ominous shadow over the playground's only grassed area. When the children go out to play at lunchtime, their playground—a place where they usually play in the sun—will be partially covered in shadow. Without adequate sun exposure, the playground will eventually dry up and turn into a dust bowl. As many parents stated, a connection to the natural environment and daily sun exposure, particularly in the winter months, has enormous benefits for childhood development.
Another parents and citizens association representative, Cynthia, made the case to the panel that there are some things in life that must be safeguarded and protected and said, "… protecting a suitable environment for our children is one of the vital ones". Not only will their playground be dark and cold in the winter months but also the school will be constantly reminded of how constrained it is. This towering development will now limit opportunities to expand the school to create new classrooms, new facilities or even a new playground.
Other points were raised throughout the consultation process by parents such as Angelina, who raised concerns about children's privacy and also argued that traffic congestion around the school will be exacerbated by the development. The points raised by all parents were eloquent, properly thought out and evidence based, and they deserved proper recognition and consideration. Despite their legitimate concerns and their garnering a petition of some 600 signatures, the planning panel unanimously approved a development consisting of six storeys next to the playground and 10 storeys on the northern side.
These parents made a significant effort to present evidence-based information to the panel. Yet their views were ignored and, in fact, they were treated poorly. It is clear that the voice of the community has been lost in this State's planning regime. It is fair to say there was an air of arrogance and fait accompli about the whole situation. The story of Burwood Public School highlights that under our current system not even our children's playgrounds are sacred. This story serves as a broader metaphor for the frustration many communities across Sydney are feeling. Even when the name of the suburb is changed, the story remains the same. Communities are feeling powerless and developers seem to have free rein.
In Enfield, the developer of the former Vision Australia site is seeking to increase the maximum permissible height of buildings from 8.5 metres to 18 metres. Why? It has been said that the developer paid too much for the site and cannot make money based on the current height limit. That is unreasonable, selfish and unacceptable. Just 50 metres down the road is a site owned by Flower Power. It has capitalised on rezoning and although its development was initially three storeys with 239 apartments it now wants to build six storeys with 323 apartments. This is another developer seeking to maximise its profit in an area that has been zoned single dwelling residential.
More than 100 Enfield residents literally took to the streets to protest outside the Flower Power site two weeks ago. I congratulate them on their refusal to sit back and accept a planning system that is geared to the interests of developers and not communities. I encourage all communities to engage with the planning process with as much passion and drive as the residents of Enfield and the parents of Burwood Public School. It is by telling their stories that we are reminded it is not the buildings but the people who give our communities value and strength.