Our politicians like to trumpet their spending on infrastructure as though it were ipso facto meritorious. Infrastructure expenditure is only a 'Good Thing' if it is spent wisely, tastefully and cost-effectively.
In December 2010, NSW Planning issued the "Frenchs Forest Specialised Centre - State Signficant Site Study”, which proposed turning the suburb into a second Chatswood, but without the benefit of a railway. Following strong community opposition, the proposal was officially withdrawn in 2011, primarily because of insurmountable transport difficulties.
Undaunted, the powers that be decided we wouldn’t notice if they gave us the same concept by stealth, piece-meal. So on 16 October 2012, the then Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard (despite previously saying that as the local member he would be perceived to have a conflict of interest) signed the "Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (State Significant Infrastructure - Northern Beaches Hospital Precinct) Order”, implementing a flawed 2006 decision on choice of location without reviewing or updating it.
This began a process which has involved two-stage approval of the hospital, two-stage approval of $500 million of roadworks which were supposed to cost $21.3 million, and last Wednesday the release of a Draft Northern Beaches Hospital Precinct Structure Plan, proposing rezoning to create 2,200 new homes, knocking down a high school but building another nearby, and yet more retail and eateries which are the last thing we need.
Permeating the latest plan is the planners’ admission that they can’t achieve what they would like to achieve because of "transport and infrastructure limitations”, exactly the conclusion that was reached in 2011, except that billions have been spent and a suburb has been devastated in the meantime.
The ultimate irony is Friday’s announcement by Mr Stokes that a new town is to be built at Ingleside. As a green-field site, this could easily have been be planned to incorporate a hospital, and its location is much more central and accessible for the Northern Beaches catchment area the hospital is intended to serve. How short-sighted can you get?
Will anyone have the courage to admit defeat? Stop pouring good tax-payer money after bad in Frenchs Wasteland, scrap the Precinct Plan, and concentrate on making Ingleside a thing of beauty. Hopefully the planners are all reading Elizabeth Farrelly this morning.
There aren't too many ways available for venting one's anger or frustration at some of the things happening in the world around us. One such escape valve is the good old Letter to the Editor, even if only a small proportion of them gets published. It is often well-nigh impossible to keep the discussion short enough for the newspapers. So rather that have them expire in some Editor's Trash bin, we'll preserve them for posterity here. Inevitably, though, some nuances will be lost for those unfamiliar with the background or the letter or article to which we are responding. But each is undoubtedly a miniature literary masterpiece, though you may find the themes become somewhat repetitive.