Sean Nicholls (Revealed: The real $2 billion cost of privatised Northern Beaches hospital) and Bryan Hayes (Letters, 4 May) are only scratching the surface.
The fundamental problem with the hospital relates to its location, mainly to do with road access and the existing residential environment. According to NSW Health’s planning application documentation, the 2006 choice of Frenchs Forest resulted from “a robust qualitative analysis”. But according to the “Development Options Business Case” which I obtained under the provisions of the GIPA Act (but not from NSW Health - Nicholls is right to emphasise the secrecy of their approach), and which was referred to in Parliament as being the basis for the decision, Frenchs Forest came only third out of three potential locations on qualitative and operational grounds. It came equal second on “risk assessment"
What tilted the decision in Frenchs Forest’s favour was supposedly cost. Traffic congestion has always been a major objection to this site. The report stated that “investigations of potential improvements to the road infrastructure at Frenchs Forest suggest that there is a range of solutions that would cost up to $21.3 million”. But in June 2014 the government allocated $400 million for roading and a further $125 million for a bus rapid transit system to connect the hospital with key centres. Why did NSW Planning not demand updated costings before giving concept approval to the project?
Despite the promised funding, RMS still don’t have an approved solution. Furthermore, all the attention is being focussed on the East/West axis - Warringah Road, for example, is to become a 12-lane, dual-level highway coming within 4 metres of residential homes, at the cost of the bulldozing of compulsorily-acquired homes and businesses, and hundreds of trees. Nothing is being or can be done to alleviate the problems on the North/South axis via Wakehurst Parkway.
Nevertheless, NSW Planning appears on the verge of approving construction of the hospital without waiting for an acceptable solution to the transport problem.
NSW Health have also claimed that Frenchs Forest is central to the catchment area, which is palpably false both geographically and demographically.
And to make matters even worse for local residents, Warringah Council now seems to consider that the hospital gives it carte blanche to redevelop the surrounding area, although here again secrecy predominates, with the Council refusing to undertake community consultation on their plans.
Given that the hospital concept approval has been based on false and out-dated information, it should be rescinded. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. The overall impact on the existing suburb, not to mention the tax-payers’ purse, is excessive.
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.