Residents and councils shut down private school expansion plans

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Scots College has been denied the opportunity to expand its preparatory school. Photo: Simone De Peak The Scots College has been denied the opportunity to expand its preparatory school. Photo: Simone De Peak
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The College wanted to turn a $4.8 million Bellevue Hill house into an 80-student early learning centre for its preparatory school. Photo: Louise Kennerley

The Scots College has been denied the opportunity to expand its preparatory school. Photo: Simone De Peak

The Scots College has been denied the opportunity to expand its preparatory school. Photo: Simone De Peak

Trinity College in Summer Hill Photo: Julian Andrews

Trinity’s multi million dollar development that has bypassed council planning controls Photo: Trinity Grammar

Scots College’s latest legal bid fails

Trinity Grammar has become the latest prestigious Sydney private school to fall foul of local residents who fear expansion plans by the institutions are taking over their suburbs.

Less than a month after Scots College lost a bid to expand its Bellevue Hill preparatory school, the NSW Land and Environment court knocked back Trinity’s attempt to accommodate more students.

The school is also currently constructing a new multimillion dollar school hall, gym and carpark facility, that has bypassed Ashfield council’s planning regulations. Ashfield Mayor Lucille McKenna described the development as “very unfriendly to the local community”.

Local residents have said the area has been plagued with traffic congestion and excessive noise.

In a submission to the court in April, Trinity Grammar argued that it should be able to increase its cohort by 200 students because it would be “a bit like a coal mine that wishes to increase its production from 100,000 tonnes a year to 150,000 tonnes a year.”

“Where there is no change at all to anything other than the intensity of one or any other aspect of the development, the development remains the same.”

Trinity old-boy Steve van der Sluys​ has been a resident of the area since 1969 and has campaigned to prevent the schools plans to accommodate the extra students and its multipurpose development.

“The school used to be a part of the community, now the roads are flooded with parents and students and it’s one big property development site,” he said.

The judgment handed down by commissioner Susan Dixon on April 8 did not rule on the development plans, but in ruling against a student increase argued more pupils would generate “unacceptable traffic impacts” and “adverse amenity impacts for local residents”.

Trinity Headmaster Milton Cujes said that the school remains committed to addressing all the reasonable concerns of neighbours and Ashfield Council.

“Over the coming weeks we will consider the decision and take advice before determining any future course of action.” he said.

Scots College lost an appeal in the Land and Environment Court against Woollahra council, which refused the schools request to transform a $4.8 million Bellevue Hill house into an 80-student early learning centre for its preparatory school.

Commissioner Tim Moore’s judgement found the behaviour of parents when picking up their children in congested traffic was likely to exacerbate existing traffic woes in the area.

“The extent and nature of the present unsafe and risky behaviours is such that any increment, whatsoever, of exposure of children to those risks is completely unacceptable,” said Commissioner Moore.

During the appeal Justice Nicola Pain criticised the school for not conducting a basic survey of parents to see whether their drop-off and pick-up behaviour would change as a result of the proposed development.

A spokesman for resident action group, Concerned Scots Neighbours, Paul Blanket, said that the area around Kambala Road in Bellevue Hill was already under an enormous amount of traffic strain.

“We don’t care how many students are in the school, as long as their is an actual plan to deal with the congestion. We just want you [Scots] to fix it [the traffic]!” he said.

Scots College principal Ian Lambert maintained that there was “no additional risk” as a result of the proposal.

He said that the length of the council approval and the legal process had robbed a “whole generation of local boys who have not had the benefit of the additional learning areas”.

“In practical terms, this decision means that the current situation continues without the prospect of the improvements to safety and amenity we had desired,” he said.

While the schools in Sydney’s inner-city have been frustrated by local councils, it is a completely different story in the city’s burgeoning west.

In November, the court gave the Western Grammar School in Plumpton approval to boost its enrolment numbers by 195 up until year 10 after Blacktown Council attempted to restrict the school to only catering to students from kindergarten to year 4, a restriction Commissioner Dixon found “no evidence for”.

The in April the Al-Faisal College in Minto was given approval by the court to double its intake from 250 to 600 students after initially being refused by Campbelltown Council. Commissioner Sue Morris acknowledged the “highly unsatisfactory traffic management” of the school, but approved the application regardless. She compelled the school to develop a plan to “ensure that there are no adverse amenity impacts on the adjoining road system”.

 

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