NPA Submission re Northbridge Car Park

Dear Mr. Woodhams

Re: Northbridge Car Park

We wish to thank Council for initiating and conducting the various community consultation meetings which appraised three options for Northbridge’s Council owned car park. We also thank Council for the resultant feedback provided through the recent report prepared by KJA Pty Limited.

As a community-based organisation, NPA needs to ensure that improvements to Northbridge’s Council owned car park are of long term benefit to future generations of Northbridge residents.

Any plans for Willoughby City, as a whole, should ensure better flow through of traffic; adequate parking availability and greater utilisation of public transport – seven days a week, both daytime and evenings. Ultimately, Chatswood should be the City hub, with surrounding suburbs forming decentralised shopping villages catering for the local “essentials” traffic.

From the viewpoint of Northbridge residents, we reiterate the KJA Report findings of our wish to keep our “village” shopping centre ambience, to be able readily to access shops for “essentials” and to have and maintain the infrastructure that caters for the diversity of ages.

Those residents adjoining the Plaza and car park seek further assurance of their privacy; residential amenity; security and ultimately their health. Residents seek assurance that their exposure to visual, sound and airborne pollutants both during any proposed construction and following completion, will be minimised or contained.

The findings within the KJA Report reaffirm the positive support provided by the community to Council that something needs to be done to provide a level car park. The report highlights, however that this support is conditional on general compliance of broad parameters previously outlined by the community.

The NPA, which includes the Committee, members and affected local residents, met at our General Meeting on September 4th, 2014 and passed the following broad-based resolution:

We, the NPA, do not oppose the redevelopment of the Northbridge Plaza site with a high-quality shopping centre, and residential units provided that:

  1. Ownership and control of the car park land will remain with the community;

    • We want Council to retain ownership of the car park / and not lose control of the car park;
    • Any amendment to the Covenant now in place should address the option of Council leasing their car park asset (not selling it).
    • Lease conditions should be designed to minimise the chance of State Government intervention;
    • Arranged Lease terms should be minimised (we note that Woolworths has a 30 year lease with the Plaza); and
    • Revenue or any profit from any lease arrangement should be returned to the community – i.e. we should try and ensure S94 contributions and lease payments stay in Northbridge.
  2. Retail space will expand by no more than 10% compared with the current retail and other spaces in the centre;

    • We are concerned that an unrestricted retail expansion will result in this area becoming a large centralised shopping hub – with the resultant loss of our decentralised village culture;
  3. There will be minimal impact of the redevelopment on current traffic volumes and on local neighbourhood shops and businesses;

    • Traffic management is probably the critical issue for the community. The NPA has, for several years, been lobbying Local and State Government for a traffic and parking study of Northbridge, but to no avail. The significant “Kiah / Paddocks” development and the proposed Channel 9 development have never been considered as traffic generators for the Plaza. With more units planned and currently under construction in these locations, vehicle traffic and parking will remain an increased concern for locals.
    • The design and implementation of the traffic flow – both into and out of the car park needs close attention. (The current system on Eastern Valley Way creates community angst as it clogs the car park).
    • We support the proposed concept of a possible pedestrian “connection” between the Plaza car park and Northbridge Junction shops. We see this as being a significant positive step toward supporting the concepts outlined within the Northbridge Town Centre Masterplan (2003).
  4. Any residential units built on the site will be in keeping (that is, in height, bulk and quality) with existing residential units in Northbridge;

    • We support the WLEP 2012 zoning and do not favour any amendments – i.e. Eastern Valley Way units need to be a maximum of three and four storeys (in keeping with others in the vicinity);
    • Units that are built, need to include an adequate set-back design in order to avoid overlooking or overshadowing neighbouring residents;
  5. Any redevelopment of the Plaza will incorporate improvements to access within the shopping centre for elderly and disabled members of the community as well as mothers with prams;

    • Any resultant expansion of the retail area must incorporate the replacement of the current ramps with travelators;
    • We need to ensure that the centre meets relevant disability access legislation.
  6. Improvements will be made to the car park safety, security and convenience, whether or not the car park is relocated underground;

    • The car park must comply with Australian design Regulation;
    • All parts of the car park need to be horizontal;
    • We need to properly segregated pedestrians from vehicle movements (the current situation is a safety hazard and poses future OH&S issues);
    • Delivery trucks must be separated from customer vehicles;
    • Security and surveillance throughout the car park area need to be improved;
    • The design should incorporate open space zones with shade and shelter areas;
    • Landscaping need to be aesthetically located.
  7. There will be minimal impact on the residents of Harden Avenue, Tenilba Road, Northbridge Gardens Retirement Village and the St Paul’s Residential Aged Care facility;

    • It would be desirable that traffic entry and exit be mainly via Eastern Valley Way (we need to minimise the use of Harden Avenue as much as possible due to its narrow thoroughfare);
    • There needs to be enough buffer zones between the car park and the rear fences of residents. No overlooking or overshadowing of residences or gardens;
    • A green buffer zone needs to be implemented in the design in order to provide an effective barrier for headlights, noise, and airborne pollution;
    • Ensure and maintain access from the car park to Northbridge Gardens for pedestrians and garbage collection.

The NPA recognises that something needs to be done to improve the safety, accessibility and overall amenity of Northbridge’s Council owned car park.

Some re-development is necessary to pay for the upgrade and secure the Plaza owner’s consent to commit the land comprised in the car park which it owns. However, the parameters as laid out in the above resolution are aimed at protecting significant stakeholders and addressing traffic and amenity issues which, as outlined in the KJA Report, remain an increasingly important issue.

We acknowledge though; the community sentiment that planning a new car park without considering future redevelopment of Northbridge Plaza is considered ineffective as each is a major constraint on the other. Northbridge Plaza does not provide levels of access for the elderly, the impaired and even parents with prams. It has no lifts, no escalators, uneven sloping floors and minimal accessible underground parking of its own. Its incremental development over the years has removed open areas and increased retail space but retains these deficiencies as a relic of a previous century.

The above sentiment aside, we note that two of the Options presented during the recent community consultation process were not favourable received as they did not adequately satisfy the above parameters. Option 1 retains a sloping car park – not a level car park; whilst Option 3’s excessive height and scale of unit blocks far outweighed the benefit delivered in terms of improvements to the car park and increase in car spaces. Option 2, on the other hand, provided conceptually the best opportunity to finding a solution – but with a potential significant loss of car spaces. Funding this Option though was not adequately addressed.

Further solutions in regard funding of any car park development should be investigated. We note that the statutory trust, upon which the car park land is held, does not prevent leasing of the car park and does not prevent a timed parking fee being imposed.

Could a Special Rate Levy be considered? In 2012, AMP Capital conducted a survey that found that 50% of the Northbridge Plaza customer base originates from outside of the Sailors Bay Ward boundary. Within that statistic, approximately 26% came from outside of the Willoughby City rateable precinct.

In summary, we again reiterate our appreciation for the effort applied by Council in trying to find a solution to this issue. We look forward to working with Council in contributing further to the planning process in order to achieve a safe and level car park that can be adequately funded within the parameters of the above broad based community resolution.

Yours sincerely

Robert Coote
Northbridge Progress Association Inc.

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