At a marathon Hornsby Council meeting on Wednesday 14 April (the first since COVID19 restrictions in March 2020) the Draft Plan for the Westleigh Park development was up for discussion. Apart from other general matters discussed, on Westleigh Park there were public speakers from Step Inc, Protecting Your Suburban Environment, Westleigh Waterboard Alliance, Westleigh Mountain Bikers Group, Little Athletics and Sydney Wildlife. These community representatives felt planning had been rushed through without satisfactory community consultation or much inclusion of prior suggestions based on decades of intimate local knowledge and attachment to this parcel of open land and its natural surroundings.
As with any major metropolitan development, there are winners, losers and environmental concerns.
THE WINNERS: The clear winners are, of course, the ball sports and athletics communities. For example, of great value to mobility-impaired athletes will be the AstroTurf field- as currently they must travel to Blacktown or the Northern Beaches to train and participate in field events on astroturf. There is also a new extension of Sefton Road planned which will help mitigate additional traffic along Duffy’s and Quarter Sessions Roads.
THE LOSERS: Although there is strong official support for them, by far the group with the most to lose are the 4500+ Westleigh Mountain bicyclists, with half of the unsanctioned, community built and maintained single tracks (which they share with bushwalkers) ending up underneath concrete paths, sports fields and vast parking lots for almost 400 cars. Although surrounded by hectares of Council-managed bushlands and another 3884 hectares in BVNP, the draft plan currently has no ‘like for like’ replacement plans for all these lost trails. Not even a pump track was included in the draft plan! The plan does, however, show a few new marginal sanitized mtb tracks, away from the Critically Endangered Ecological Community bushland identified within the site, which the current singletracks traverse. The consequence of marginalisation is that many displaced riders will give this new park a hard pass, preferring to drive their cars to distant areas putting pressure on these mtb trails and the natural environments they are in. Tragically, the lost trails are the most socially valued, inter-generational ones which children, beginner riders and our Seniors- simply love to ride !
THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT: In regards to Dog Pound Creek, the Council-managed Biobank area surrounding the development, concerns were raised by PYSE about the proposed Westleigh mountain bicycle trails extension link through bushlands between OMV and Westleigh. They requested that more stakeholders in the geological, traditional owner and heritage arenas be invited to future conversations regarding this major project. No mention was made in the plans or meeting regarding assessing the impacts of existing bushwalking activities taking place within in this critical biobanking area.
If you love being outdoors and/or experiencing local bushlands in Hornsby Shire and you believe a diverse range of outdoor recreational activities should be supported within it, make sure your voice is heard when these plans are published for public commentary for 45 Days between April and May.