Sunday, June 23, 2024

Hornsby council ‘enraged’ by new precinct funding backflip

Hornsby Shire Council says it has been left “enraged” after NSW Government funding allocated for a new recreational precinct was reneged upon, despite work on the proposed Westleigh Park redevelopment project being underway for a number of years.  

A furious Mayor, Philip Ruddock AO said the Council now faced a major dilemma as a development application has been lodged for the project, with construction expected to start in late 2024. 

“It is the local community that will miss out. Our Shire is in desperate need of recreational spaces and new sports facilities,” said Mayor Ruddock.

“The NSW Government’s housing targets makes this need even more critical. These targets come with the promise of funding for essential infrastructure so to take away funding that was already given to us, and has been allocated, is ridiculous. 

“Since receiving the grant, we have proceeded with extensive planning, community and stakeholder consultation and the due processes required of Council for the new parklands on the basis the funding is ours.”  

An artist’s impression of the new precinct.

The Council acknowledged it had requested extensions to the funding timeline noting that the original timelines were arbitrary and a project of such large scale and complexity, impacted by COIVD-19, would require a multiyear time investment to deliver to the community.   

Mayor Ruddock said there was an acknowledged shortage of sportsgrounds in the Shire and on the north shore.

Recently, a Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils’ ‘Review of Supply and Demand for Sports Facilities in the NSROC Region’ called for an increase of 40% in supply capacity of sports facilities by 2026.

The site for Westleigh Park comprises around 36 hectares of cleared open space and bushland. The redevelopment will create a major parkland with spaces for play, sporting activities including football, athletics, rugby, AFL and cricket, and other recreational activities such as mountain biking, walking and cycling. 

“Major projects such as this have other interdependencies and multiple contractor arrangements are in place or well progressed to deliver the project,” said Mayor Ruddock. 

“Council is deeply disappointed by this decision as a significant amount of planning, design and financial support that extends beyond the state government funding, has been invested into the project with notable progress and momentum to date. With the development application under assessment, detailed design is complete and site works will commence in late 2024.  If not for this decision children would be playing sport here in the very near future, rather than spending their time on iPads.

“The previous State Government gave $90 million to Hornsby Council as compensation for the loss of a large part of the southern territory of the Shire to the City of Parramatta during the council amalgamations, specifying the funds were to be used for the development of Hornsby Park and Westleigh Park. 

“The residents of the Hornsby Shire deserve better, and Council is now considering what options are available to us to ensure our community gets the recreational facilities it was promised,” he said.  

The NSW Government received 15 other funding extension applications requests from 10 councils – 12 were approved.

Federation and Edward River Councils had their applications to reallocate a combined $94,000 to different projects denied, while a request from Snowy Monaro Council about a community centre has been marked for further review by the Government.

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