Fairfield parish and school take safety fears to court

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Our Lady of the Rosary parishioner Phuong Tran, whose niece attends the school, holds a sign protesting development plans for Weston Street at the public hearing of the Land and Environment Court on 31 October. PHOTO: Abbel Gaspi

Parishioners and parents of Our Lady of the Rosary Fairfield have joined residents to object to a proposed development near the primary school and church at a Land and Environment Court hearing.

Developer Sun Life Dior Pty Ltd wants to erect a large six-story apartment block across three existing properties in Weston St, a narrow 120-metre street with a dead-end which is the only available kiss-and-drop zone for the school.

The two-day public hearing opened on 31 October with an on-site inspection and opportunity for the community to state the reasons for its opposition to the development, which include concerns about the safety and privacy of the approximately 700 children who attend the school, the parish’s frail elderly and other vulnerable adults.

Locals are also concerned about the suitability of the site for development at all, considering it forms part of the De Freitas wetlands and failed dampness tests.

Parish priest Father Michael de Stoop summarises concerns about over-development in the narrow 120-metre street outside the school. PHOTO: Abbel Gaspi

They say the plans, which would see 32 two-bedroom apartments and a two story-underground carpark, would also have a negative impact on the wetlands and several species it supports.

At the on-site hearing Kyeema Doyle of Robinson Urban Planning, representing the parish and school, said the scale of the proposed development was “excessive for the site” and presented a “significant pedestrian hazard” particularly for the primary students.

“It’s an over-development of the site, the development will overlook the school and it will generate increased traffic and on-street parking demands,” Ms Doyle said. “The school and parish are extremely concerned about the impact this development will have on the privacy and security of its students. A number of units would face Weston Street…and overlook the school.

“The proposed density on the site will have adverse impacts on the school and parish site, in particular the primary drop-off and pick-up zones as well as parish activities such as regular weddings, funerals and Masses.

 “The safety of school children moving through this street is the paramount concern for the school.

“This will likely be the first of many DAs for this street given its recent rezoning and this proposal will likely set a standard for future development. The school and parish strongly believe it does not set a good precedent.”

Parish priest Father Michael de Stoop said despite several amendments he and the parish and school community still held an outright objection to multi-storey development in the street.

“As parish priest, the buck stops with me in terms of responsibility,” he said. “So if someone is injured or God forbid someone is killed…they will turn to me. Hundreds of new residences have been built in Fairfield so we wonder what is the rush to build here in this street?

Parents from Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School protest the push to build a large six-story residential block overlooking the school. PHOTO: Abbel Gaspi

“There is also the question of how large volumes of workers, construction machinery, trucks and other heavy vehicles will access the site in keeping with the council’s parking regulations, and also guarantee the safety of school children, their siblings, parents, teachers and staff and countless parishioners and visitors.”

Nelson Fernandes, whose eldest daughter Alyssa attends Kindergarten at Our Lady of the Rosary, told The Catholic Weekly he already finds it difficult to access the school to drop off and pick up his daughter.

He prefers to park and walk from a distance but is still nervous when approaching the congestion around the school on weekday mornings and afternoons with his daughter and three-year-old-son.

“We really ask for your prayers that the council will consider not just the safety and well-being of the community and especially the children here now but also in the long term,” Mr Fernandes said.

Parishioner Vic Meli said that he had attempted to find out how the area had recently been rezoned for development but had not been able to obtain the information from Fairfield City Council. “The application should never have been accepted,” he said.

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