Proposals to develop two six-storey residential buildings close to Our Lady of the Rosary parish and primary school in Fairfield pose a “terrifying” risk to children, says parish priest Fr Michael de Stoop.
Residents, parishioners, and parents of Our Lady of the Rosary are opposing two development applications for Weston Street for a total of 81 units.
They are convinced the increased traffic will endanger the safety and privacy of the school’s 700 students and church parishioners.
The 120 metre dead-end street is adjacent to the church and school and becomes a traffic nightmare at weekday drop-off and pick-up times, in particular, Fr de Stoop said.
“We have a kiss and drop point there, but it’s a narrow street that people have to do u-turns to get out of so it gets very congested.
“We’ve had three near-misses in my time here with children almost getting hit by cars. It’s unreasonable to expect them to be risk-averse, as they’re carefree by nature.
“It’s terrifying to think that we could have another 102 underground car parking spaces in that street.
“We’re going to fight this.”
Our Lady of the Rosary principal Br Nicholas Harsas said he feared the school could lose its 90-year reputation for being a safe and secure environment should the plans go ahead.
He was also concerned for the overall safety and privacy of pupils on and around the school grounds.
“Not only would these proposed units increase traffic chaos, but we would have 44 of them looking down on our children at school,” he said.
“I fear for the child protection and safety aspects of such a move.”
More than 1500 signatures have been collected for a petition to oppose the developments, and both Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone and local MP Guy Zangari have met with worried residents in recent weeks.
They have offered their support, but the community remains concerned as the approval for development applications now rest with the state’s Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAP), rather than councils.
No date has been set for a determination of the applications, but independent political activist and community worker Milan Maksimovic, who is assisting the community to corral its opposition, said he expects there will be ‘two or three months to fight them”.
Mr Carbone told The Catholic Weekly he shared the concerns about traffic, parking, and other impacts and had passed them on to the relevant IHAP panel.
“Our Lady of the Rosary is a popular school that has been held in high regard in our area and I understand the concerns about traffic and parking because it’s a very small street,” he said.
“While we understand there’s a need for housing, it has to be done in a way that doesn’t impact the community negatively and the applicants will have to show that this is the case.
“But unfortunately there’s nothing else we can do about it.
“It’s a good question for the state government to answer, why it has taken away these local council powers.”
At the meeting with Mr Carbone Mr Maksimovic said he understood the mayor’s power was limited but he still pressed him for a commitment on the issue.
“You are still our mayor and we are asking you to help us, to help our school-age children and our church. We are worried about their safety.”