R2K researches the local residents


'Rugby League World' Magazine recently published their opinion that the local residents around Jubilee Oval would never allow a return of the Dragons or tolerate any future redevelopment of the site. The publication stated that the residents were keen to preserve the peacefulness of their weekends and were opposed to any of the noise that would be associated with an upgrade of the venue. Similarly, radio stations which host rugby league talkback sessions often claim that a return to Kogarah is impossible because of the opposition of local residents.

So are the views of 'Rugby League World' and radio stations such as 2GB well researched or are they simply perpetuating a myth that has little foundation? Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to look at the last redevelopment that took place at Jubilee: the grandstand which was officially opened in 1990.

Firstly, it must be pointed out that no local resident can object with any validity to Jubilee Oval hosting First Grade Rugby League matches. The St.George Leagues Club already holds a license to use the Oval and therefore have the prerogative to return to Jubilee Oval for such matches at anytime. It should also be noted that the Dragons began playing at Jubilee Oval in 1950 and their association with the Kogarah Municipality precedes the vast majority of local residents who may object to First Grade Rugby League matches being played at Jubilee.

Local residents, can however, object to certain aspects of a Development Application because of perceived environmental impacts, and the grandstand which was opened in 1990 provides an interesting example.

In keeping with the requirements of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and its Regulation, the Development Application for the previous grandstand was extensively advertised for public comment. The development proposal was advertised by way of signs on each of the four street frontages of Kogarah Park, and advertisements in the St.George and Sutherland Shire Leader on six separate occasions. Letters about the Development Application were sent to 56 adjoining property owners and the occupiers of 22 non-owner occupied dwellings in the surrounding area.

For 39 days an extensive exhibition of the development and accompanying Statement of Environmental Effects was on display at Kogarah's Civic Centre and for part of that time a similar exhibition was held at the St.George Leagues Club.

The Kogarah Council's Chief Town Planner's Report stated:

"Such extensive public exhibition of a Development proposal within this Municipality and similarly the public response to the public exhibition, in terms of the number of submissions received, is also unprecedented for a single development proposal."

In total, Kogarah Council received 1,042 submissions in support of the new grandstand and 1,040 submissions which objected to the proposed grandstand.

The most common ground of objection was the view that:

'Government money spent on this project would be better spent on restoring our run-down hospital to its former excellence.'

When advising the Councillors on the proposed grandstand, the Kogarah Council's Chief Town Planner considered that this objection was largely irrelevant. The Chief Town Planner stated: "The priorities for State Government spending on the many competing demands for such funding are a matter for the State Government's determination and are not relevant to Council's determination of the Development Application in its role as the responsible planning authority. In any event, it is understood that any government funds devoted to the project will be from Footy Tab proceeds. This money is earmarked for expenditure on sporting facilities and therefore could not be used for other government projects be they hospitals, schools or whatever."

The other objections to the Development Application were: issues of traffic generation; loss of access to properties due to illegal parking; relaxation time being ruined by noise and unruly crowds; the capacity of off-street parking; and whether the development was suitable for the site due to its location, size and height.

The below points outline how Kogarah Council's Town Planner assessed each issue and summarises the recommendation to the Councillors who ultimately approved the Development Application for the grandstand.

TRAFFIC GENERATION: (MY STREET CANNOT HANDLE THE VOLUME OF TRAFFIC GENERATED BY MAJOR FUNCTIONS) This matter was referred to the Kogarah Local Advisory Committee and the Traffic Authority of NSW. No objections were raised to the application on traffic grounds subject to maximisation of surrounding parking facilities. Essentially, the objectors confused the issue before Council. The grandstand actually reduced the capacity of Jubilee Oval rather than increased it, and therefore the Town Planner recognised that it would also lead to a reduction in peak traffic generation. His report stated that:

?Jubilee Oval is relatively well served by both public transport and the road system by comparison with any alternative venues and has the added advantage that local residents are, or should be, accustomed to the traffic generation affects of the use of Jubilee Oval, the development will reduce the total capacity of Jubilee Oval and it is therefore axiomatic that the peak traffic generation for Jubilee Oval will also be reduced. Therefore, the ability of local streets to handle the volume of traffic generated will be improved rather than worsened by the development."

LOSS OF ACCESS TO MY PROPERTY DUE TO ILLEGAL PARKING DAY OR NIGHT: As indicated in the point above, the grandstand provided improved seating at Jubilee Oval for all of the events to be held there. The effect of the improvement in seating was in fact to reduce the spectator capacity of the Oval rather than to increase it. The above ground of objection appeared to assume that the grandstand would result in an increase in capacity, and in particular appeared to incorrectly assume that the development proposal under consideration by Council was seeking permission to use Jubilee Oval for First Grade Rugby League matches. Accordingly, the Town Planner recognised that the illegal parking in surrounding streets would be reduced rather than increased as a result of the proposed development due to the effective reduction in the capacity of the ground.

MY RELAXATION TIMES WILL ONCE AGAIN BE RUINED BY NOISE, UNRULY CROWDS: Once again, this ground of objection related to the use of Jubilee Oval rather than the proposed development under consideration by Council. The most recent use of Jubilee Oval ceased as a result of a commercial decision by the Club and not due to public pressure due to unruly behaviour by football crowds.

CAPACITY OF OFF-STREET PARKING: The capacity of off-street parking was seen as satisfactory. There are approximately 1,200 off-street spaces, located in Kogarah Park, St.George Leagues Club and Carlton South Public School. The site is located within walking distance of Carlton Railway Station. It was suggested that Kogarah Council make representations to the State Government to encourage use of public transport (both rail and bus). Certainly during 2002, the off-street parking situation has improved dramatically with the opening of the State Government car park at Kogarah Station and the Kogarah Council car park in Derby Street, Kogarah.

If the Dragons return to Jubilee Oval in 2003, the capacity of off-street parking will not be an issue if the Club is willing to promote these car parks and can organise shuttle buses.

WHETHER THE DEVELOPMENT WAS SUITABLE FOR THE SITE DUE TO ITS LOCATION, SIZE AND HEIGHT: There were objections raised about the affect of the development on the landscape of the locality. Specifically, the issues raised were the scale, size, height and external appearance of the development, the relationship of the development to the development on adjoining land or other land in the locality and the siting of the building on the land to which the application related.

These issues were addressed in the Statement of Environmental Effects and particularly, in the photo montages which accompanied the public exhibition.

The Town Planner stated:

"There is no escaping the fact that the proposed grandstand will be significantly larger in scale, in width and height than the development in the surrounding area which is predominantly detached dwelling houses usually only one storey in height. There are, of course, a number of exceptions, for example, Carlton South Public School buildings and the St.George Leagues Club which are also generally larger and on larger sites than the surrounding houses. However, it is also true that the size of the site, i.e. Kogarah Park, or even Jubilee Oval, is significantly larger than the land holdings to which the other developments relate and thus, in terms of building bulk as related to site area, the proposal is smaller in a relative sense. But most importantly, the size of the surrounding parkland facilities and substantial setbacks will enable the proposal to be substantially screened by appropriate landscape treatment thus providing a buffer between the proposed development and adjacent residential development. Indeed, the existing mature trees in Kogarah Park adjacent to the proposed grandstand will substantially soften the appearance of the proposal."

With the use of appropriate materials, additional landscaping and architectural detailing, the proposal was considered aesthetically acceptable. The shadow projection from the grandstand was also investigated and it was considered to be acceptable to Kogarah Council.

Investigating what has happened at the site in the past can dismiss many of the myths that are perpetuated by the mainstream media in relation to Jubilee Oval. Certainly, it is a myth that the local residents around Jubilee Oval would never allow a return of the Dragons . The Dragons have a right to return for First Grade Rugby League matches at any time as they have a lease on that basis with Kogarah Council until 2011. Night time use is also allowed under the license, with Council approval. The previous grandstand development reveals what can be achieved if the Club, Council and Community work together.