The highly contested proposal for a high school in Bungendore has once again faced drama, with Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council and more than three-quarters of public submissions opposing the plan in its current form.
A well-publicised saga has seen two local action groups at loggerheads over the plan.
While Save Bungendore Park Inc and Bungendore High School Action Group are both in favour of the town getting a high school, it’s the proposed location adjacent to Mick Sherd Oval that is leading to the disagreement.
Between 20 September and 18 October, 2021, 300 public submissions were lodged online, with around 230 of these objecting to the proposal.
Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council also opposed the proposal in its current form. Its 95-page submission contained eight matters which, if met, would see its objection to the proposal withdrawn.
These include further clarification on whether a legislative change would be required to facilitate the use of the park and common as a school, and the creation of an additional 58 street parking spaces in lieu of those which will be lost.
The submission made note of council’s concerns regarding the loss of 20 net parking spaces, saying this is not acceptable given the additional demands the school would put on the neighbourhood.
Council also sought confirmation the proposed roundabouts would be landscaped and constructed in the same form as the existing one at the junction of Gibraltar Street and Ellendon Street, as well as the removal of the digital sign in the proposal, citing its “incompatibility with the heritage streetscape”.
Some local and state organisations also weighed in on the debate, making public submissions online.
Joining council in opposition to the current proposal were groups Braidwood Greens and Save Bungendore Park Inc.
Supporting the project is Bungendore Chamber of Commerce & Industry Incorporated (BCCI). In a now publicly available letter, BCCI president Murray Gough described it as an “exciting development” and noted the high school could provide a drawcard for people to establish new businesses and settle their families in the area.
He also said the school is “urgently needed”.
The Bungendore High School Action Group, which has long called for a high school in the area, also supports the proposal, including the current proposed location.
The group has long objected to the site being moved as it believes this would delay the project by another “several years” which would see “another generation of high school students miss out on a local high school education”.
Some people in the community are also concerned that a recent detection of lead in the soil at Bungendore will have implications for the proposed school.
Transport for NSW has identified lead contamination in the current and former rail corridor at Bungendore, near Bungendore Public School and the proposed site for the new high school.
At a recent community consultation session, representatives for Transport for NSW sought to reassure residents that the lead levels being detected along the rail corridor are not a cause for concern.
However, Transport for NSW executive director for network and assets Tom Grosskopf told community members the lead levels are still unknown as testing remains in progress.
Some of the lead levels already detected along the rail corridor are in excess of 1500mg per kilogram.
300mg of lead per kg of soil is the safe limit for daycares, preschools and primary schools.
Mr Grosskopf told Bungendore residents these levels are only being detected along the rail corridor, and testing would only be expanded outwards if there is evidence to suggest this would be necessary.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education confirmed that School Infrastructure NSW is undertaking soil sampling at the proposed high school site as part of standard project due diligence before construction can commence.
“The testing undertaken to date on the proposed high school site does not indicate any levels of contamination of concern,” said the spokesperson.
“However, further testing is being undertaken as part of the standard pre-construction due diligence.”
Further testing along the rail corridor began on Monday, 18 October, 2021, with a report on preliminary soil testing expected in late November.
The NSW Government is expected to respond to the public submissions on the proposed Bungendore High School soon.