The government response to residents’ concerns about an inner north private school’s contentious car park has left them frustrated and fearing for their children’s safety.
Brindabella Christian College’s apparent normalisation of the ad hoc car park on public land in Lyneham has long been contested by the Lyneham Community Association.
Last year it launched a Legislative Assembly petition over safety concerns about the driveway off Brigalow Street, which schoolchildren cross each day.
It sought a Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA) of the pedestrian crossing and car park development to find a solution to the problem that gave precedence to pedestrians and cyclists.
Association committee member Kate Bradney said the petition attracted 613 signatures, but the government ignored it, opting for a green strip marked with pedestrian and cyclist icons to alert drivers.
Just one week into the school term, Ms Bradney said that it was clear this was no solution.
“The modifications haven’t reduced the danger to kids, who still need to weave through traffic, with reduced visibility, and facing the risk of distracted drivers,” she said.
“The community is desperate for the conflict between cars and kids to be removed before a kid is hit here, and the solution of a coat of green paint clearly isn’t enough.”
Ms Bradney said Transport Canberra and City Services didn’t conduct any review or analysis of the dangers, and the driveway entrance continued to give clear precedence to the convenience of cars over the safety of children walking on the footpath, in contradiction of the TCCS Transport Impact Assessment Guidelines (section 5.11).
She said TCCS planned a Traffic Impact Assessment of the wider area in the future, but not of the car park design and development itself.
To cap it all, the ACT Government paid for the modifications despite TCCS Transport Impact Assessment Guidelines saying that modifications to ensure safe active travel should be at the developer’s expense.
Ms Bradney became involved in the issue after witnessing near misses and being bumped herself at the car park entry and exit, which she said was poorly designed and dangerous.
She said cars cross to drop off and pick up school children at the same time as Lyneham Primary School students were making their way along the footpath.
The community association has always contended that the school built and enhanced the car park for its own use without a development application or adherence to the normal codes and standards for such a structure.
In a bid to elevate the matter to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to finally get a ruling, the LCA in December submitted a Controlled Activity Order about the car park being constructed without a development application or DA exemption and is waiting for a response.
The community association says the design of the car park puts vulnerable active travel road users at risk, including children attending other schools in the area, and degrades a protected community urban open space.
The row over the car park on a section of the Lyneham playing fields goes back to 2009 when it was established informally about the time the school built on its previous car park on school land.
The community association says that in late 2016 the school sealed the car park despite the planning authority rejecting a request earlier in the year for a direct sale of the land to complete the project, advising that a Territory Plan Variation would be required and that the development would be in breach of the Planning and Development Act.
The government said the car park had evolved over time from people using the playing fields, remained a public car park despite signage and allotted spaces to BCC staff, and that TCCS had granted a sublease over the public land to the school to “use a portion of land within Block 23 for car parking ancillary to the outdoor sports facility”.
But Ms Bradney said last year that government responses on the matter had been contradictory and there was ample evidence that the school was behind the car park from the start and sealed it in defiance of the planning authority.
“Whatever happens in the future for our situation, it’s going to set a precedent for other public land,” she said.
Last year Brindabella Christian College board chairman Greg Zwajgenberg welcomed the Lyneham Community Association’s bid to resolve the situation in ACAT.
“Any move to now seek resolution in ACAT will fully assist us in our desire to purchase the land in question to formalise our car park with more permanent surfacing, which should have occurred years ago,” he told Region.
In 2015, the school proposed to develop the oval for a sports and performing arts complex with shared parking and a Kiss & Drop area, but it did not proceed after community opposition.
Mr Zwajgenberg said the design would have absorbed the car park and straightened out the doglegs in the footpath.
“This is still the best community option,” he said.