The developer of the proposed primary school at Bournda is perplexed by the Bega Valley Shire Council’s decision to reject his development application.
Michael Lyons, of Kulbardi Close Bournda had proposed to build the school on 72.97 hectares of his property.
He wonders whether in time the council and the community will regret that the project did not proceed on the basis that what little provision has been made in the Bega Valley Local Environmental Plan 2013 for such an establishment will not count for much.
He said plans for expansion of schools in the Merimbula Pambula area, which are all located in residential areas would be restricted by either the lack of land or the high prices for land acquisition.
“The proposed Bournda school site may be the only land in the area and perhaps the shire on which an educational establishment can be built at this point in time,” Mr Lyons said.
He said that the only zonings in the BVLEP 2013 which include ‘Educational Establishments’ are ‘Local Centre’ and ‘Mixed Use’.
“In the Tura area these zonings appear only in the Merimbula and Pambula CBD locations. Bega, Bermagui, Tathra and Eden seem to have a similar situation. These zonings do not appear in Tura Beach.”
Mr Lyons said that it is not physically or financially feasible to build a new school in these CBD zonings.
“Finding suitable land to establish a viable practical new school anywhere in the Merimbula, Pambula or Tura Beach areas is very difficult.”
He said that the the Anglican Education Committee searched for many years to find suitable land.
Mr Lyons said that his DA was lodged during the time of the BVLEP 2002 when the zoning for his land was Rural 1(a) in which an ‘Educational Establishment’ was ‘permitted with consent’.
“Many schools, preschools and childcare centres are finding it difficult to accommodate new students and some are not accepting new students. With three children (3, 6 and 8 years) we can confirm this situation,” Mr Lyons said.
“The demand for preschools, primary and secondary schools in the area is currently high and future population statistics suggest that demand will grow particularly in the coastal towns.”
Existing schools in Merimbula, Pambula, Pambula Beach (Lumen Christi) and Bega (including the Anglican College) are in residential zones. Their potential for expansion on site is extremely limited and to acquire adjoining land beyond their existing boundaries in a residential zoning would be costly and perhaps would require rezoning, Mr Lyons said.
“A new school requires space to comply with the School Facilities Standards, to provide healthy buildings and surroundings and to allow for expansion.
“The location must be financially viable and physically suitable and
it should comply with the planning requirements and our Da does all of that,” Mr Lyons said.
“One more point that makes a nonsense of the council zonings for schools in the shire is the School Facility Standards , which we have quoted many times in our DA however it appears council is not aware of them or prefers to ignore them,” Mr Lyons said.
Section 32 of the SEPP (Infrastructure) 2007 states:
(2) ‘Before determining a development application for development for the purposes of a school, the consent authority must take into consideration all relevant standards in the following State government publications (as in force on the commencement of this Policy):
(a) School Facilities Standards—Landscape Standard
(b) Schools Facilities Standards—Design Standard
(c) Schools Facilities Standards—Specification Standard
(3) If there is an inconsistency between a standard referred to in subclause (2) and a provision of a development control plan, the standard prevails to the extent of the inconsistency.
“The site size specification in the SF Standards for a Primary School with the number of students (250) that we have estimated in our SEE after eight years is 4 hectares (approx 10 acres).
Where can you get 10 acres in the main street of Merimbula or Pambula?
As clause (3) says the standards take precedence over the BVSC DCP,” Mr Lyons said.
“The more I think about and discuss with others the council approach to a new substantial quality school the more it becomes obvious that they lack vision and any notion of future realities.
Either they have not even thought about schools for the shire or they just do not have the ability to get their heads around the concept.”
He questioned whether in fact the council is sincere when it states it is pro growth.
“Without schools to meet future demand, this will have a major impact on growth,” he said.
Mr Lyons said he had not ruled out taking the matter of council’s refusal to the NSW Land and Environment Court.
Meanwhile a story in Fairfax Media last week pointed to an emerging crisis as Australia faces a schools shortage. School enrolments are expected to surge by 611,000 between 2012 and 2020 – a 17 per cent increase, according to the federal government.
This means 1550 schools would need to be built to maintain current average school sizes.