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SSC Newspaper : April 2012
By Sarah Macklin Strathfield reSidentS have lodged a total of 626 formal submissions objecting to Austral- ian Catholic University plans to ex- pand its campus. Officials from nSW department of Planning and infrastructure are now collating the paperwork before determining the $55-million plan. The ACU wants to build six additional buildings and an underground carpark to cater for 1,200 additional students at the ACU’s Strathfield campus. That will take total student numbers to 4,800. Most objections focus on the increase in student numbers and the impact on traffic and parking, particularly for residents around Barker road. Strathfield Council has urged the department of Planning to hold a public hearing on the matter. And it has urged nSW planners to refuse the application. The State Government has the right to approve or turn down the plans under Section 3A of the planning laws. noted traffic engineer Craig Mclaren concluded that the impact would be “intolerable” on the local community if this application was granted. On student numbers, the council says the ACU was given consent in 1994 for no more than 1,100 students on the main campus by day and 700 at night. The ACU’s subsidiary Albert road campus was capped at 240 students with 38 off-street parking spaces. The council alleges that the university has exceeded these number. An informal residents’ survey counted 1,579 people arriving on campus between 7am and 10am. residents also counted the impact on street parking, estimating there were about 675 university- related cars parked on nearby streets, with a further 344 cars parked on campus. This adds up to 1,019 cars on site, says the council – a further burden on local traffic flows and on-street parking. “The noise, disturbance, pollution, litter and inability to move in and out of residents’ houses due to traffic congestion were raised as issues by many residents,” said the council. roads Minister duncan Gay visited the area to take a look at the traffic problems after residents objected to the plans. “ We will look at ways in which we can help residents and possibly changes in legislation such as tow-away laws,” said Gay. Strathfield liberal MP Charles Casuscelli has also backed residents, suggesting two-hour parking zones in the area. local residents remain furious that students often park across their driveways, prompting the council to consider two-hour parking restrictions and painting white lines across driveways to clearly mark them. The ACU wishes to build a new underground car park for a total of 674 cars on campus, and to improve two gates along Barker road. The heritage Council of new South Wales has also weighed into the debate. noting that the university campus features buildings with a high level of historical significance, the council has urged that the site should be listed on the State heritage register. By Peter Lynch and Bernadette Chua r esidents opposing the $55 million expansion by the Australian Catholic Uni- versity claim they are the victims of a cyber-bullying cam- paign. One Strathfield resident who did not wish to be named says she has been abused on facebook. A facebook page was headlined: “f***** up old lady lives here” and urged students to take down signs protesting against the ACU expansion plans. Another resident had a protest sign torn down and his house pelted with an egg. residents stress they are not against the university, just against the campus’s excessive growth. They plan to hand out flyers to students explaining that their streets were not designed to handle that volume of traffic. The escalation of tension between students and residents has led protest leaders to demand the ACU tell its students to respect residents’ rights. “We are not protesting against the ACU or students. The growth of the campus, however, is impacting our lives,” said residents in a flyer they plan to hand out on campus. One facebook group is called “Strathfield residents destroyed our ACU. not fair residents.” The site has 23 members and the administrator has created a sign saying “Strathfield residents destroyed our ACU.” A university spokesperson said it had received no complaints about students’ behaviour from Strathfield residents. “ACU has not had any reports from residents about inappropriate comments on facebook or any other online forum. The university has always been committed to encouraging students to respect our neighbours.” The online warfare erupted after a deadline expired this week set by Strathfield Council, which demanded that ACU vice-chancellor Professor Greg Craven should substantiate claims that the council sanctioned increases in student numbers. The council had demanded the ACU produce letters that Craven maintains show that council agreed to increases in student numbers. Unless the ACU remedies the alleged breaches of consent allowing 1,100 students by day and 700 by night, the council says it will take legal action in the land and environment Court. Said the Mayor, Cr Paul Barron: “ We have reached a level of student numbers that is unsustainable for the local community and this needs to stop. “The wellbeing of our residents is a serious matter and if the university isn’t cooperative on this issue, then taking legal action is the right thing to do for the best interest of our residents,” Barron added. But Strathfield MP Charles Casuscelli says the council’s pursuit in taking legal action is futile. “The council are not thinking and the university just don’t get it. They could have provided a whole range of initiatives before they proposed the development to deal with the additional numbers and create some goodwill between students and residents,” he said. april 2012 ACu speCiAl 4 Strathfield Scene War chest Fifty thousand dollars from the sale of Matthews Park has been set aside by Strathfield Council to pay for legal and consultants’ costs in preparing its action against the ACU’s expansion plans. It has also set another $50,000 aside to take any enforcement action over student numbers with the Land and Environment Court, including the costs of a traffic study and student count. Strathfield Mayor, Cr Paul Barron, said the council had opposed any increase in student numbers since 1994. ACU vice-chancellor Greg Craven earlier claimed the council had given permission to have 900 students per hour on campus between Mondays and Fridays, though he has failed to produce evidence supporting the claims. The Land and Environment Court ruled in 1994 that enrol- ments should not exceed 1,100 by day and 700 students at night classes. Strathfield Council says it will pursue legal action in the Land and Environment Court if the alleged breaches of consent are not remedied by April 10. 626 residents say no to aCU the council’s five main objections: 1. Unsustainable increase in student numbers 2. intolerable impact on traffic and parking; 3. an undesireable change to the character of the area; 4. Unacceptable impacts to the site’s existing heritage buildings and surrounds; 5. detrimental impact on residents in the area bordering the site and in strathfield generally. Students accused of cyber-bullying Residents have erected signs protesting against the ACU.