Submissions on new school design sought

Up on the roof: The new Penshurst Public School will include rooftop play areas, seating, shade structures and running track. Image: Perumal Pedovoli Architects
Up on the roof: The new Penshurst Public School will include rooftop play areas, seating, shade structures and running track. Image: Perumal Pedovoli Architects

Re: “Penshurst Public DA has startling design: The ‘sinuous’ school plan” (Leader, May 30).

I just wanted to thank the Leader for the valuable community service that this exemplary local newspaper provides.

There have been several occasions over the last few years when major new developments have landed on our streets.  Sadly these developments’ repercussions for local residents have often been far greater than the level of community consultation and notices offered by council or planning authorities, as they adhere only to minimal requirements to be seen to be compliant.

When I have approached the Leader in an attempt to increase neighbours’ awareness of local issues, the newspaper’s journalists and photographers have been marvellously supportive of the cause by researching, writing and publishing articles that have enabled me to reach more people, including, at my request, a contact website to facilitate this. Long-time Leader journalist, Jim Gainsford, is particularly worthy of a special mention in this regard.

The article last week about Penshurst Public School is a case in point, as well as previous articles on Penshurst Park’s ‘sporting hub’ over the various stages of its development DA’s. Although the new Penshurst Public School is a very necessary facility, its traffic and parking implications for neighbouring residents will be immense. From reading the documents on exhibition, the Dept of Education and Dept of Planning and Environment seem to think that their role to provide educational community benefit does not also extend to full consideration of the surrounding area.  In addition their community consultation has often not reached the people it should have. 

The government departments have invested great consideration into designing a school building that will offer fine educational opportunities to its students while minimising the height impact on the adjacent school and churches.  However if they chose to add an extra storey, perhaps even a subterranean level, they wouldn’t need to demolish the existing heritage school building which is so in character with the many other heritage Federation style homes in surrounding streets, and that together contribute to the overall identity and pleasant aesthetic of Penshurst.

In addition the flow-on effect of twice as many students and additional staff and services, will mean additional vehicles to support them. Few staff will practically increase their use of public transport, with books and papers to carry. Most schools are also reliant on casual and special needs staff, deliveries, maintenance services, even emergency services at times, but keeping the parking spaces capped at 15 spaces as before is almost irresponsible.  Apparently “NSW Department of Education guidelines state that ‘a school is not obliged to provide parking on site to anyone at any time’ ”. If the department wants their schools to function at optimal level they would rethink this position.  

Most children will be dropped off by car.  Parents of primary aged children are unlikely to allow them to travel by public transport and cross busy Forest Rd unaccompanied. So there will be a heavy reliance on car drop-offs and pick-ups that narrow Arcadia St is simply not equipped to handle, and the DA offers minimal solutions to this. What’s more will a hall that has a capacity for 350 guests cater for awards ceremonies and other events for a school of 1000 students and their families? Perhaps a subterranean car park and hall are one answer to alleviating but not fully solving traffic, parking and functional capacity problems. An overpass or tunnel across Forest Rd, and acquisition of additional land, are other access and parking options that need to be discussed before they sign off on the plans for Penshurst Public School. Interestingly I am told that the school once owned property across the road at 18 Arcadia St which was sold many years ago but, with a little foresight, could have been so useful now. 

The rooftop playground also raises questions of heat and skin exposure that I do not think have been fully addressed by the artificial ‘trees’ of lattices and climbing plants. What if these plants are not able to be maintained on the exposed rooftop?  Surely additional shade options need to be offered, such as shade cloth, considering the extensive evidence that sun-exposed artificial ground surfaces are hotter than grass, and compromise student health. With some engineering adjustment, real trees on the rooftop are possible, as evidenced by other high rise apartment blocks in Hurstville.

Once again, further information can be found at our website 

Submissions on the DA close this Friday, June 8, and I would like to encourage as many people as possible to make comment before then, as it appears there will be no opportunity for a public hearing meeting after this.

Kathryn Skelsey, Penshurst