State Govt is planning major works at Epping West Public School with new buildings.
The State Government plans to undertake a $28 million redevelopment of Epping West Public School, for opening in Term 1, 2023. The plans and key assessment documents are now on public exhibition for comment by the public.
Epping West PS is a severely over-crowded primary school. Due to the failure to plan for new schools following the rezoning of Epping, and the massive population increase, the school has grown to 1,300 pupils. This has meant the use of nearly 30 temporary classrooms - mainly on the school oval. The school therefore fails to provide adequate open space and exercise facilities for pupils. It also fails a Department of Education policy that states temporary classrooms should not be used for more than 7 years. In addition, the overcrowding has had a huge impact on local traffic and parking, affecting residents.
This proposal is welcome in so much as it provides two new buildings with contemporary school facilities which are badly needed. However, the plans are a compromise in their overall approach. This is because:
a) School numbers will not drop from 1300 to 1000 students until 2028 - five years after this redevelopment and the opening of the new Epping South PS
b) Many temporary classrooms will remain on site as a result, and the sports oval will not be restored to its proper function.
This proposal therefore fails in one of its primary objectives - to remove temporary structures and restore essential facilities.
In addition, the plan proposes that the second (two storey) building will be moved from the site to Epping South PS in 2028. Why on earth would a whole building (albeit of a modular design) be erected to only be moved in 2028? Why is there insufficient capacity at Epping South from 2023?
The inference one can draw from these flawed plans is that the proposed drop in school numbers in 2028 may well not happen and therefore the temporary classrooms will remain indefinitely. This is very unsatisfactory.
The detailed analysis clearly shows the traffic congestion currently experienced and highlights that it is dangerous to pedestrians. But the plan relies entirely on council undertaking mediation works, and makes no attempt to find or implement additional strategies to address this impact.
Whilst the plan proposes to plant new trees, it does include the removal of some significant trees. But more worrying are the impact construction would have on other significant trees - impact which the expert report says could be ameliorated by some design changes. The arborist's report clearly recommends such changes, but states that there is no indication that modifications will be made. That is simply not good enough - the expert's advice should be taken and implemented.
The main new building will be three storeys and clearly exceeds the height limits for this area. Whilst the plan says this is mitigated by the requirement to limit taking up more of the footprint of the site (so going up, not out), it does set a dangerous precedent for this area and potential rezoning along Carlingford Road.
In the Design Analysis there are clear recommendations on colour and materials for the new buildings so that they are in keeping with the heritage school buildings on site, and neighbouring houses. However, this is not mandated, and elsewhere in the reports it is stated that the final finishes will be decided later.
The Trust is not supportive of this approach. In order to maintain the heritage integrity, we recommend key design finishes are mandated now. Otherwise, we may see what happened at Epping PS when it was extended - the initial DA showed colours in keeping with the heritage buildings, but when it was built totally different (and very ugly) colours were used.