While the state government paints a rosy picture of what Sydney will look like when Westconnex is finished in 2031, this project has the potential to decimate Newtown and our surrounding suburbs.
Now that Stage 2 of Westconnex has received planning approval, a minimum 7 year construction period will begin as early as next month which will impact our precinct in many different ways. Road closures, heavy vehicles, air quality, noise, let alone the potential end result of residential house valuations deteriorating, businesses closing and jobs falling by the wayside.
This means less people coming to Newtown and in turn, businesses losing revenue. Can you imagine a Newtown without Suzy Spoons Vegetarian Butcher, or Rosie Boylan Headware or The Marlborough Hotel or Black Star Bakery? If Newtown is inaccessible to visitors because of the construction taking place over the next 7 years, these businesses will suffer.
The Environmental Impact Statement for Stage 2 states
‘As there would not be any significant changes to traffic volumes or no modifications to King Street are proposed as part of this project, the project would not have a significant impact on businesses or amenity along King Street.’
This only takes into account from 2023 onwards, not the 7 years in between now and then. There will be significant changes to traffic volumes on King St during the seven year construction period which leaves a loop hole for clearways on King St. It will also impact the booming business hubs of Enmore Road, Erskinville Road and the small side streets that our precinct is famous for. With all this construction and the associated disruption to public and business amenity, we fear the worst for our precinct.
Clearways on King St alone would result in a $21.37million loss to the local visitor economy. To put this into perspective, this would mean 275 jobs on King st going by the wayside with an average wage of $77,600 per annum. These figures are for King St alone, let alone the other major hubs in our precinct.
The backbone of our diverse precinct are the residents who live in the suburbs of Newtown, Enmore, Erskinville, St Peters, Marrickville and Camperdown. Many of these residents own the businesses that make Newtown so special to people both in Sydney and abroad.
Our fear is that 7 years of construction will decimate the visitor economy and amenity of our precinct and by the time Westconnex is finished in 2023, there won’t be a Newtown left. When we have communicated this fear directly to Minister Duncan Gay, Roads and Maritime Sydney (RMS) and also the Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC), there answer has tried to pacify our concerns. Minister Gay has stated ‘There will be no clearways on King St’, even though the EIS allows a loophole to do so.
When we asked for traffic modelling reports for the 7 year construction period to gauge potential impact to our community, the answer we received was, ‘let’s wait till after we get planning approval to discuss this.’ A very arrogant comment as this was made in January this year before planning approval was given. We had been given a guarantee of an NPBA member forum to address the concerns of our stakeholders and the construction period. This has not come to fruition.
For almost 16 months now, the NPBA has been advocating on behalf of the business community of our precinct. We have managed to engage with RMS and SMC to a limited extent, but promises of forums with our members and consistent communication and consultation have not resulted. We are only seeking answers for the people in our precinct and a real consultation process so that we can prepare for what is coming.
What are our next steps? Here they are
- Continue to request RMS & SMC for an inclusive consultation process and information regarding the 7 year construction period
- Develop potential harm minimisation solutions such as pedestrianisation of local hubs and better access for public transport
- Gather information and prepare our precinct to lobby against Stage 3 smoke stacks implanted in the middle of Newtown