There are several areas on the Northern Beaches that have been targeted for development by both the NSW government and Northern Beaches Council – Frenchs Forest, Manly Vale, Brookvale, Dee Why, Narrabeen and Mona Vale. The total of this development means approximately 20% greater population on the Northern Beaches in the next 10-15 years – all justified by the Beaches Link tunnel.
Planning for the Frenchs Forest Hospital area was first developed in 2014-15, and it planned for 4,500 additional dwellings and 10,000 jobs in the hospital precinct over 20 years to 2035. This was predicated on East-West rapid bus transit system being implemented.
A subsequent transport study showed the local road network was unable to cope with such a high growth scenario, so the number of dwellings was reduced to 2,200 and 2,300 jobs.
Further large scale community engagement in Nov 2016 – Feb 2017 was conducted by Northern Beaches Council, with 930 submissions from the community. During this time, many residents in the potential new town centre area were living in limbo, without decisions being made on zoning, and whilst suffering through extensive roadworks to upgrade Warringah Rd (that eventually ran over a year late).
The Northern Beaches Hospital Precinct Structure Plan released by council in 2017 now includes 5,360 dwellings and 2,300 jobs within the precinct. It includes high density housing within the new planned town centre next to Northern Beaches Hospital, approved to the same height as the hospital at 41 metres (or approx 13 storeys). If you travel around the northern suburbs, you will notice how visable the Northern Beaches Hospital is due to it’s height on the top of a ridge – from Ingleside, to Roseville, Castlecrag, and Mosman. Additional housing to the same height will only increase the bulk and dominance on the landscape.
The housing includes a “target” (not a requirement) for only 15% affordable rental housing.
The plan openly states that without the east-west rapid bus system and the Beaches Link Tunnel, the precinct can only deal with an additional 3,000 dwellings, significantly limiting potential growth.
The map below shows the location of the current precinct for development in red and pink adjacent to the hospital, an area to absorb an additional 5,360 dwellings which will equate to approximately another 10,000 residents. As a comparison, the current total population of Dee Why is 21,000, so this plan adds a new population 50% the size of Dee Why.
Even more concerning are the areas in Frenchs Forest shaded in grey, for “future investigation” (Phase 2 and 3) – an area 3 times as large as the planned precinct. In the Northern Beaches Council submission to the tunnel EIS, it explicitly states that the tunnel being built will allow the development of these Phases 2 and 3 in Frenchs Forest.
So this current plan is just the start – will opening Phase 2 and 3 lead to another 15,000 dwellings / 30,000 residents in the area over the coming years?
This is on top of an additional 23,000 people projected to be housed via “infill” development by 2036 (as detailed in council’s Northern Beaches Local Housing Strategy) increasing housing density within particular areas across the Northern Beaches, including Manly Vale, Brookvale, Dee Why, Narrabeen and Mona Vale. The total of this development would mean an approximate 20% increase in population on the Northern Beaches over 10-15 years. Very few established areas in Sydney have plans to grow this rapidly – and in areas where they have, what do they look like now?
So what the whole of the Northern Beaches needs to ask themselves is what they want the area to be into the future? Whilst it is the “insular peninsula”, we cannot stop all development and need to provide housing for the next generation to live in the community, including more affordable housing. But the question is how much development can we take that still allows the community the same access to transport, shops, and our beautiful bush and beaches? It is critical to create the right balance so that development is shared across the whole community – providing sustainable public transport appropriate to an area’s needs, rather than creating road bottlenecks and over-developed enclaves at Frenchs Forest and Manly / Balgowlah with the Beaches Link Tunnel.
The Northern Beaches Council Housing Strategy is open for submissions until March 7, 2021: