Submission to Cumberland Council: John St Lidcombe Carpark Privatisation

Restore Inner West Line community action group submission of 8 October 2021 to Cumberland Council in response to the Have your say on the future of public parking at 13 John St, Lidcombe

Cumberland City Council should be commended for organising a webinar to inform local residents about the proposed sale and redevelopment of the John Street Carpark.

While the Community Webinar of 28 September 2021 provided a brief overview of the Council Motion of 8 September 2021 regarding the proposed sale and redevelopment along with opportunity for residents to be heard, shortcomings in the Community Consultation process include:

  • Community consultation during COVID and lockdown resulting in a limited reach in contrast to normal circumstances (as most residents have general health and wellbeing to attend to and less energy for active citizenship – also evidenced through the low number of residents participating in the webinar compared to previous town planning meetings held at Lidcombe Community Centre)
  • COVID lockdown limiting foot traffic in the Lidcombe Town Centre hence effectiveness of English language VMS signs and corflute posters is reduced
  • Lack of multi-lingual communications and marketing regarding the Community Consultation process in a highly CALD community resulting in the general absence of any input from residents with an ESL background

Possible remediation of the shortcomings of the current process include extending the Community Consultation for an additional period until 30 November 2021, re-advertising the proposed sale and redevelopment in the major language groups of Lidcombe residents, and deferring the report to Council (earmarked for 20 October 2021) to the Council Meeting of Wednesday 15 December 2021.

In regard to the proposed sale and redevelopment of the John Street Carpark, Cumberland City Council should be well advised of the previous attempted sales and probity issues that have arisen during the final 2 terms of the former Auburn City Council.

Information provided during the webinar and in response to enquiries regarding the revitalisation of Lidcombe town centre citing the Local Strategic Planning Statement while is a good starting point, it does not specifically provide substantiative context into the Strategic Merit for the sale and development of the John Street Carpark.

The Cumberland City Council decision to achieve the Motion of 8 September 2021 and 18 March 2021 regarding the John Street Carpark all during the Closed Sessions of Council Meetings (while potentially necessary due to commercial in confidence reasons) has resulted in the lack of community input and ultimately degraded public accountability in decision making.

Cumberland City Council is urged to address the gap in public confidence regarding the future of the John Street Carpark by undertaking the following:

  • Publish video recordings of the Council Meeting Closed Session from 18 March 2021 and 8 September 2021 regarding the John Street Carpark (with only the bare minimum redaction of commercial in confidence details), also in lieu of a lack of clarity regarding the definition of “unrestricted parking” and other wordings of the recent motion as seen during the webinar
  • Explain in significantly greater substantive detail of how the sale and redevelopment of the John Street Carpark aligns with the Local Strategic Planning Statement (not just for Lidcombe but for the Regents Park Ward and Cumberland LGA)
  • Clarify the reasoning behind the proposed sale and redevelopment of the John Street Carpark especially regarding Council’s current financial situation (i.e. what is the weighting of Council’s considerations in balancing the deficit vs investment in revitalisation of Lidcombe town centre) and what infrastructure/capital works could potentially be achieved in Lidcombe/Regents Park Ward arising from the privitisation of the carpark?
  • With hindsight of the Auburn Public Inquiry (2016) as well as issues arising the previous proposed sale and redevelopment of the John Street Carpark during the tenure of the former Auburn City Council, Cumberland City Council should also outline how probity/conflict of interest concerns will be managed and ultimately what/how the best outcome for the community will be achieved?

Residents have also expressed concerns about over-development and changes to parking in the Lidcombe Town Centre, these are summarised as follows:

  • Existing lack of parking for residents, shoppers, and commuters as well as lack of Council rangers regularly enforcing restrictions to ensure balance of parking spaces is maintained
  • Overall net loss in parking in Lidcombe Town Centre arising from the privitisation of the John Street Carpark with the second cars and visitors of the new apartments occupying majority of the unrestricted parking
  • Increased unrestricted parking in attracts commuters from nearby train stations (Olympic Park/ Birrong and Yagoona) currently/soon to be without direct services to Central/City Circle resulting in worsening traffic congestion approaching Lidcombe Town Centre

Cumberland City Council is encouraged to work closer with the local community and Transport for NSW to ensure that parking in Lidcombe Town Centre is increased for Cumberland residents, active transport links throughout the Regents Park Ward (including towards Olympic Park) are improved and that the Strategic Merits of any proposals for redevelopment of the site are clearly articulated.

A traffic and transport study (including examination of the impacts of commuters from stations without direct trains to City driving to Lidcombe) should be conducted and included with the final report to the Council Meeting for this consultation.

The current “John Street Carpark Lidcombe – Proposed Sale and Redevelopment” cannot be supported for the reasons outlined.

It is imperative that the community is provided with further detailed information regarding the context and costs-benefits of the proposed sale and development of the John Street Carpark before any further decisions are taken regarding this privatisation proposal.