‘Write an email’: Residents frustrated as they’re left without answers

‘Write an email’: Residents frustrated as they’re left without answers

A man walks inside the fenced off area on the Euston Road side of Sydney Park where access to a public toilet is blocked. Anti-WestConnex protesters and local residents are unhappy with the blocked access to the toilet facility. St Peters, Sydney. 4th January, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty Photo: Kate Geraghty
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WestConnex road widening triggers need to insulate apartments???

Alexandria residents fear ‘disaster’ as WestConnex plans morph and expand

Foul odours from the construction site, growing concern about increased traffic and a lack of information from authorities are causing many residents near the proposed WestConnex interchange at St Peters to fear their future in the neighbourhood.

The release on Tuesday of the New M5 Draft Urban Design and Landscape Plan, which provides details on proposed cycleways and green space around the site, has done little to reassure locals.

Nor did a WestConnex information session on Wednesday at a temporary building on the construction site offer locals the answers they were looking for.

Residents discovered that no representatives from the NSW government – which is paying the privately owned Sydney Motorway Corporation (SMC) to build WestConnex – were present.

Instead, they were greeted by employees of a joint venture – between CPB Contractors, Dragados and Samsung C&T – that has been contracted by the SMC to construct the interchange.

The employees were authorised to provide information on the newly-released design and landscape plan but not to accept feedback. Some residents told Fairfax Media that the employees were unable to answer basic queries about the extent and duration of nearby construction work.

“We were hoping to come here to get a lot more information but they just told us to write an email,” says Ruby Ho, an accountant, who lives in an apartment on Euston Road in Alexandria with her partner, Paul Drummond, a graphic designer.

Fences were erected in front of the couple’s apartment yesterday ahead of round-the-clock works that will widen Euston Road to seven lanes.

The widened road will come within two metres of the couple’s front door and traffic is expected to increase tenfold.

“There are supposed to be places for impacted residents to stay during the works, but we’ve been given no details about that,” says Drummond.

An SMC spokesperson told Fairfax Media via email that “project team members regularly update local residents of construction progress via letter box drops, door-knocking and street meetings”.

“The New M5 has a community information centre based in St Peters for local residents and business owners to discuss construction matters, which is open weekdays 9am to 5pm, as well as a dedicated 24/7 phone number,” the spokesperson said.

The state’s roads authorities are considering retrofitting “mechanical ventilation” units and noise insulation in apartments along Euston Road because the noise and fumes may be too intense for residents to open their windows.

“Having mechanical ventilation, which is basically airconditioning … Who’s going to pay the power bill for that?” says Drummond. “No one will comment. We’re going to have to move eventually.”

A representative from the joint venture said employees at the information session were only able to provide information about the M5 Motorway project, a portion of the overall WestConnex plan. That project covers the interchange but not the roads in Alexandria.

The SMC spokesperson confirmed that the Euston Road widening was progressing. “Local residents have been notified of the upcoming work schedule and every effort will be made to minimise noise and disruption.”

Residents say this apparent lack of co-ordination between the joint venture, the SMC and government departments is making it impossible to obtain accurate information about WestConnex and is creating a sense of hopelessness in the community.

“I know one woman who’s very depressed at the moment,” says Janet Dandy-Ward, a social worker and spokesperson for the WestConnex Action Group. “She doesn’t even go out of her front door because she’s sick and depressed with the construction, the noise and the intimidation from some of the staff.”

“Our lives have been turned upside down by this thing,” says Dandy-Ward.

She and her husband own a house on Roberts Street, close to St Peters Public School.

Four months ago, fearing the health impacts of the interchange construction site nearby, they decided to vacate their home and move to Stanmore so their young son, who had just graduated from a Newtown infants’ school, did not have to enrol at St Peters Public.

“Before we made the decision to move, I had been speaking to the SMC about what their plans were for the school,” Dandy-Ward explains.

“They said, ‘If there’s air pollution on the outside, we’ll keep the children inside,’ which I found unacceptable.”

She adds: “We are now renting. That was our home, and we’ve moved to another suburb because of the impact of WestConnex.”

Dandy-Ward says she and her husband may attempt to sell their property. They are afraid that the ongoing impacts of WestConnex – such as the installation of a ventilation stack to remove vehicle exhaust from the M4-M5 Link tunnel – will make life there unbearable.

“The proposed poison stack would be 150 metres from our home,” she says.

In the meantime, she visits the house regularly to make sure it is secure. When she visited late last month, she was hit by a foul odour that the Environmental Protection Authority said was emanating from the construction zone, which is on the former Alexandria Landfill site.

“The smell was vile,” she says. “It made me nauseous.

“The unholy mess they’ve uncovered on the landfill site has caused an awful stink that’s horrible at best, and harmful at worst.”