Residents and environmentalists have slammed a Hills Shire Council Masterplan to redevelop Fred Caterson Reserve at Castle Hill to make room for a high-performance rugby facility for the Eastwood District Rugby Union Football Club.
Hills Shire Council adopted The Fred Caterson Reserve Masterplan In November 2020 which shows that 23,710 square metres of vegetation will be bulldozed to accommodate the rugby precinct.
A lobby group called Save Fred Caterson Reserve, made up of a group of concerned residents and environmentalists, says Council’s plan will see the total loss of more than 5 hectares of bushland and the removal of hundreds of trees. It says not only would trees and habitat be destroyed but that the integrity and character of the reserve and surroundings would be compromised.
Fred Caterson Reserve is the last big area of bushland in Castle Hill which environmentalists say is home to an incredible diversity of threatened species. The reserve is also home to several local community sporting groups.
Over 3,800 people have already signed a petition: Stop the Destruction of Fred Caterson Reserve Castle Hill.
Residents living around Fred Caterson Reserve claim they were not consulted adequately and fear that a premier rugby facility will attract thousands of spectators to an area that is already wracked with traffic and parking congestion.
Andrew Tonkin said: “Residents are angry that the reserve will be stripped of so much flora, vital for people’s mental health and the vulnerable species, and they are angry at the prospect of light and noise pollution affecting their quiet enjoyment of where they live and the congestion that will result.”
Council said its Masterplan will cater for existing and future residents.
The reserve is in close proximity to the State Government’s Showground Precinct, which will grow by another 11,000 people in the next 10-15 years and then “ultimately, by more than 20,000 people once the precinct is fully developed.
The Draft Masterplan was reported to Council in July 2020 and placed on public exhibition from 12th August to 11th September 2020 for viewing and comment.
Community groups and residents are angry that Council exhibited the Draft Masterplan during Covid restrictions in 2020 and claim that only “sporting clubs” were consulted during the preparation of the Plan.
Council said it “received and considered multiple community submissions”.
Council invited Expressions of Interests in August 2020 for the establishment, management and maintenance of a premier rugby union facility and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Eastwood Rugby The facility will be developed on the former Pony Club site and will include three playing fields (including synthetic fields) and associated infrastructure, including lighting, drainage, irrigation, amenities building/s and a car park.
Council said planning and design were currently in progress but not yet final, with “concept plans being worked through based on progressive site studies, including site survey, geotechnical assessment, ecology, traffic, noise and heritage studies.
The facility will be designed in accordance with relevant environmental standards”.
The development also encompasses additional sports fields, car parking, paved areas for events, spectator seating and a clubhouse. There will also be upgrades to the existing sporting facilities on the reserve, which includes soccer, tennis, baseball, basketball and BMX bike riding. Hills Shire Council said it is awaiting the results of an independent ecologist which would “further inform the implementation of the adopted masterplan”.
“This is to ensure that ecological communities are appropriately managed, relevant environmental legislation is met, and opportunities are provided for bushland regeneration and tree replanting. Council looks forward to updating the community as our planning progresses,” a spokesperson said.
“Council’s adopted masterplan aims to preserve and minimise the impact on local flora within Fred Caterson Reserve, while providing more sporting fields and upgrading facilities to cater to the increasing active and passive recreational needs of the growing Hills Shire population.”.
Hills Council Greens Councillor Dr Mila Kasby told the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News she was “absolutely concerned about tree loss and the loss of habitat “ given the important nature of the reserve and its “unique place as a reservoir of biodiversity” within our urban landscape.
“At a minimum, I would expect that any development proposal would go out on public exhibition for at least two months, and that all the details, including the MOU with Eastwood Rugby Club, would be publicly available so that our community is fully informed and have enough time to have their say on this incredibly important site.”
She said that more than half of the current Hills Councillors were not on Council when the Masterplan was adopted in 2020.
Council’s Masterplan can be found at www.thehills.nsw.gov.au/Council/Council- Initiatives/Fred-Caterson-Reserve-Master- Plan. Visit savefredcatersonreserve.org for more information about the campaign against the plan where there is also a link to sign the petition.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]