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Tuesday, 12 April 2016 22:40

Battle to Preserve the Byles Creek Wildlife Corridor

Beecroft is bearing the brunt of three significant infrastructure developments (North West Rail Link, Epping to Thornleigh Third Track and NorthConnex road tunnel) as well as unit development. These projects have led to the removal of many significant trees including 0.7 hectares of Sydney Turpentine Ironbark Forest which is listed as endangered.

The residents of Malton Road and the Beecroft-Cheltenham Civic Trust have been fighting for many years to save bushland at 79–87 Malton Road from subdivision. If the subdivision application is approved the last remaining corridor of bushland along Byles Creek between Lane Cove National Park and Pennant Hills Park will be lost. It is one branch of Byles Creek that is largely unaffected by urban runoff and it is rare to find such pristine water in urban areas.

The land is in excellent condition, holding high biodiversity values as recognised by its inclusion on Hornsby Shire Council’s Biodiversity Map, with habitat supporting a range of threatened flora and fauna species including Leptospermum deanei, Genoplesium baueri, the grey-headed flying-fox, Powerful Owls and an endangered population of Gang-gang Cockatoos of ‘significant conservation value as it is the last known breeding population of the species in the Sydney metropolitan area’.

If the land is built on, the bushfire regulations will require most of the blocks to be cleared to create asset protection zones. It is unclear whether all six blocks could be built on in any case because of access and asset protection issues. So it could be that most of the area of bushland would be cleared for construction of only two or three houses.

At the June 2015 Hornsby Council meeting following extensive resident addresses and debate, councillors voted unanimously to make a full and comprehensive submission to the NSW Government to acquire this bushland as regional open space. Members of the Byles Creek Valley Union and Civic Trust members worked hard to compile a comprehensive submission to the NSW Government, to augment that prepared by council.

In December the deferred application was refused by council on the grounds that the ecological assessments provided by the applicant were inadequate. Precise confirmation is needed of the possible presence of two plant species: the vulnerable Leptospermum deanei and the endangered Genoplesium baueri, an orchid. It would not be known until March – when the orchid flowers – whether it grows on the site.

The applicant has not been prepared to obtain extra information about this orchid and the applicant then appealed the decision before the Land and Environment Court.

A report commissioned by council by ecological consultant Peter Smith stated the entire site:

… is worthy of purchase and management as a bushland reserve ...

If funding is not available to purchase the land, then further assessment is needed of the impact of the proposed subdivision and residential development of this land …

A patch of bushland like this, with so many large, old trees, forms a crucial piece of habitat for so much of our biodiversity and its loss would be a loss for the community and Sydney as a whole …

He also questioned whether offsets are available in respect of the land to be cleared.

On 10 March a conciliation conference was held on site. Over 100 local residents arrived on a very steamy morning to hear very detailed oral submissions from four local residents explaining their reasons for opposing the application.

Further negotiations are going on via the Land and Environment Court conciliation process. This is due to be finalised on 6 May.

The residents are still fighting with all their might. They are pushing for the proceeds from the council sale of a church hall in Cheltenham to go towards purchasing the land. See www.2119.org.au for the full story. The group has also created a Facebook page for Mikey the Powerful Owl that is frequently seen in the valley.

Please write to the Hornsby councillors to express support for acquiring the land so this precious bushland can be preserved.

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