New recreational facility in jeopardy as State Government reneges on commitment

Hornsby Shire Council

Westleigh Park concept

Hornsby Shire Council has been left enraged after State Government funding for a much-needed recreational precinct, incorporating new sports facilities, has been taken back even though work on the Westleigh Park redevelopment project has been underway for a number of years.

A furious Mayor Philip Ruddock AO and councillors are now faced with a major dilemma as a development application has been lodged and construction to commence the transformation of Westleigh Park was expected to start in late 2024.

“It is the local community that will miss out. Our Shire is in desperate need of recreational spaces and new sports facilities. The NSW Government’s housing targets makes this need even more critical. These targets come with the promise of funding for essential infrastructure so to take away funding that was already given to us, and has been allocated, is ridiculous,” Mayor Ruddock said.

“Since receiving the grant, we have proceeded with extensive planning, community and stakeholder consultation and the due processes required of Council for the new parklands on the basis the funding is ours.”

Council acknowledged it had requested extensions to the funding timeline noting that the original timelines were arbitrary and a project of such large scale and complexity, impacted by COVID-19, would require a multiyear time investment to deliver to the community.

There is an acknowledged shortage of sportsgrounds in the Shire and on the north shore. Most recently in Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils’ ‘Review of Supply and Demand for Sports Facilities in the NSROC Region’ which called for an increase of 40% in supply capacity of sports facilities by 2026. The site for Westleigh Park comprises around 36 hectares of cleared open space and bushland. The redevelopment will create a major parkland with spaces for play, sporting activities including football, athletics, rugby, AFL and cricket, and other recreational activities such as mountain biking, walking and cycling.

“Major projects such as this have other interdependencies and multiple contractor arrangements are in place or well progressed to deliver the project,” continued Mayor Ruddock.

“Council is deeply disappointed by this decision as a significant amount of planning, design and financial support that extends beyond the state government funding, has been invested into the project with notable progress and momentum to date. With the development application under assessment, detailed design is complete and site works will commence in late 2024. If not for this decision children would be playing sport here in the very near future, rather than spending their time on iPads.

“The previous State Government gave $90m to Hornsby Council as compensation for the loss of a large part of the southern territory of the Shire to the City of Parramatta during the council amalgamations, specifying the funds were to be used for the development of Hornsby Park and Westleigh Park.

“The residents of the Hornsby Shire deserve better, and Council is now considering what options are available to us to ensure our community gets the recreational facilities it was promised,” Mayor Ruddock said.

/Public Release. View in full here.