Synthetic Grass a Hot Item on Lane Cove Council Agenda

In November 2020 Lane Cove Council voted (4 Councillors For – 3 Councillors Against) to approve the Bob Campbell Masterplan which included plans for the installation of a synthetic oval.  The oval would replace the existing natural turf oval and would not be available for people walking with dogs.

Councillors David Brooks-Horn, Councillor Frances Vissel and Councillor Katherine Morris are now seeking to rescind this motion.  If the recession motion is successful the councillors will then vote on the following motion:

“That Council direct the General Manager to prepare a report and recommendation/s, to be presented to the Council for its determination at the Council meeting in July 2021 after undertaking further investigation and obtaining expert advice in relation to the inclusion in the Bob Campbell Oval Concept Plan for a level turf playing surface including reference to grass types, soil type, drainage, water reticulation, storage & irrigation systems.”

Councillor David Brooks-Horn is one of the 3 ward representatives for East Ward (which includes Greenwich).  When Lane Cove Council voted to install the synthetic oval in November 2020 Councillor Brook Horn was absent and on his honeymoon.

Before the vote was taken in November 2020, many residents raised concerns about the environmental impacts of synthetic turf including waterway pollution by microplastics, and urban heat spots.

The Sydney Morning Herald (Sunday 14 March 2021) has reported that the Minister for Planning the Hon Rob Stokes has requested his department investigate sustainable alternatives to synthetic grass amid growing concerns about its environmental and health impacts.

Lane Cove Council is not the only local Sydney council coming under attack for using synthetic turf.  Concerned Bayside City Council Residents took out an injunction to stop the council from starting work on converting part of a park to a synthetic oval.  In December 2020, the Land and Environment Court gave Bayside Council the green light for work to recommence on the synthetic oval and dismissed the stop-work injunction taken out by the Bayside residents.

In February 2021 The Guardian reported Women A League soccer players did not like playing on the Cromer artificial oval.  The report noted:

“The first thing you noticed was the smell. Walking into Cromer Park for Sydney FC’s match against Adelaide United on Sunday, overpowering the usual wafts of hot chip boxes and the salty ocean breeze, was the burnt-rubber odour of its artificial pitch baking in the afternoon sun.

The turf did not just smell bad, though; it also looked and behaved poorly. The gangrenous green “grass” was stained with patches of black from the loose rubber pellets that sprayed up like dust with every kick, tackle and slide. The day’s heat made the field sticky in some places and slick in others, the ball’s unpredictable skip or spin forcing players to take extra touches. The game noticeably suffered as a result.”

Is it too late to change plans from Artificial to Natural?

No according to a spokesperson at the NSW Planning Department:

“Under the Precinct Support Scheme, if the Council wanted to change its scope of works and not include synthetic turf it could make an application to the Department to vary its funding agreement. The Department has not received an application from Council to vary its agreement in relation to this issue.”

Why Is the Issue Back on the Agenda?

The community is in favour of upgrading the oval and the facilities (including Netball Courts).  The issue that has divided the community is whether or not the current turf oval should be replaced with a synthetic turf oval. 

Lane Cove Council officers are recommending Lane Cove Council go ahead with plans to upgrade the Oval by including a synthetic turf oval.

More than 1600 residents expressed their opposition to a synthetic surface via a petition. In addition over 88% of all formal submissions to the Lane Cove Council objected to the proposed masterplan.  Despite these objections, Lane Cove Council voted to go ahead with the redevelopment plans put out for public comment.  The Councillors asking for the recission motion, do not believe these views were taken into account in November 2020.

Why Develop the Bob Campbell Masterplan?

If you read the Lane Cove Council’s explanatory notes, the masterplan was developed to meet the demand for organised sport.

“Council’s Open Space Plan identifies the need to increase the impact and use of open space assets through investment and innovation and by applying good design technique. To ensure that a holistic approach is taken to the site layout at Bob Campbell Oval, Council has drafted a Masterplan demonstrating a range of features which could be included on the site. The primary motivation for improvement works is to address the range of uses on the site, including the high demand from organised sport which is becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy with the grass field.”

This statement varies from the information provided by Lane Cove Council when they submitted an application for funding the works.  Lane Cove Council submitted a funding application based on the need to provide quality green open public spaces to support the development of the St Leonards Crows Nest Precinct.

The application stated:

“There is limited opportunity for new open space areas within the St Leonards and Crows Nest precinct to provide for the large number of new residents expected and no opportunity for additional flat land within the precinct for any new active sports area. The expansion and improved utilisation of the existing recreation open space is the priority. This will ensure that the new community has easy access to high-quality open space nearby for active recreation.

The upgrade to Bob Campbell Oval playing field, amenities and Shared User Path (SUP) connections will address the Premier’s Priority; “to increase proportion of homes in urban areas within 10 mins walk of quality green, open and public spaces by 10% by 2023”.

The local and broader regional community will benefit from the all-weather synthetic field built to modern specifications as it will allow for much greater use of the playing field at Bob Campbell Oval for a range of outdoor sports. More players, more teams and more sports will be able to use the ground for active recreation.

The planned upgrade to the amenities block will incorporate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), baby change facilities and accessible bathrooms. This upgrade in combination with lighting upgrade and synthetic field will attract a broader range of participants. The local Greenwich Sports Club has a large number of junior players and a strong female participation in both juniors and seniors. In 2017, there were 290 junior members in the total membership of 430 football players.”

What did Residents Think of the Upgrade?

The Greenwich Sports Club is in favour of a synthetic oval as it will mean that games will not be cancelled due to the oval being waterlogged and the oval will be of a standard acceptable to their governing body.

The GSC President told ITC the following:

“Naturally the submission describes what the GSC believes will support the best interests of the club today and in the future; whilst respecting the right of individual members to make their own personal determination on the merits of the proposal.

Given the long history that Greenwich Sports Club has in the community, we believe that our members and the wider community will appreciate the critical importance of improving the presentation of BCO if it is being used for organised sport (be that training or competitive play) or alternatively for casual public enjoyment.

As you will note should the Master Plan not be adopted – GSC faces an uncertain future we are a small very much local community focussed club that will be unable to match the facilities of nearby competitor clubs, and consequentially the longer-term viability of the club will be diminished at best or extinguished at worst (perhaps by way of amalgamation).

To read the full Greenwich Sports Club full submission click here – GSC BCO Master Plan Submission.”

The Greenwich Community Association (GCA) is not in favour of a synthetic surface.

The GCA included the following in their submission to Lane Cove Council:

“The entire Bob Campbell Oval site has been used for generations as a public reserve. The playing surface on the site has been shared by community members for active and passive recreation and for use by organised sporting teams on a flexible basis.

Community members have always recognised that sporting teams will use the playing field for organised sport and worked around this in a collaborative manner.

Through this master plan, Lane Cove Council will allow the needs of organised sport to dictate the use of the entire site.”

The GCA submission also stated

“Bob Campbell Oval is located in an environmentally sensitive location that is valued by the community. There is a widespread level of concern around the impacts of the proposed works on the environment – this is clearly articulated in the submissions that have been copied to the GCA.

  • It is on riparian land – this is reflected in Council’s LEP.
  • It is a natural grassed open space.
  • It is located adjacent to bushland.
  • It is adjacent to intertidal zone mudflats and mangroves.
  • It is habitat for a range of fauna, including a number of threatened species.
  • It drains directly onto the intertidal zone.
  • It absorbs heat and carbon dioxide.”

To read the full GCA  submission click here GCA_submission_to_LCC_BCO_final_11120 (1)

The GCA advised its members the following:

“Council’s report recommends that the masterplan be approved and a synthetic surface installed at Bob Campbell Oval. However, this report fails to address many of the significant concerns raised in the community’s submissions.

The GCA calls on Council to defer a decision on Bob Campbell Oval. More time is necessary to allow councillors to get answers to many of the areas of community concern which Council has failed to address, including the long-term environmental implications of a synthetic surface. ”

Mr Doggy ITC enjoying Bob Campbell Oval

Have Your Say

If you would like to submit any agenda items or any council issue you can address the Lane Cove Councillors before the Meeting to held on Monday, 15 March 2021.

To comply with the NSW Government’s directives and in the interests of public health, the meeting will be conducted online.   Members of the public will not be permitted to attend the Council Chambers. Councillors are also not permitted to attend in person and participate in the meeting via video conference.

Council is currently trialling the use of video conferencing for the Public Forum by using the online meeting platform, Zoom.    A link to the video conference, including all Councillors attending the online Council meeting, will be made available by email for community members to participate.

All speakers wishing to participate in the public forum must register by using the online form no later than midnight, 14 March 2021.   A Zoom meeting link will be emailed to the provided email address.

The time limit of three minutes per address still applies so; please make sure your submission meets this criterion. Alternatively, members of the public can still submit their written address via email to [email protected].

Written addresses are to be received by Council no later than midnight, on the day before the meeting. (500 words maximum).  The meetings will continue to be live-streamed. Ordinary Council Meetings will be viewable via the webcasting page on this website.

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