Council report fails child safety test
Council staff are instructing the new Councillors to approve a new 80 place child care centre at the four-lane roundabout on the Central Coast Highway at Old Gosford Road and Okanagan Close, Wamberal.
But Council’s report fails to address the safety risks and ignores key planning and safety management practices that are essential when children would be playing in front of 20,000 vehicles per day!
Even Council’s own planning guidelines say a child care centre should not be opposite an intersection. The picture below shows why.
Are there many incidents of cars and trucks crashing into child care centres?
Every few months there is another news report showing clear evidence as to why governments around the world are banning child care centres at intersections and on highways.
Below are just some of the recently reported cases of serious crashes at child care centres.
- April 6, 2017 Truck smashes into child care centre –
- And on August 11, 2015 Car crashes into child care centre
- And on January 12, 2016 Miracle escape as car crashes into child care centre
- And on July 20, 2017 Children and staff left “shaken up” after car crashes into Preschool
- And on December 16, 2003 Car smashes into child care centre
- And on 21 February, 2016 Man dies after crashing into child care centre
- And on October 26, 2011 Lucky escape as car crashes into child care centre
- And on June 12 2017 Channel Nine NRL commentator investigated over car crash
- And on May 2014 Little Zahlia slides away from trauma of car crash
- And on February 3, 2012 Several injured after car crashes at Mansfield Primary school
- And on February 9, 2017 Car ploughs through childcare centre in Macquarie Park
- And on November 7, 2017‘Scene of carnage’: Two children killed after car crashes into classroom
When will councils and governments act to stop the carnage?
Will the new Councillors vote to defend child safety?
Should a child care centre be opposite an intersection?
Council’s own guidelines are clear that a child care centre should not be located opposite an intersection.
Part 22.214.171.124 of the Gosford Development Control Plan 2013 states clearly that Child Care Centres:
…..should not be located in a cul-de-sac, opposite an intersection or on any other road where additional vehicles may create traffic conflict or adverse impact on the amenity of the area.
Why is Council ignoring this key safety and planning requirement?
Where will the children play?
Out the front. Facing the traffic. At an intersection with a state highway.
Will there be a miracle at Wamberal, or a tragedy?
Should child care centres be built at high risk locations?
Not according to Judge Tim Moore of the NSW Land and Environment Court when he took on the vested interests of Scott’s College in Sydney who wanted to develop a child care centre regardless of the risks to child safety
In the famous 2014 case, Judge Moore stated:
“I am satisfied that refusing the application is a proportionate response in taking a preventative approach… if a pedestrian (particularly a child pedestrian) is hit by a car as a consequence of the dangerous and risky behaviours earlier discussed, the outcome is potentially devastating injury or even death;”
What happens in other states?
They are stopping child care centres from being built at dangerous locations.
In Western Australia, child care centres must not be located where access is from a major road or in close proximity to a major intersection.
In the ACT, child care centres must be separated from safety hazards such as busy roads.
Even the NSW Government recommends that child care centres be separated from major roads.
The risks from locating these large child care centres on state highways and major intersections is increasingly being recognised by responsible planning authorities. Why is Central Coast Council going against best practice?
What do other Councils do?
Responsible Councils are refusing to place child care centres opposite intersections.
Manly Council’s manager of youth and children’s services Sue Verhoek said it was better to be safe than sorry when protecting children.
“We don’t want the worst to happen. We have been through that experience and perhaps that’s why we are more cautious,” she said.
The Roundhouse Child Care Centre where Sophie Delizio and Molly Wood were critically injured is now ringed by a crash barrier to protect the children.
Manly Council have recently installed concrete barriers outside another preschool centre.
A Manly Council spokesman said: “Irrespective of the location of a childcare centre, the incident at the Roundhouse demonstrates that even along a quiet street where that was located, a rare but tragic and catastrophic accident can still occur.
“Therefore, all childcare centres should take appropriate advice and caution when designing crash protection measures along its boundaries with a public road.”
What would motivate Council to place these children in obvious danger?
What about other child care centre owners?
The Australian Childcare Alliance has been pro-actively lobbying for concrete bollards to be placed outside existing centres and for new ones not to be built on main roads.
Just for Kids at Epping is on a main road. The centre’s Director Melinda Hogan called for similar safeguards in her area.
“Thankfully, we haven’t had anything happen here, but accidents can happen and all it would take is a kid to slip out the gate and run onto the road,” she said.
What do children advocates say?
Children’s rights advocate, academic and lawyer from the University of Western Sydney, Lynda Holden said councils have a duty of care to these children when deciding where to put these centres.
“We put bollards outside shopping centres to protect them from robberies yet we do nothing to protect children at day care centres where they are sometimes left from 6am to 6pm,” Ms Holden said.
“They don’t look after the safety of the children. It’s a big issue and we are going to have more Sophie Delezio’s. She deserves more than that.”
Has there been a risk assessment to protect children?
Incredulously, Council has not conducted a risk assessment.
Do you think it is right that Council approve a child care centre on a major state highway without any risk assessment?
So how can Councillors have any confidence in the report when Councils planning department fails the most basic of tests?
But should child care centres have risk assessments?
And the Chief Reporter for Daily Telegraph, Janet Fife-Yeomans, the Australian Child Care Alliance, Child care centre owners and child rights lawyers have been pushing to force Councils to make safety a mandatory consideration.
Read Janet’s great article outlining the key issues.
Is there a recognised standard for managing risks?
There is an enforceable Code of Practice for Managing Risks.
On page 13, this code mandates that you must eliminate a hazard wherever possible.
Yet the most effective way of eliminating the risk has not even be considered by Council: that is to simply not put a child care centre at this dangerous location especially when the children’s playground will directly face the intersection of a major state highway.
Could there be some other way to prevent catastrophic accidents
An inferior solution may be to isolate the children from the hazard by the use of concrete barriers and guard rails.
What safety measures is Council relying on?
Council are relying on safe driver behaviour to protect these children playing only metres from a state highway with only a thin fence to protect them from an out of control car or truck.
As demonstrated in numerous incidents, this is not even remotely effective: in fact it is negligent.
Is it possible to substitute the hazard with something safer?
In this case it is possible to approve a wide range of alternative and profitable developments at this location.
Is there a law to prevent a child care centre operating at a roundabout?
The Gosford Local Environment Plan states that child care centres should not be located opposite and intersection.
The Gosford Development Control Plan 2013, section 3.9 Child care centres states that:
Council are ignoring their rules. Why?
Is the roundabout safe?
The roundabout does not meet the AustRoads design standards. The Guide to Traffic Management (2007, p10) clearly states that local roads (such as Old Gosford Road) “Should connect where practicable, only to sub-arterial roads.
The standards state that there should never be a four –way intersections when a classified State Highway (ie Central Coast Highway) intersects with classified local roads. That is why other local roads are left in and left out only.
The addition of a long day child care centre on this roundabout will unacceptably compound the many intractable safety issues at this location.
Did the RMS really approve this child care centre as claimed by Council?
The RMS only considers traffic flow and driveways impacting the state highway.
It is not the role of the RMS to approve developments.
Is Old Gosford Road a safe place to access a child care centre?
The road is narrow and has two bus stops catering for scores of school children each day.
Local residents can testify to many incidents of young school children narrowly avoiding tragedy at the two bus stops.
The line of sight is so bad that parked cars are frequently side swiped on Old Gosford Road.
Is Old Gosford Road a black spot?
In recognition of the safety hazards arising from having the roundabout at this location, the then RTA funded a Local Area Traffic Management Plan (LATM) in an attempt to mitigate the risks associated from having a state highway connecting to a dangerous and narrow local road.
Importantly, the safety treatments required by the LATM at this location still have not been fully implemented.
Is there a drive in / drive out facility?
Despite this being a mandatory requirement, there is only one single access for all parents and staff – and at a classified blackspot!
Councillors are being hoodwinked into approving this non-compliant development.
Is the driveway compliant with planning laws?
Councils own planning code states that:
Separate entry and exit driveways shall be provided for child care centres which:
i. are located on a collector road, or
ii. cater for ten (10) or more children.
So why is Council recommending approval with only a single driveway?
The development is not compliant and there is no reason why it should be approved.
Council are simply ignoring the safety reasons behind having two separate accesses.
Will motorists have enough distance to react and stop on Old Gosford Road?
At 50 km/h, Council claim it’s OK to have a margin of error of only 500 millimetres for a car or truck to stop before the only entrance the children have into the centre.
But at 52 km/h, that margin has disappeared.
And if just one car is queued up, there is absolutely no time to stop, and that car queuing will have either have a baby or very young child on board.
And just when you though it couldn’t get worse, Council surveyors were on Old Gosford Road this week to modify a nearby speed hump to reduce the need for cars and trucks to slow down!
The margin of error is only 500mm; about the width of straw hat.
Did Council consider the Local Area Traffic Management Plan?
There are at two Local Area Traffic Management Plans that included data for Old Gosford Road.
Both studies raise serious safety issues relating to traffic on Old Gosford Traffic given the existing high traffic volumes.
Council has completely ignored these major traffic planning documents.
Have the safety measures in the LATM been implemented?
Council has still not completed the safety measures at this spot on Old Gosford Road that were recommended back in 2011.
Is there a shortage of child care?
There are a 14 childcare centres within a five km of this site and another about to open in Serpentine Road.
Oversupply in this area is a major planning issue according to the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) NSW the peak body for privately-owned early childhood education and care services in New South Wales.
But Council ‘planners’ claim they don’t need to consider economic planning in their assessments! And they are called ‘planners’ because…!
Why so long?
So just 12 days before Christmas, Council staff finally release their report buried in a 500+ page business paper. And after nearly nine months, the report still fails to address the many safety risks for 80 babies and very young children when they play in front of a notorious roundabout carrying over 20,000 cars and trucks each day.
They then give the Councillors three working days to find the report (remember it’s buried in a 500 + page business paper), read the report, assess the issues, arrive at a considered position and vote on it.
Now Council is putting this to a vote just 7 days before Christmas hoping to get it rubber stamped without any scrutiny by the public, the media or the Councillors, a practice known as “taking out the garbage” – a practice perfected by convicted corrupt politicians like Ian MacDonald and Eddie Obeid.
And avoiding scrutiny is why Council continually refused to publish the 96 objections they received back in April. And FYI, Council did not receive one submission in support of the development!
So do Councillors have a choice?
The report is riddled with contradictions, false arguments, omissions and weasel words. Council claim the development is mostly compliant with a limited number of planning controls. But a development can ever be mostly safe: the term is a contradiction. It is either safe or it is not.
Would you ever want to fly in a passenger jet that is ‘mostly compliant’ with safety standards? Then why expect children to accept a lower safety standard than everyone else?
Councillors have a clear choice to either:
- collude with Council and vote with unquestioning acquiescence to the proposal regardless of consequences, or
- vote on behalf of the whole community and defend the safety of children.
This will be the ultimate test for the new Councillors.
What does it say if Councillors vote no?
It tells the Council bureaucrats that the new Councillors are prepared to stand-up and commit to reforming Council’s internal behaviour and culture.
It tells the Council bureaucrats that it is completely unacceptable to be given three working days to find the report (remember it’s buried in a 500 + page business paper), read the report, assess the issues, arrive at a considered position and vote on it.
It tells the Council bureaucrats that it is completely unacceptable for any Councillor to be treated so disrespectfully. No State or Federal politician would ever be given three days to wade through the details of a 500+ page report and approve everything without question.
It tells the Council bureaucrats that the new Councillors are no longer going to tolerate financial mismanagement that has left ratepayers with a 1.4 billion dollar black hole.
It tells the Council bureaucrats that the new Councillors will no longer tolerate the constant referrals of Council actions to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
It tells the Council bureaucrats that the old Councils have gone into the dustbin of history and the new Council will be held to a much higher standard than ever before.
If the new Councillors vote no, then the whole Central Coast community will be able to clearly see that they voted in a new Council, a Council that can be considered trustworthy, impartial and accountable capable of making sound, evidence-based decisions that reflect common community values without bias or favour.
Categories: Child care centre