Council demands to see ACU records

Strathfield Council, which received a silent reply from the Australian Catholic University, is now demanding access to the university’s records.

 

The Australian Catholic University was given until last Tuesday, 10 April, to respond to Council’s request to cease and desist any use of the site that is in breach of the consent provided, in regards to student numbers.

 

Facing an uncooperative university, Strathfield Mayor, Councillor Paul Barron said Council has no choice but to push the matter forward.

 

“We are very disappointed with the non-response from the university. We demand transparency and access to the university’s records, which will once and for all lay the facts out in the open,” he said.

 

“This issue affects the wellbeing of our residents, so it is a serious matter. If the university doesn’t cooperate we’ll take legal action as that would be in the best interest of residents,” he added.

 

Current consent necessitates that ACU enrolments, for the main campus, shall not exceed 1,100 by day or 700 by night, at any one time. It also states that at no one time shall the university permit more than 510 students to be present on the site during the day or more than 247 at night. The Edward Clancy campus’ student numbers are not to exceed a maximum of 240 at any given time.

 

Adding to the existing tension between the university and the local community, on Friday, 6 April, the ACU lodged a DA under crown lands for the development of an underground carpark. This submission comes just as the university’s contested $55 million redevelopment plan, opposed by Council and local residents, awaits a decision from the Planning Assessment Commission.

 

“The university’s development application is very provocative in the current climate,” Councillor Barron said.

 

“The requested increase in car spaces would be vastly insufficient in resolving the issue of our already dangerously over-parked streets,” he added.

 

Strathfield Council has made a submission requesting that the university’s concept plan be rejected on the principles that it would create an unsustainable increase in student numbers and intolerable impact on traffic, parking, the heritage landscape and character of the area.

 

The Planning Assessment Commission has also received 627 submissions and this indicates the level of public concern generated by the university’s concept plan.

Residents opposing the $55 million expansion by the Australian Catholic University claim they are the victims of a cyber-bullying campaign.

One Strathfield resident who did not wish to be named says she has been abused on Facebook. A Facebook page was headlined: “F***** up old lady lives here” and urged students to take down signs protesting against the ACU expansion plans.

Another resident had a protest sign torn down and his house pelted with an egg.

Residents stress they are not against the university, just against the campus’s excessive growth. They plan to hand out flyers to students explaining that their streets were
not designed to handle that volume of traffic.

The escalation of tension between students and residents has led protest leaders to demand the ACU tell its students to respect residents’ rights.

“We are not protesting against the ACU or students. The growth of the campus, however, is impacting our lives,” said residents in a flyer they plan to hand out on campus.

One Facebook group is called “Strathfield residents destroyed our ACU. Not fair residents.” The site has 23 members and the administrator has created a sign saying “Strathfield residents destroyed our ACU.”

A university spokesperson said it had received no complaints about students’ behaviour from Strathfield residents.

“ACU has not had any reports from residents about inappropriate comments on Facebook or any other online forum. The university has always been committed to encouraging students to respect our neighbours.”

The online warfare erupted after a deadline expired this week set by Strathfield Council, which demanded that ACU vice-chancellor Professor Greg Craven substantiate claims that the council sanctioned increases in student numbers.

The council had demanded the ACU produce letters that Craven maintains show that council agreed to increases in student numbers.

Unless the ACU remedies the alleged breaches of consent by next Tuesday allowing 1,100 students by day and 700 by night, the council plans to take  action in the Land and Environment Court.

Said the Mayor, Cr Paul Barron: “We have reached a level of student numbers that is unsustainable for the local community and this needs to stop.

“The wellbeing of our residents is a serious matter and if the university isn’t cooperative on this issue, then taking legal action is the right thing to do for the best interest of our residents,” Barron added.

But Strathfield MP Charles Casuscelli says the council’s pursuit in taking legal action is futile.

“The council are not thinking and the university just don’t get it. They could have provided a whole range of initiatives before they proposed the development to deal with the additional numbers and create some goodwill between students


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