Council purchased 36 hectares of land in Westleigh from Sydney Water. Located along the eastern side of Quarter Sessions Rd, the land had been earmarked by Sydney Water for housing, however Council’s plans were to provide for a range of recreational facilities and for the conservation of bushland. Currently about a third of the land is cleared, and this is surrounded by bushland which covers the remaining two thirds. The site is bounded to the north by Dog Pound Creek bushland (BioBanking site), to the east by Waitara Creek bushland and to the west by Berowra Valley National Park.
By July 2017
MTBers had already built about 5km of tracks in the bushland and were advertising H2O as ‘ Sydney’s best kept secret’.
Hornsby Shire Council is allocated $90M by the State Government as part compensation for the failed merger with Ku-ring-gai Council and the loss of $10M revenue through losing Epping to City of Parramatta Council. Westleigh Park is allocated $40M and Hornsby Quarry development is allocated $50M.
Matt Kean announces $3.5M upgrade to link from Hornsby MTB track to Westleigh MTB illegal tracks.
Source: Matt Kean
External Ecological Consultants Review Council Reports. They note that the 34-hectare site is comprised of areas of cleared land and 23 hectares of bushland, which is the focus of the review. A site familiarisation inspection of the site and MTB trails was undertaken on 4 September 2019 with council Natural Resources staff. The Vegetation mapping of the former Sydney Water site 62 Quarter Sessions Road, Westleigh, prepared by Hornsby Shire Council’s Natural Resources Branch in October 2016 was reviewed. Overall, the report documents a well carried-out and robust survey that identifies a very high diversity of species present (244) in the bushland part of the Westleigh site including five vegetation communities, two threatened ecological communities, 4 species of threatened flora, 11 species of native orchids and 50 species of birds observed on the site. The report notes the conservation significance of the flora and fauna and discusses the loss of structural and species diversity from too frequent fire in the southern area.
The report identifies encroachments of private gardens and weeds in the eastern side of the site. It highlights the major impacts on vegetation from 9 km of mountain bike trails throughout the forest impacting on threatened species, EEC’s, and the adjoining Biobanking sites. It documents low level of weed in the bushland with weeds occurring in drainage lines and disturbed sites, noting the presence of threatened species on trail edges and weed spread by trail users and through garden encroachments. The report discusses future management and makes recommendations.
Immediate recommended actions to protect all vegetation, threatened species and/or CEECs
The existing trail network has been constructed without environment assessment and without collaboration with landowners. No education program has been provided to mountain bike community regarding the impact of their activities on ecological values (and human health through asbestos movement) The length, width and construction activity of trails has noticeably increased since acquisition of the land by Council. As a result, soil erosion, soil and seed translocation and vegetation damage has also noticeably increased. These key issues threaten the integrity of the native vegetation to a point that some areas are currently at risk of approaching an ecological threshold.
Source: Westleigh Natural Area Assessment by EcoLogical
HSC produced their draft master plan.
Elton Consulting ran a community engagement.
The draft master plan was exhibited for a total of eight weeks from 21 April to 16 June 2021. During this time, we received 293 written submissions, held six stakeholder meetings which were attended by approximately 69 people and engaged with 785 people at three swing bys. There were also two surveys prepared as part of the community consultation. A total of 1,878 responses were received from Elton’s opt-in, online survey and a representative, two stage phone/online survey by Micromex was completed by over 300 participants.
The main themes that emerged through the various channels during the engagement period included:
• mountain bike trails
• bushland biodiversity
• sports platforms
• traffic concerns and impacts
• link between Hornsby and Westleigh Parks
• community facilities
• indigenous history.
Source: Elton Consulting Report
14 July 2021
Following community engagement, the draft master plan was presented to a General Meeting on 14 July 2021. Councillors resolved to defer adopting the master plan to allow more time for staff to consult with the stakeholder groups to find solutions to the issues raised in the business paper.
From Business Papers
1. Note the contents of Deputy General Manager’s Report No. IM9/21.
2. Defer the further consideration of the Westleigh Park Master Plan and note that Council officers will continue to engage with stakeholder groups to identify solutions to the matters raised in the business paper.
Captivate Consulting Ran the Community Engagement
Between February and June 2022 Hornsby Shire Council deployed a targeted Community Engagement Plan to better understand the perspectives of stakeholders with an interest in the current and future use of the bushland at Westleigh Park. The primary objective of the engagement was to attempt to reach a consensus between the two stakeholder groups on a formalised mountain bike trail network at Westleigh Park.
Four stakeholder workshops were held across March. The workshops each had similar structure, however they were advertised targeted towards the two stakeholder groups being the mountain biking community and local environment interest groups.
A live webinar was delivered on Zoom and uploaded to the project website. The webinar had the purpose of providing detailed information about the project.
Three co-design workshops were held in June 2022.
Ultimately, the co-design participants did not come to a consensus regarding the trail design.
The $50K Outcomes Engagement Report was released and rejected by all non-MTB participants.
Community and Environmental groups create Save Westleigh Park alliance.
Council votes to put the draft Master Plan and Plan of Management on public exhibition.
14 June 2023 Council voted 7 (6 libs + 1 Labor) to 3 (Greens) to approve the Master Plan and Plan of Management.
On Wednesday 13th September 2023 the Hornsby Shire Council voted 8 (6 Libs + 1 Labor + 1 Green) to approve the lodgement of the DA by the end of the year.