Local residents protesting the NSW government’s Beaches Link Tunnel.

BALGOWLAH Golf Club, located in the northern suburbs of Sydney, is fighting for its golfing life.

The club’s president Bill Colwell told Inside Golf the state government’s current plan for the Beaches Link Tunnel would inevitably end almost a century of golfing at Balgowlah.

“The state government proposes to use Balgowlah golf course as a construction site during construction of the tunnel and build a link road across the course,” he said.

“These measures will destroy not only Balgowlah Golf Club, its valuable social structure and golf course but the ecological community along Burnt Bridge Creek and over 550 trees with their environmental and habitat value.”

Should the Berejiklian government go ahead with its road and tunnel designed plans, it will be a stake through the heart of not only golfers, but the local community and lovers of green space.

Of course, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) will argue getting commuters from A to B in a shortest amount of time is paramount.

Still, the locals and the golfing community believe the government should take its foot off the accelerator and consider alternative measures to solving road congestion at Balgowlah.

“There are alternative options for tunnel construction and local residents groups, with the golf club, have developed alternative tunnel construction plans for the Balgowlah portal that will have significantly less impact on local residents, the golf course and the environment without significant increase in cost and will deliver substantial savings in social, ecological and environment terms,” Colwell said.

“We believe the link road is ill-conceived, not necessary and poorly designed.

“We, and the local residents, have been up in arms about it and have been trying to explain to the state government the tunnel is being rushed, in our view.

“But leaving that aside even if the tunnel is going to go ahead there are better options at the Balgowlah end dealing with the on/off ramps that don’t require the golf course to be taken.

“Our focus is the golf course and the local residents’ focus is on maintaining open space although a couple of groups are keen for it to remain as a golf course.

“In our opinion, the current planning is flawed and there are other options that the state government and RMS should be considering that would protect and preserve the golf course environment and the golf club’s social fabric.”

Colwell said he was told by a local MP that if the club could deliver a “decent alternative” it would be taken to RMS for consideration.

The alternative proposal will have to explain in detail how it will work and what it will cost.

“Community consultation is open until December 1, but there will still be time after that because it’s going to require environmental impact statements as well,” Colwell added.

According to Colwell, the link road would also endanger Balgowlah Boys’ Campus, which is attended by around 1000 students.

“It would create a major road junction on Sydney Road in front of the school,” he said.

“There is already significant bus and car traffic delivering students to school in peak hour.

“A new junction with traffic lights would cause considerable additional traffic chaos and pose real threats to the safety of the students.”

Colwell said the golf club’s view on the issue was far removed from the perception of elitism.

“Balgowlah Golf Club derives most of its golfing income from the thousands of people who play a casual and social round of golf at the club,” he said.

“And golf really is the game for life.

“The golf club is a vital community asset and its history and contribution should not be sacrificed for an unwanted and unnecessary link road.”

The Northern Beaches Council appears sympathetic to the residents’ plight.

“A councillor has said ‘we need to take the time to plan this correctly’ and ‘if we get it wrong we will be stuck with it for the next 50 years,” Colwell added.

According to Fairfax Media, the Berejiklian government plans to start work on the Beaches Link motor way within two years of the March 2019 election.

About David Newbery

Chief writer David Newbery has been living, breathing and writing and editing golf for more than 30 years. His extensive knowledge of the game comes from covering golf around the world. Hired by Inside Golf in 2009, David previously worked as the editor of The Golfer for 25 years and before that worked for numerous daily newspapers in Australia and overseas. The Brisbane-based journalist describes his golf game as “a work in progress”, but has had the privilege of playing golf with some of the game’s best players including nine-time major winner Gary Player. David enjoys travelling, reading, music, photography and spending time with family and friends – on and off the golf course.


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