Backlash in the North Turramurra stands brings sports grants under fire

Spencer said he didn’t believe the new grandstand was in the best interests of local residents and that it exposed council to “significant risks of cost overruns and ongoing maintenance and operational costs”.

He also expressed concern about the cost of the project, which a council adviser had estimated at $7.7 million, compared to the association’s 2022 estimate of $5.5 million.

Northern Suburbs Football Association chief executive Kevin Johnson said spectators at the North Turramurra Recreation Area had been forced to stand or sit on a hilltop exposed to inclement weather.

Northern Suburbs Football Association chief executive Kevin Johnson said spectators at the North Turramurra Recreation Area had been forced to stand or sit on a hilltop exposed to inclement weather.Credit: Janie Barrett

Ku-ring-gai Mayor Jeff Pettett declined to comment ahead of the forthcoming council meeting, but Northern Suburbs Football Association chief executive Kevin Johnson said a small number of residents are challenging funding for the project, to stop it.

Johnson said the federation has been transparent in applying for funding and the Board of Sport’s decision to award the grant reflects their assessment of the grant application.

“We were completely transparent [and] are confident that the funds will go to a modest and much-needed project that will benefit multiple sports and the wider community,” he said.

A spokesman for Sport Minister Stephen Kamper said the Office for Sport has commissioned an independent review of the assessment and approval process for grants awarded to the Northern Suburbs Football Association for the new stand.

“The concerns related to the information provided by the Northern Suburbs Football Association in its grant applications will be considered in the review,” he said.

The Office of Sport has already withdrawn $500,000 in funding from the club for new locker rooms because they were for the same project as the larger $3.6 million grant.

The sports grounds at North Turramurra are the association’s home ground but Johnson said spectators are currently being forced to stand or sit on a hilltop exposed to inclement weather.

“Poor playing experiences and poor facilities are major reasons why young footballers in particular do not continue in the sport,” he said.

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“This is especially true for our growing female player base, whose changing room and toilet facilities are still catching up with the strong growth in the number of female players in recent times.”

Johnson said a planning application for the new grandstand approved last year addressed traffic, parking and noise concerns: “The project will be built on a small hill between the existing parking lot and field number one at NTRA and will require no trees.” “

Johnson said the NSFA intends to pay the construction and running costs of the project in full. In addition, it was agreed not to use a public address system during the games so as not to disturb local residents.

The congestion over the stands follows controversy over the City Council’s push to replace turf with a synthetic playing field as part of a $3.3 million modernization of Norman Griffiths Oval in West Pymble. Upgrades to sports facilities have also sparked controversy in other communities on the north coast.

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Other sports groups use the North Turramurra Recreation Area, but Spencer said the new grandstand will “consolidate the NSFA as the primary user of this site for decades to come, at the expense of all other users.”

Rod Jackson, president of the Ku-ring-gai Netball Association, said the council gave priority to parking cars for football over netball facilities.

“Local taxpayers paid for the development of the [North Turramurra Recreation Area] and it should support all sports,” he said. “We remain deeply concerned about the leasing of a male-dominated sports law and the further deterioration of sports facilities for women.”

Local residents raised concerns about the loss of green space, increased traffic and the risk of bushfires.

Chris Drake, president of the North Turramurra Residents Action Group, said residents were also concerned about the cost of the project.

Other sports groups would not benefit from the new facilities, she said. “No benefit to any other sport including our local football club and local netball association which has the largest registered female sports group and has been promised four netball courts on site.”

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Justin Scaccy

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