Sydney Grammar is complaining about the impact of the White City construction on students
However, a letter Malpass sent to the Woollahra site manager and local council last month paints a different picture, listing a number of incidents he said were dangerously affecting the school.
Malpass said the school had suffered “worrying and potentially dangerous” levels of dust and air pollution and accused construction company Parkview of a “disgraceful failure” to implement dust mitigation measures.
“It is unacceptable that we, as children and teachers at a neighboring elementary school, are being exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution now and for many months to come,” he said.
Malpass said careless or unsupervised work led to the school’s evacuation in January after a construction worker struck a working gas main outside the school’s main entrance. The incident prompted Parkview to issue an apology and investigation.
Malpass said heavy construction vehicles posed a serious threat to elementary school children, including the risk of one fatality, prompting the school to use staff as traffic cops.
He also expressed concern about the handling of asbestos found at the site, a fire extinguisher that flew off the site and hit adjacent residential buildings, and sparks from industrial cutting work that sprayed onto school grounds.
“Our main concern is that the project will not be carried out with appropriate safe working practices and will not be continuously and seriously monitored to ensure the inevitable risks of a construction site are mitigated,” said Malpass.
Local residents like Kate Purbrick say dust from the White City site blankets nearby streets and blows into their homes, while noise and vibration cause regular disruption.
Purbrick said the roads were dusty and on windy days dirt from the construction site blew onto her and her neighbors’ homes.
“It has had an impact on health,” she said. “It’s hard to explain how devastating it is to live with constant beeping and construction noise while the house shakes.”
Woollahra Councilwoman Harriet Price said residents had also complained about off-hours construction, safety at the site and damage to roads, traffic signs, utility poles, a pedestrian crossing and a brick-built roundabout.
Price said the ongoing impact of construction has left residents feeling abandoned and ignored.
“Impact on construction work is inevitable,” she said. “However, the lack of proactive mitigation measures and respect for the real concerns of local residents is astounding and contradicts the assurances given to the community during the permitting phase.”
Woollahra Council reported in March that it had received more than 40 complaints about the White City’s development since construction began, mainly about dust, noise and working hours.
In most cases, the council found no violations of building permits or environmental laws.
A spokeswoman for the council said two complaints resulted in a time limit warning and a separate $6,000 fine related to work performed outside of approved hours under the development permit.
Founded by members of Sydney’s Jewish community, the Hakoah Club acquired the White City site with the Maccabi Tennis Club in 2010. Its former Bondi premises were bombed in 1982, hours after an attack on the Israeli consulate on William Street left two people injured.
The Hakoah Club spokesman said the club acknowledged construction work involving heavy machinery and vehicles was causing inconvenience to neighbors.
But he said the site will operate under strict noise controls, vibrations will be constantly monitored and any damage to road or traffic signs will be repaired after construction is complete.
A Parkview spokeswoman said she is committed to minimizing the impact of the works on neighbors: “Continuous noise and vibration monitoring is being carried out on site, along with daily safety briefings and site inspections.”
The contractor attempted to schedule any work that might disrupt school operations during school holidays and Saturdays, but she said work was occasionally required outside of authorized hours.
“Controls such as cattle grids, wash points at the site exit and an on-site street sweeper are in place to remove dust, and we are taking other steps, including improved washing facilities, to prevent dust from leaving the site,” she said.