Families told homes will be razed to make way for car park

Nine Sydney families will lose their homes to make way for a car park, as the state government and the local council argue over why communication broke down over the project.

The nine houses are on a block behind the Jannali train station in the Sutherland Shire, which the government said is the only viable option for a space where enough commuters can park their cars.

Transport for NSW officials knocked on doors last week to inform the families their homes will be compulsorily acquired and demolished.

Among the people who live there are a widow with two kids and a young man with cerebral palsy.

“We were on holiday and had housesitters looking after our pets. They answered a doorknock on Thursday morning and were advised the house would be acquisitioned,” resident Liam Mulhall, 70, said.

“We were devastated, extremely disappointed and shocked.”

Ishpal Singh, who lives on the block in a specially modified home to accommodate his needs, also said the doorknock was shocking.

“I am living with cerebral palsy, walk around with a walking frame,” he said.

“After a long struggle, my parents finally secured this place and have done modifications to suit my needs so that I can live independently and access the transport and other amenities and have some independence.

“My ability to access the community will be adversely impacted if I have to move.”

A document posted to Transport’s website said the project was in an early planning stage.

But Sutherland Shire Council Mayor Steve Simpson said the residents had been given the impression the acquisition of their homes was a “done deal”.

“It wasn’t a friendly call asking ‘Would you like to sell your home’, it was a notification of compulsory acquisition,” Mr Simpson said.

“Personally I feel this is an abhorrent act. I’m willing and the council is willing to work with the state government to endeavour to find a better spot in the same location.”

Residents have mobilised in opposition to the project, calling a meeting on Saturday where about 50 residents attended.

Mr Simpson told the meeting the government’s decision was a “bastard act”, according to local paper The Leader.

But on Wednesday, Transport Minister Andrew Constance hit back, accusing Mr Simpson of “playing politics” with the issue and saying the council was well aware of the plans.

He pointed to a letter sent to Mr Simpson’s predecessor, sent in September last year, where the minister wrote: “We cannot wait any longer to start delivering this project … I am determined to see shovels in the ground as soon as possible.”

“The NSW government will therefore be proceeding to deliver up to 200 additional commuter parking spaces at Jannali Station on its own and will not be exploring integrated delivery opportunities with the council,” the letter continued.

Speaking to reporters at parliament on Wednesday, Mr Constance said: “There has been six months and no response.”

“If the mayor has another solution, then put it out there.”

He said the process to identify a site began 18 months ago.

Mr Simpson responded he hadn’t seen the letter and said he wasn’t aware of the plans to raze the block of houses until after the residents were told.

“The very first we knew of their intention to do a commuter park at Mary Street in Jannali was last Thursday at about 8.45am.”

The local member, Liberal Eleni Petinos, who is also parliamentary secretary for transport, said the government had been “open and transparent” with the community.

“I will continue to work with my community and ensure my community’s needs are met in this process.”

Speaking about the homeowners, Mr Constance said it is “extremely unfortunate” they would have to leave their homes.

“I couldn’t think of anything worse than have somebody knock on your door and saying ‘we need to take your home’ but this is the challenge when building this type of infrastructure,” he said.

Mr Mulhall, who has lived on the block for 20 years, said he and his wife had recently spent around $100,000 to renovate their house to make it suitable to live in when they grow older.

“We’ve thought carefully of this – we want to spend as long as possible living independently and this home ticks all the boxes in that regard,” he said.

“We have no idea how much money will be offered, but I don’t think there will be any houses for sale that we can afford that have a sheltered backyard, facing north, close to shops, restaurants, pharmacies and the station.

“We’re devastated – my wife is taking it very hard. She’s hardly slept since she heard about this.”

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