Council is progressing a Master Plan to enhance Fred Caterson Reserve, catering for existing as well as future residents, with the reserve being in close proximity to the State Government's Showground Precinct, which will grow by another 11,000 people in the next 10-15 years and then ultimately, by more than 20,000 people once the precinct is fully developed.
The Draft Master Plan was reported to Council in July 2020 and was placed on public exhibition from 12 August - 11 September 2020 for viewing and comment. The Draft Master Plan was available on Council's Have Your Say page, in local and state publications including the Sydney Morning Herald and at Castle Hill Library, as well as via notifications and meetings with user groups of Fred Caterson Reserve. Council received and considered multiple community submissions as part of that process.
Together with the public exhibition of the Master Plan, Council invited Expressions of Interest (EOI) in August 2020 for the establishment, management and maintenance of a premier rugby union facility. Council subsequently resolved to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Eastwood District Rugby Union Football Club (EDRUFC) to progress the site as a premier rugby union facility. The MOU is non-binding and Council plans to provide the facility for the community even if the ultimate user of the site does not end up being EDRUFC.
The Fred Caterson Reserve Master Plan was adopted by Council on 24 November 2020, with the aim of providing premier sport and recreation infrastructure whilst maintaining the vital ecological communities within and around the reserve.
The Master Plan identifies future embellishments and upgrades including:
- Development of the former Pony Club site into a premier rugby union facility consisting of up to three fields with the main field for high competition level rugby (Shute Shield or equivalent).
- This outcome aligns with the position of identifying a premier site for the main sporting codes within the Shire as set out in Council's Recreation Strategy (adopted by Council in late 2019).
- Expansion of the Tennis Centre from 10 to 14 courts inclusive of a centre court, plus four 'Hot Shot' courts (children's zones), improved clubhouse and spectator facilities.
- Expansion of Field 6 to a full-size football (soccer) field, incorporating the relocation of the car park.
- Improved pathway network and spectator facility upgrades to the radio control car track.
- Improved facilities for the BMX track including car parking, spectator facilities, race stopping area and a new access road to the amenities building.
- Upgraded facilities for Fields 1, 2, 3 and 5 (baseball), including better pathway access, refurbishment of existing buildings, expansion of Field 5 to international standard, new playground, parking and a multi-use activities area.
- Other possible features across the site include a pump track, barbecue and picnic facilities, improved vehicular movement, improved lighting levels to all sports fields and exploration of a synthetic playing field surface.
- Conservation and restoration of the reserve's ecological communities through revegetation and restoration activities, enhancing and highlighting the natural beauty of the site.
Importantly, these outcomes in the Master Plan represent Council's vision for the site on behalf of the community and are ultimately subject to further detailed investigation, design, funding and planning processes before they become reality.
A Premier Rugby Union Facility
As mentioned earlier, one of the upgrades to Fred Caterson Reserve highlighted in the Master Plan is the construction of a Premier Rugby Union Facility, which will be home to EDRUFC. Eastwood Rugby is the pathway to elite rugby for much of North and North Western Sydney, including the majority of The Hills, stretching all the way to Wisemans Ferry through affiliated junior clubs and senior representation. It is important to highlight, that aside from this partnership, Council is committed to ensuring high levels of community access to the facility. Partnering with another stakeholder allows embellishment of the facility to a higher standard for the community than what would otherwise be possible through the funds obtained via the Contributions Plan.
The facility will be developed on the former Pony Club site and is intended to include the provision of three playing fields and associated infrastructure, including lighting, drainage, irrigation, amenities building/s and a car park to a base level standard with rugby union as the intended sport.
The former Pony Club site occupies approximately 6.8ha of the total 58ha Fred Caterson Reserve. It is estimated that approximately 4.2ha of the former Pony Club site is currently cleared, with an anticipated 10% (approx. 0.7ha) to be further cleared to deliver the three playing fields and associated amenities based on the current Concept Plan shown below.
Figure 1: Concept site plan(PDF, 5MB).
Although the Master Plan identifies a much larger footprint for the playing fields upon the former Pony Club site, investigations and studies including ecological assessments and an arboricultural report which are currently being finalised, have informed the current Concept Plan with an emphasis on retaining the majority of the Critically Endangered Ecological Community (CEEC) in the north-east of the site (shaded red), and minimising the disturbance to the Sydney Hinterland Transition Woodland to the south-east of the site (shaded orange in Figure 1).
Based on preliminary advice provided by Council’s arborist and in accordance with the proposed footprint in the image above, it is estimated that only a very small number trees will require removal from the CEEC. Some are already dead, some are of a species not native to the area, and others are identified as having low retention value, while others are identified as likely to become problematic in the future, with an even smaller number being assessed as in good condition.
Of the Sydney Hinterland Transition Woodland, again only a very small number of stand-alone trees have been identified for removal plus an even smaller amount on the edge of patch. The design avoids impact upon most of the patch. The majority of tree removal is from the western end of the site, which are species of lower value and not identified with any endangered or threatened community.
An indicative vegetation footprint of the entire site of the former Pony Club site is shown below in Figure 2, with vegetation to be retained shown in green and the vegetation to be removed shown in red.
Figure 2: Indicative vegetation footprint of the former Pony Club site. Vegetation to be retained is shown in green, whilst vegetation to be removed is shown in red.
The planning and design of the playing fields and associated infrastructure are still currently in progress with the final design to be informed by further studies including site survey, geotechnical assessment, ecology, traffic, noise and heritage assessments. This will ensure that the facility will be designed in accordance with relevant environmental standards.
Works on the Pony Club site, if constructed by Council, will be carried out under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Transport and Infrastructure) 2021 and will be accompanied by Review of Environmental Factors once all preliminary studies and designs are completed. Depending on approval pathways and the final version of the works, further opportunities will be available for comment.
These base-level works will be funded by Council through developer contributions from the neighbouring Showground Precinct (Contributions Plan No. 19(PDF, 2MB)).
Should the EDRUFC propose further works to bring the site to a premier level facility - such as an increase in facility standards to a higher level for items like a clubhouse, Centre of Excellence, sports field lighting, and synthetic field/s - will be funded by EDRUFC and likely subject to a future Development Application (DA). It should be noted that developments such as a hotel or pub are not permissible within the zoning and is not being considered for the project.
Council would need to provide consent for any DA to be lodged for further works and the DA would be required to be determined by the Local Planning Panel and not Council. The community would be notified and provided opportunities to make submissions in response to any proposed DA.
Council and Fred Caterson Reserve user groups are currently pursuing funding for other Master Plan items.
Should you wish to have more information, please contact The Hills Shire Council on 9843 0555.