The ACT Land Development Agency prepared a letter for Telopea Park School's principal to explain to the wider school community the transfer of a parcel of school playing fields for a land swap to help the Canberra Services Club.
The LDA and Education and Training Directorate instructed principal Kerrie Blain not to tell the school's board or parents and citizens about the deal until the Government had prepared a communication strategy.
In February parents found out and were stunned and angry, according to P and C president Paul Haesler. The depth of that feeling will be assessed next week when an action group will be formed within the school community to fight the plan.
The school community is the second one to speak out on the land swap, after Manuka Occasional Childcare Association revealed its opposition in the Sunday Canberra Times.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr told the ACT Legislative Assembly earlier this month not everyone was 100 per cent satisfied with the land swap, which proposes re-locating the Canberra Services Club from where its club house burned down three years ago near Manuka Oval to Manuka Occasional Childcare Centre in Flinders Way, Griffith.
The childcare centre would then move to the Montgomery playing fields, across the road from the school. Mr Barr said the swap would create better childcare, and better sporting facilities for the school. But parents, the Inner South Community Council and Kingston Barton Residents Group are surprised by the lack of consultation.
"We were informed the ACT Government does not consult with schools or the community when it comes to decisions about the distribution and allocation of community resources," Mr Haesler wrote in a letter to the ACT Government.
Kingston Barton Residents Group president Rebecca Scouller said despite assurances from Planning Minister Mick Gentleman last November consultation would be held before any redevelopment, rumours persisted a hotel would be built on the services club sight. [Mr Barr said last month redevelopment of the services site would include a hotel.]
"We want it to remain community land, whether it is another oval or some facility for the community, we want it to stay community land and not be privatised," Ms Scouller said. A hotel could compromise heritage values within the fire station precinct across the road, and add to traffic congestion.
"Manuka Circle is crazy as a drop-off point for kids and NSW Crescent is a nightmare during school drop-off and pick-up and that part of Manuka Circle gets closed off for the big games. So I don't know how they are going to facilitate parents coming in and out at all times of the day for an occasional day care centre. They can't even manage to give residents access to that strip in Fitzroy Street," Ms Scouller said.
"[The Government] relax all the parking rules around Kingston and Barton, they don't issue fines, if it is two hours you can park there all day [for major sports events]. Traders lose business and Manuka Pool gets affected. They just say, 'it's a big game and you guys should appreciate the fact we are bringing money into Canberra, suck it up,' which is fine to a point," Ms Scouller said.
Inner South Community Council president Gary Kent said the Government's consultation for flats redevelopment at Narrabundah, Red Hill and Griffith was exemplary, in contrast with the mysterious land swap and hotel proposals.
A spokesman for Mr Barr said consultation over the Manuka oval masterplan began in 2009. More consultation would follow each stage of the Telopea Park School sporting facilities, childcare and Services Club developments, including during a planning variation.
The Education and Training Directorate had engaged a consultant to work with Telopea Park School on replacement of sporting facilities within the main school site. This was made possible by $800,000 from the Government.