Construction Update(October 2019)
Our masterplan has been submitted to the NSW State Planning Department as a ‘State Significant Development Application’. We expect this to be approved in the first half of 2020. This will allow us to build our first semi-permanent buildings to start the Gurdwara facility and school classes in 2021.
After the completion of the first building, other formalities of NESA (The NSW Education Standards Authority is the state government education board in New South Wales, Australia) must be completed before the school can start functioning. This will include recruitment of staff, finalising school policies, ensuring a safe environment for the children, etc. enabling the NSW Minister of Education to sign off on the school. This will allow the official beginning of the school from the following academic year. We will make our best possible efforts to achieve these objectives. If there are any unforeseen delays encountered, the school may start in 2022.
On 1st August 2017 NSW Department of Planning issued a new SEPP (State Environment Planning Policy) for educational establishments, where they took over the powers of all local councils to approve any new schools. Our previous DA with the council could not proceed to receive a construction certificate as per the advice received from the consultants. We implemented a competitive engagement process where six prominent master planning companies were invited to quote for our project. All these companies had substantial previous experience in getting new schools approved and built. We engaged and signed new contracts with PMDL Master Planning Architects and Willow Tree Town Planners. We also have a range of other consultants including structural engineers, hydraulic engineers, traffic consultants, acoustics, landscaping, electrical and air conditioning, sewer and stormwater to name a few.
Collectively they have prepared a State Significant Development Application (SSDA) to follow the mandatory process under the SEPP. The first step in this process is to submit a SEARs (Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements) request where NSW department of planning would consider the project and if accepted, they would provide detailed requirements to submit for it to be approved. We received the SEARs on 5th August 2018 and have now submitted the full masterplan for approval. This process can take 6-12 months to receive approval. After getting the SSDA approved we will need construction certificate that can take about 3 months before the civil works and construction can start.
For your info, this is how the process works:
When we add up all those time periods it appears that if there are no inordinate delays or unexpected outcomes we should be able to start school and Gurdwara operations in 2021. Please note that these are government processes and all those consultants’ reports are mandatory where we do not have any discretion. We would like to start the operations sooner if we could.
It has taken us this long to bring this project close to fruition as we encountered some administrative, bureaucratic and legalistic challenges in getting our plans approved by the authorities. We are now past these issues and have managed to gather a thoroughly professional team of experts to take the project to the heights it deserves. PMDL, an architectural company with experience in designing and getting approved nearly one hundred schools in Australia and our Town Planners Willow tree Planning with similar experience have now completed their job. We have also hired a team of two educationists who are pioneers in starting new schools here and were founding Principles for many schools in NSW. We have signed long-term contracts with them for setting up, designing, recruiting and running our school.