The article published in the Yass Valley Times on 14 Feb 2021 was titled “No Solar without Bypass”; a heading designed in true media style to be controversial.

Alistair Henchman on left with Sutton & District Community Assoc. President Mark Burgess

But this issue is not about the proposed solar farm, or indeed any individual development. It is about the incremental changes which have led to a vast increase in traffic, and in particular heavy vehicle traffic, through Sutton Village. Our Community Association now lists the bypass as the number one issue for the Village. Council has failed to progress this issue or make any move toward addressing the real needs of the village community.

In the YVT article Council says there is already a contributions plan. We are aware that Council adopted a Shire-wide Development Contributions Plan in 2019. This plan lists projects to a total value of just over $12m.

Relevantly, this contributions plan does not include the Sutton bypass.

Also this plan does not capture subdivisions where the value of “works” associated with the subdivision is less than $100,000 – which would be most small scale subdivisions. I recall in recent years Council reduced the lot size requirements for rural lands meaning many more dwelling entitlements were created. These subdivisions are traffic generating developments with the potential to increase traffic through Sutton Village.

Council also has a Heavy Haulage Contributions Plan however this does not appear to relate to incremental traffic generating developments.

The length of a bypass around Sutton would be approximately 1.6 kms. A road like the Sutton bypass would cost around $5m per kilometre. In addition there would be a bridge over Mclaughlin’s Creek and intersections and realignments of the north and south access roads into the village, as well as land acquisition costs.

Clearly it would be unfair on the other residents of Yass Council to include a project of this scale in the Shire-wide development contributions plan. Neither would it be fair on people undertaking developments elsewhere which do not contribute to the traffic issues in Sutton.

For these reasons a separate specific development contributions plan should be prepared for the Sutton bypass and this should apply to any traffic generating development which would generate traffic through Sutton to access Canberra or Queanbeyan.

At least this would capture the additional developments approved after the date this special contribution plan was adopted. We have already missed several significant traffic generating developments relevant to the issue – these include the subdivisions north and south of Gundaroo amongst others.

Naturally “existing” traffic won’t be captured by this plan, and that proportion of the traffic will need to be funded as for other existing traffic impacts – by State and Federal road programs.

With regard to the comments about the development contribution process applying to State significant developments and Council’s policy on Community Enhancement Funds, we note that this policy specifically (at clause 4.4) excludes “road works relating to the direct impact of the proposed development”.

If indeed, despite Council’s policy, a voluntary planning agreement with the developer could include a contribution to the bypass – how will Council determine what this should be?

Council has not yet identified the Sutton bypass as a project in its operational planning, despite adopting the Sutton Master Plan in 2017.

Preparation of preliminary plans for the bypass is required so Council can:

  • Identify the route required for the bypass
  • Commence processes to secure the route for the bypass
  • Develop a cost estimate for the project
  • Determine a reasonable contribution rate for new traffic generating development
  • Identify the need for the project in future budget and funding submissions to State and Federal governments.

A Sutton district resident and retired senior Police officer recently noted “it’s only good luck that we haven’t had something serious happen and if (hopefully not when) it does, it will change the village atmosphere for years, more particularly if it’s a local.”

There are real concerns about traffic issues in Sutton Village; Council needs to work with the community to address these.

We all recognise that delivering a project of the scale of the required bypass will take many years to realise. We need to start working toward this goal now.

Alistair Henchman

Sutton resident and grandparent