The first time residents in Newtown — one of the oldest suburbs in Sydney — heard of a new Westconnex tunnel route under their homes was when a couple of test drill sites were set up in the neighbourhood. They immediately responded with a series of early morning protests at these sites.
Then an article in the November 11 Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Mike Baird Coalition government had decided to bring forward the construction of an eight-lane tunnel to link the M4 and M5 tollways.
Originally, the route of this tunnel took it under the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, with its sensitive equipment (including a nuclear cyclotron). But after public outcry, the route has been shifted about a kilometre to the west.
The proposed new route will go directly under a number of homes and other buildings in Newtown with high heritage and historical significance.
These include several homes built in the 1870s on the site of the village of North Kingston established in 1854. It also goes directly under one of the very first corner shops built in Australia, in Albermarle Street, Newtown.
The route goes through several heritage conservation areas, which have been surveyed over the last few decades by the now forcibly disbanded and amalgamated Marrickville Council.
Local residents have now formed Newtown Residents Against WestConnex, and are planning to continue protest actions at the test drill sites. The group is also planning a large public meeting for residents to ask questions of Westconnex and experts about the possible impacts of the proposed tunnel.
[Visit Newtown Residents Against WestConnex on Facebook.]