Gros Vale Bridge: Plan to build road through family farm blasted

A family has been left devastated by a decision to build a road straight through their home, despite being surrounded by vacant land.

A hardworking Australian farming family has been left devastated by a decision to run a road straight through their home, despite being surrounded by acres of vacant land.

Marian and Peter Wilcox have supplied Sydney with vegetables from their 15 acre property in North Richmond for more than 22 years.

But, despite all of their handwork, the family has been told their beloved land will be turned into a road to provide access to a new bridge.

The Wilcox family could be forced out of their home by December, following a notice from the NSW government, Hawkesbury Council and a developer that their property would be forcibly acquired as part of the Redbank Communities project.

Speaking to Nine’s A Current Affair, Ms Wilcox said they were completely blindsided by the decision.

“This is our home. We has no idea this was coming,” she said.

Ms Wilcox revealed she first found out about the plan to knock down her home and turn it into a road while at a community meeting with other locals.

“I found out at a community meeting in front of a whole lot of other people,” she said.

“They just put a picture of our property up on the screen and said this is where the road is going to run and that is how I found out. It was very heartless.”

A major part of the Redbank North Richmond project, which is being headed up by developer Redbank Communities, is the construction of a $23.8 million bridge.

A road is needed to connect to the new crossing, but Ms Wilcox has claimed the original plans did not include her family’s property.

“It has been purposefully directed to go through our house. Our property was not going to be touched at all,” she claimed.

“What we have here, it just doesn’t matter to them. Our family does not matter to them, our family home does not matter.”

Documents obtained by the Wilcox family through freedom of information indicated the road was originally meant to go through the property next door.

The property in question is owned by horse breeder and local real estate mogul, John Starr.

A Current Affair claimed the paper trail found evidence that the planned road must instead “avoid the private land housing the horse stud”.

“The road (has to be) designed to avoid the Starr property,” the documents reportedly noted.

The corridor was also reportedly changed from 31 to 21 metres in order for there to be “minimal impact on the Starr property”.

There is no suggestion that Mr Starr had anything to do with the changes, though the Wilcox family are still searching for answers.

The son of Mr and Ms Wilcox, Adam, has been particularly devastated by the decision, having planned the future of his young family around the property.

The 32-year-old told the program that farming is “all I know”.

“There’s vacant land there. Why would you take someone’s house?” an emotional Mr Wilcox pointed out.

“There’s vacant land there. Put(ting) it straight through someone’s house, it just doesn’t make sense.

“I don’t know how much stress they have put on me and my parents. Just for what? Nothing.”

The family have vowed to “fight to the end” to save their beloved home.

A petition started by the family claims the area included in the current plans won’t even allow for a “flood free access route”.

“Yarramundi Bridge is the first bridge in the area to flood. There is also flooding further up Springwood Road which will prevent access both ways in times of flooding,” the petition states.

“It will not be a flood free access route and will not be suitable for use in times of flooding, especially like the ones we have experienced in the last 2 years.”

Mr and Ms Wilcox’s daughter, Kimberly, claimed the way the new bridge has been designed was “appalling”.

“Instead of following the current road where they would only need to take a small proportion of their land my whole parents property is being destroyed,” she wrote on Facebook.

“The way the Hawkesbury council/redbank development have approached this situation is disgusting. Leaving my parents in the dark only to find out they will be taking their whole property by a public community meeting!”

She also repeated the claim that the new bridge won’t be flood proof, saying it would be “out of action” before both Windsor and North Richmond bridges.

“So what’s the damn point in destroying a family’s beloved home?” she wrote.

Hawkesbury City Council Director City Planning, Linda Perrine, told A Current Affair that the design of the Grose River Road bridge was part of joint discussion between Hawkesbury City Council, Transport for NSW and Redbank Communities.

“Redbank Communities was responsible for the detailed designs and associated studies submitted to Council for planning approval,” she said.

“The original route for the proposed bridge was through the nearby Navua Reserve. In February 2020, Council considered a report and confirmed its in-principle support for the current route alignment based on the facts that it:

a) Does not involve any loss of public open space;

b) Provides greater flood immunity, above 1:100 flood level;

c) Minimises impact on heritage and biodiversity;

d) Affects only three private property owners;

e) Complements a suite of other roadworks upgrades also required to be delivered in the same Voluntary Planning Agreement

f) Assists in addressing current traffic levels/congestion”.

Ms Perrine said the current design of the road corridor complies with the National Road Standards, which has “dictated much of the proposed road alignment, rather than an intent (to) avoid any one particular property”.

“The final preferred route has only been determined in recent months and hence affected property owners have been contacted,” she said.

“The application seeking approval of the proposed bridge has been the subject of extensive community engagement, and remains under assessment by an independent planning consultant at this time.”

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