The Manly Warringah Sea Eagles will build a new Centre of Excellence and 3,000 seat covered grandstand at the northern end of Brookvale Oval.

A Northern Beaches Council commissioned report recommended the development application be rejected but the Sydney North Planning Panel over-ruled the arguments made by Council’s assessor and approved the development.

Council’s report said that the proposed development did not meet the plan of management for Brookvale Park, and would result in the removal of heritage listed trees at the northern end of the park to accommodate the new building.

Advocating on behalf of the Sea Eagles for the proposal, Mr Chris Dare, Managing Director of sporting facility specialist Stratcorp, pointed out that major upgrades to Brookvale Oval had been contemplated for over 20 years, none of which had come to fruition.

He said, “Over the past 15 years the condition of facilities has steadily fallen and the venue is now one of the worst in the NRL.”

The club have $32.5m in committed funding from the state and federal government. They claim the project is shovel-ready, able to start within 4 — 6 weeks, boosting jobs at a critical time.

Mr Dare made a point of saying the project would be at no cost to the ratepayers of the Northern Beaches, despite Council being responsible for the ground.

Mr Dare also told the planning panel that a Centre of Excellence would significantly improve accessibility and public amenity, with much improved toilets, 3,000 undercover seats at the northern end of the ground, and facilities for female players.

Council’s preferred option was for the Centre of Excellence to occupy the eastern side of the ground. Mr Glenn Scott, a design consultant from Hassell, explained this was not a desirable location as the building would not utilise the space properly and compromise future options at the ground.

Mr Stephen White, from urban planning consultants Urbis, also spoke for the Sea Eagles, explaining to the panel that the loss of the heritage listed trees could be justified. He said there was no clear provenance of the plantings in the 1920s — 1930s or the purpose of the plantings, with multiple removals over the years to accommodate usage of the ground.

Mr White also pointed out that the Sea Eagles themselves were an important part of the heritage of the ground since 1947, “The use of the park as a sporting ground is intrinsically linked to the oval and changes in development have occurred over time. If the club were to leave to seek improved facilities elsewhere, that would represent a greater loss of heritage [than the trees].”

Representatives for the Sea Eagles were clear they expected to replant trees to replace those lost, and they will act to protect trees which are not absolutely needed to be removed. Asked if they could change the shape of the building to save more trees, it was explained that the constraint of the space required for an NRL field meant saving a tree in one place meant one (or two) were impacted somewhere else.

The approval of the development should see the renewal of a long-term commitment by the Sea Eagles to stay at Brookvale Oval. The proposal was supported in public feedback. Mr Dare concluded, “After 20 years of talking, the community wants the club to get on with it.”

Image: Artists impression submitted to the Sydney North Planning Panel