Penrith Council investigating sewage leakage at historic Fernhill estate ahead of picnic race day

Penrith Council investigating sewage leakage at historic Fernhill estate ahead of picnic race day
Penrith Council investigating sewage leakage at historic Fernhill estate ahead of picnic race day

Penrith councillors are disgruntled they were asked to give approval to the Fernhill Picnic Race Day six weeks after tickets to the gala Mulgoa event were available for sale. 

Its eleventh hour late-October approval comes against the backdrop of internal council concerns over raw sewage leakage at the historic property (pictured below) hosting the event this weekend.

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"Council is currently investigating the onsite sewage managment systems currently operating on the site," Ashlee Cutter, the environmental health officer wrote on October 30.

"Council is continuing to investigate this matter, however it is complex and this investigation may take some time," she wrote following the council's initial two inspections of the onsite sewage management system (ossm) associated with the main house.

The complaint was made to the council on October 21 after a backpacker staying at Fernhill advised their displeasure.

The council records indicate "recent works had been undertaken to the system to ensure that effluent was not being directed into a nearby stormwater drain." The initial complaint alleged the raw sewage was overflowing into a creek that flows into the holding dam which provided reticulated water supply to parts of the property.

"Council has sent correspondence to the owner of Fernhill estate requesting works be undertaken to the ossm system and portable water associated with The Hayshed," the internal council file reveals.

At the recent meeting councillors were presented with the race day meeting development application for the November 9 race day. It required subsequent NSW Heritage section 60 issuance which was granted last week despite concerns that the 8000 anticipated cars would damage the estate's eco-system.fernhill_ad

Tickets ranging from $30 for general admission to over $200 for packages have been on sale since September 10, heavily advertised on Radio 2GB. 

“This puts Council in a really difficult position – if we said no to the event then we would have every shock jock complaining that council has too much power, and if we said yes and something goes wrong, it’s lose-lose,” Cr Jim Aitken told the council meeting. 

“There are have been some developments that have taken place without council’s approval and council has dealt with these matters appropriately, but it is concerning and disappointing that due process was not followed,” he said.

Cr Jackie Greenow said she was disappointed with Fernhill given that the picnic race ticketing system had no limit on the overall number of people. 

“I really feel like I have been put over a barrel,” she said according to a report in the local paper, The Western Weekender

“There are 20,000 tickets for sale... but this does not include children under 14 who do not need a ticket to attend, so we could have every ticketed person turning up with a tribe of children and have no way of knowing how many people are there.”

Concerns about traffic management were raised, although the latest ticket sales advice suggested to date there had been 3000 to 4000 ticket sales.

A majority vote saw permission granted for the event despite Councillors Jackie Greenow, Jim Aitken and Karen McKeown voting against the proposal.

Brenda Tripp, CEO of Fernhill, has said that the event was a "massive coup" - a first for Penrith and for Sydney. 

She said that her family was passionate about opening the doors to the property, which dates back to a 1810 grant to William Cox. 

"We don't want to be the next casualties of Fernhill, we want to open up the gates because we believe we have the vision and energy to ensure it becomes the Fernhill of the future," Brenda Tripp told the local paper.

The estate had been host of the recent Tough Mudda event.

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor

Jonathan Chancellor is one of Australia's most respected property journalists, having been at the top of the game since the early 1980s. Jonathan co-founded the property industry website Property Observer and has written for national and international publications.

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