THERE is a battle brewing in Sydney as a well-known peninsula faces a new identity.
For decades the northern beaches has been insular and quite distinct from the rest of Sydney.
Surrounded by water on three sides there are just three roads on and off of the northern beaches.
But new connections are being made. On the one hand developers are excited at new opportunities on the 25,669ha peninsula on the other hand some longterm residents are worried at what might happen to their iconic region.
Northern beaches from the air2:11
Fly over the northern beaches with Sydney Seaplanes
The current brawl is over boarding houses popping up in the suburbs overriding local government planning controls. One boarding house has 103 rooms and residents are in protest.
Another fight is over large childcare centres being built in low-density suburbs and public schools expanding into bushland.
And last year residents were up in arms over plans for hundreds of retirement units in Terrey Hills.
It was that skirmish that prompoted the former Prime Minister and local MP Tony Abbott to comment that the northern beaches was full up and its people fed up. He called for a halt to more development until better infrastructure was introduced.
A raft of catch-up connections better linking the peninsula to the city are being made and more have been announced.
The B-Line bus service with turn up and go buses connecting the city to Mona Vale via the beaches was introduced in November. A new hospital is coming out of the ground in Frenchs Forest. Mona Vale Rd, one of the three roads off the peninsula, is being upgraded and widened.
And of course the big game changer was last year’s news that the northern beaches may get a Beaches Link tunnel connecting the peninsula to the rest of Sydney in a new and significent way.
Meanwhile the tallest residential tower block on the northern beaches is being built in Dee Why, a new town centre is planned for Frenchs Forest and 3500 new homes are earmarked for a land release in Ingleside.
Each week the local paper, The Manly Daily, is full of letters from readers worried about the changing face of their peninsula.
Northern Beaches councillor and former MP Alex McTaggart said the northern beaches is a special area that shouldn’t be heavily developed.
“Our topography prevents a lot of high rise,” he said.
“With our national parks and Manly Dam and wildlife corridors we could be the green space and lungs for Sydney,” he said.
But too much development and the loss of trees and wildlife habitat and open space will forever change what makes the beaches special, he said.
“They will ruin paradise for no good reason,” he warned.
Mr Peter Wheen who is fighting the prolifieration of boarding houses on the beaches said State planning laws were rezoning by stealth pockets of the beaches and there needed to be careful consideration of the peninsula before it was overdeveloped and unrecognisable.
“We are at a crossroads,” he added.
“We are the custodians of the future. Once the area is lost to random development and overdevelopment it is lost forever,” he said.
The Property Council of NSW said all of Sydney is growing and everyone needs to be positively engaged.
“There is no option to raise the drawbridge to our city, nor should we want to; we must all engage with growth and our changing city from a positive standpoint,” said executive director of the Property Council, Jane Fitzgerald.
Ms Fitzgerald added that Sydney currently has 52 people per hectare around half as densely populated as London at 97 people per hectare and less dense than cities like Vancouver at 71 people per hectare.
The Northern Beaches has a population of 266,344 people and a ratio of 10.38 people per hectare.
In 18 months time the Northern Beaches Council will hand down its Local Environmental Plans for the peninsula showing detailed planning guidelines for the future.
Maybe that will be when battlelines get redrawn.