West Head Lookout upgrade

National Parks and Wildlife Service is improving visitor safety and access at West Head Lookout in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

West Head Lookout, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, with temporary fence due to upgradesWest Head, in Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park, is a popular destination for visitors. The West Head Lookout is considered one of Sydney's best vantage points, with views across Broken Bay to Barrenjoey Headland, Lion Island and the Central Coast.

The West Head Lookout was built in the mid-1960s. In early 2021, an assessment of the condition by a structural engineer identified structural and safety risks to visitors. Temporary fencing was installed in May 2021 to eliminate this risk to public safety while further assessments and plans were developed. During this time, West Head remains open, and visitors can still access the lookout, views, and surroundings.

What is happening at the West Head Lookout?

Over the past year, we have been preparing new designs to address safety and structural issues and concerns from stakeholders regarding the protection of heritage and aesthetic values of the site.

Landscape architect Bruce Mackenzie designed the original Commodore Heights West Head landscape layout for architects RC Smith and Thompson in 1963. We engaged Mr Mackenzie to prepare a concept that balances visitor safety with preserving the lookout's original design intent and landscape values. Oculus Landscape Architecture and Urban Design have taken the concept to detailed design, while Mr Mackenzie continues to act as an adviser to the project.

In the new design:

  • the retaining wall and lookout are strengthened with new supports under the pavement
  • the risk of serious fall injury is managed by installing a barrier along the entry and exit and below the main viewing area of the lookout
  • the sandstone perimeter wall is being retained as a key design feature.

The new designs are now available, and we welcome feedback until 10 October 2022.

The new designs are available for feedback until 10 October 2022.

Then, subject to the necessary environmental approvals, we intend to invite tenders for construction in the second half of 2022. A construction program will be developed once the contract is awarded.

Stakeholders, visitors and users of the park will be kept informed of this project as it develops. Updates will be available from this project webpage and the project newsletter as they become available. Anyone can sign up to receive the newsletter; please complete the online form below to register.

In accordance with NSW planning legislation, we will carry out a rigorous environmental and heritage assessment of the site with input from relevant specialists. The proposed works align with the overall strategy for the management of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park outlined in the plan of management (2002; amended 2014).

The heritage and character of places in our national parks are a consideration for all projects that require repairs, remediation works or upgrades. This must be balanced with our responsibilities for visitor safety and risk management.

An engineering inspection was completed as part of National Parks and Wildlife Service's Asset Management Program. This inspection revealed concerns about the structural stability of the lookout. Further investigation was undertaken, and advice was provided, which led to the installation of temporary fencing in May 2021. A long-term solution is being developed to remediate the lookout and reduce the risk to visitors.

We must consider potential risks for harm within all national parks in New South Wales, particularly in places that experience high visitation, such as West Head Lookout. The 2 components of this work – strengthening the wall and lookout with below-ground supports and reducing the risk of falls will improve the overall safety of this structure.

The structural improvements that will be delivered as part of this project are essential to avoid the risk of collapse or failure. In addition, fatalities have occurred in national parks due to falls, and we have a responsibility to manage and reduce this risk where possible.

We have sought expert advice to inform and guide this project. This has included:

  • landscape architecture
  • structural engineering
  • geotechnical engineering
  • heritage
  • risk assessment
  • environmental impact
  • Aboriginal heritage
  • Building Code of Australia advice
  • access consultant advice

In planning this project, design options consider the physical and visual impacts on the lookout, including character and views, as well as risk to visitor safety and our responsibilities for managing this risk.

We are committed to retaining the special character and iconic views from West Head whilst ensuring visitors' safety.

Do you have any questions?

If we have missed anything, please send us your question and the project team will provide updates via this webpage.