Labor councillor Paula Masselos has criticised the Waverley Liberals about plans for western Oxford Street in Bondi Junction, alleging a lack of transparency in the negotiation process.
The precinct is the focus of an extensive neighbourhood re-development project with proposed changes to the current zoning and development controls in the Local Environment Plan (LEP), in response to extensive development applications in the area.
“We have to make sure the residents are involved in all parts of the process,” Ms Masselos told the Bondi View.
“The precinct includes part of the Mill Hill conservation – the heritage area and whatever happens, it’s got to be very sensitive to that. It’s got to be something that the residents are happy with, I want it to be open and transparent.”
Waverley Mayor Sally Betts said a community engagement strategy was included at the start of the process, with council set to hold a stakeholder and resident workshop together with a community consultation on any draft concept plan regarding the precinct.
“What we want is for the community to be involved from the very beginning,” she said.
“Councils have always been quite reactive in the past. We are trying to shift to a more strategic way of planning around Waverley and set all the controls.”
But Gil Morris, a resident of Bondi Junction for more than 30 years, said the community has not been informed as to why council wants to change the LEP.
“Prior to the LEP of 2012 we operated under a LEP that was written in 1996,” he said.
“It’s been a long time since the plan was changed but recently it was changed in 2012 and as a resident I am puzzled why it is necessary to change the plan again.”
In July, NSW finance minister Greg Pearce revealed plans to sell air space at 13 bus depot locations across Sydney, paving the way for new high-rise apartments in key metropolitan locations. One key location is the Waverley bus depot, located on the western part of Oxford Street opposite Centennial Park.
Mr Morris believes the state government is seeking to capitalise on the asset it has with the Waverley bus depot, with the site possessing significant development potential.
“We are being manipulated by the council and being only told as much as they wish to tell us,” he said.
“It is obvious the state government are looking to reap as much revenue as they can, I think that’s what is driving this change.”
But Ms Betts said she was in favour of retaining the bus depot, arguing the site was also an opportunity for Waverley Council to get creative – with either a new high school or childcare centre under consideration. As the most densely populated LGA in Australia, Waverley currently has 14 high schools, but Ms Betts said the council is under pressure to accommodate an increasing amount of school children.
“In a municipality like Waverley, we don’t have the privilege of finding a place [for school children] with beautiful grounds. What we are trying to do is be proactive, we want open space, we want to effectively [manage] the way traffic moves in that area.
“If you come down York Road, we’ve grappled with that intersection for many years because the cars can’t turn right there. So that’s just one tiny issue we can sort out.”
Waverley Council will hold a community drop-in session this Saturday from 11am at St James Reserve in Bondi Junction, an opportunity for residents to share their thoughts on the future of the western Oxford Street precinct.