Bondi View

Overshadowed and overlooked: West Oxford talks dubbed “disingenuous”

Labor Councillor Paula Masselos

Discussions surrounding the future of the Waverley bus depot site at West Oxford Street in Bondi Junction have been labelled as “disingenuous” and “shoddy” by Waverley councillor Paula Masselos, who argues that the community has limited say in the process.

A groundwater assessment report prepared by environmental consultancy firm A. D. Envirotech Australia for the State Transit Authority has emerged, identifying dangerous levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and naphthalene in storage tanks at the Waverley bus depot site.

On March 3, the State Transit Authority extended invitations to tender for the site’s remediation, with submissions opened until March 31. However, Cr Masselos expressed fears that this could be in preparation for the future sale of the bus depot.

“I know the community feel very strongly about this. They’re very cynical about the motivation behind this, 12 months out from an election when you’ve got the Mayor kite-flying about what we are going to do on the bus depot site,” said Cr Masselos.

She questioned why Council was not informed about the contamination of these storage tanks when the report was first produced on November 27, 2012.

“To me, [it] seems like there’s an excuse to delay any kind of decision until the next [state] election in March next year. There is no assurance from the [NSW] Minister of Finance [and Services] … that this is off the agenda in the long term”.

Councillor John Wakefield said the bus depot could be viewed as a financial asset with “highly significant” development potential.

“It’s a significant piece of real estate [located at] the entry point to one of Sydney’s largest regional centres. It sits close to a railway station … between two very wealthy suburbs and as far as developers would look at it, it’s ripe for mass scale residential redevelopment”.

In a letter to the editor published in the Wentworth Courier last month, Mayor Sally Betts confirmed that despite Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith’s affirmation the bus depot will not be redeveloped, Waverley Council were given a “different impression” in their meeting with Greg Pearce, the NSW Minister for Finance and Services, on September 13 last year.

Ms Betts said that as Council is “well into our West Oxford St precinct planning process”, it can now proceed onto the concept design phase of the project “without having to worry about overshadowing or any impact from development from the bus depot site”.

But a draft report by Elton Consulting group on April 24 confirmed that 53 per cent of residents who participated in Council’s first two community workshops expressed concerns over the scale of future development, particularly regarding the Waverley bus depot.

“Concerns about the impacts of taller buildings on the amenity and character of the surrounding low-rise heritage buildings were frequently noted,” the report states. “The majority of comments about future built form focused on the bus depot site … [and] potential impacts [of redevelopment] such as overshadowing, loss of visual amenity [and] loss of views”.

Residents will have an opportunity to meet the charrette designers to discuss the draft ideas for the future of the West Oxford St Precinct in a 5:30pm workshop at the Waverley Library Theatrette on Tuesday May 13. Following this, Council is expected to present an action plan for the area next month.

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