Community activist Stephen Lightfoot has called on newly elected NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward to “take control” and stop redevelopment of the Bronte RSL, citing concerns the proposed six-storey site could bear significant ramifications for local amenity.
A series of papers documenting discussions between the state government, developer Winston Langley Burlington (WLB) and other stakeholders have emerged as the result of an investigation set in motion by Labor MLC Luke Foley before parliament in March.
If approved, the proposal sees to the construction of a 2,231 square metre commercial and residential space with a floor-to-space ratio that is double the existing regulation and a height of 20 metres that exceeds the current limits by seven metres.
The papers outline all discussions between relevant parties from July 1, 2013 in what Mr Foley called an attempt to “get to the bottom” of the issue and “get some answers for the local community”.
But, Save Bronte’s Stephen Lightfoot said the papers confirm fears the state government has “ignored” residents over a pro-developmental agenda.
“The documents show a bias in favour of the developer against [the] community, against Waverley Council,” he told the Bondi View.
“It’s totally at odds with the state government’s planning policy, which is a community and local council based planning policy, and we are now calling on Minister Goward to rein in this rogue department”.
The NSW Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC), which oversees matters of a state significance, concluded in January that the WLB proposal had strategic planning merit and should proceed to the gateway for a determination.
But in an April 10 meeting with Department of Planning representatives, Mr Lightfoot said that then director general Sam Haddad admitted the Bronte RSL proposal was a “local planning issue” and seemed “unaware of the Council’s strategic planning work”.
Council’s strategic planning review resolved to reject WLB’s planning proposal on July 16, 2013 and was backed by the Joint Regional Planning Panel’s (JRPP) refusal of the application nine days later.
“How is it possible that the head of the Department of Planning was not aware that Waverley Council had, since October 2012, done a comprehensive strategic planning process? The department obviously have kept that a secret. It’s completely outrageous,” said Mr Lightfoot.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge criticised the state government’s planning system, saying it favours developers who can circumvent decisions made by local councils and the JRPP by appealing to the PAC.
Labor Councillor Ingrid Strewe questioned factual inconsistencies in the papers, arguing the Department of Planning “underplayed” the significance of WLB’s proposal by affirming it would “service a potential 1km catchment of 18,920” people in accordance with a 2011 Census.
However, Cr Strewe said WLB’s application had included both Coogee and Bondi Junction in the original catchment and was for 30,000 people.
The Department of Planning papers also declare there had been “no communication received from the State Members on this issue”.
Fellow Waverley Labor councillor Paula Masselos called this a “betrayal of public trust” and questioned why the Department of Planning declared the views of Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton and Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith as “unknown”.
Cr Masselos raised concerns over impacts on local traffic, arguing the proposal was “a disaster waiting to happen” with Bronte already having a significant amount of congestion.
“[Residents] want appropriate development. For the department to be disregarding the resident voice in this … it further adds to the impression that this is all about the developers, not about the community,” Cr Masselos said.
Waverley Council will now re-evaluate WLB’s application and prepare a report for Minister Pru Goward to consider as part of a gateway determination in the coming months to determine the future of the Bronte RSL site.