By Emily Contador-Kelsall
A planning proposal for two 38-metre towers on West Oxford Street has begun to stir up controversy in the local community.
The proposal put forward by Stargate Property Group seeks to redevelop part of Oxford Street down to Nelson Street and intends to modify the Waverley Local Environment Plan 2012 (LEP) to raise the height standard from 15 metres to 38 metres, increase the floor space ratio and remove the heritage status of four terraces.
The development would consist of commercial and residential space, and potentially a public car park of at least 50 spaces.
Waverley Council tabled the West Oxford Street Design Charrette Report and recommendation at their Operations Committee last week.
Marcella McAdam, convenor for the Bondi Junction Precinct Committee (BJPC) attended the meeting and said the community was very concerned about the future of Bondi Junction and the threat of high-rise.
“The key thing that the community was happy with was that the council staff had recommended that the 2012 LEP be maintained on West Oxford Street,” she said.
“One particular section which starts at 194 Oxford Street down to 2 Nelson Street was omitted from the recommendations that came out on Tuesday night.”
Ms McAdam said the community was concerned that the area between Oxford Street and Nelson Street is not being considered as part of the revamp of Oxford Street but as a separate entity with differing standards.
“Height restrictions look like they’re going to be very different to the rest of West Oxford St,” she said.
In response to questions over potential changes to the 2012 LEP, Mayor Sally Betts said there was a lot of confusion at the meeting and no changes were recommended to the LEP.
“The officers’ report suggested… we have to process the planning proposal that we received over the past few weeks [and] that any new decisions about the LEP should not be made until that assessment process is completed,” she said.
“For some strange reason, and I was certainly confused, there was a motion moved to not change the LEP, which we did not support because we were not going to change the LEP.”
Currently, council officers are conducting the preliminary assessment. A report and recommendation will be prepared and presented to council in mid-2015.
Waverley has experienced several battles against over-development in recent years, most notably at Bronte RSL.
Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith was heavily involved in the community fight against the over-development of Bronte RSL and has expressed “dissatisfaction with the procedure where planning proposals can be lodged calling for re-zoning.”
Mr Notley-Smith has not yet been briefed on the planning proposal on West Oxford Street but said he felt it would need change.
“There’s an LEP which was adopted in 2012 and as far as I’m concerned we should be sticking with the LEP,” he said.
“The planning laws need to change so we don’t have decisions like these being taken out of the hands of local council.”
Ms McAdam said she feared this planning proposal could evolve into a situation similar to that of Bronte RSL.
“We think the council could do a Pontius Pilate and wash their hands of it and send it straight to the state governnment for consideration, because of the size of it and the impact it will have,” she said.
“The community may not even get a say in this until it goes to state government and then we’re going to have to go through the same process that all the residents involved in Bronte RSL went through, and rally together and unite to try and fight, get restrictions, get the LEP changed back.”
Danielle Ecuyer, another member of the BJPC, also saw parallels emerging with Bronte RSL.
“Should [the proposal] get the go-ahead, which it probably will, it opens the way for high-rise development of a very substantial nature, up to 50 metres or so, so 20 storeys, the whole way along West Oxford Street,” she said.
“So if you start at the furthest street almost across from Centennial Park, then they’re just going to work eastward, all the way down.”
Ms Ecuyer said the community was also concerned about the Waverley Bus Depot development, fearing that it was “the beginning of the end of Bondi Junction”.
Although the planning proposal is still in its early days, residents also feel threatened by the potential of the development to climb to 20 storeys.
“We know that [developers] buy extra height [via voluntary planning agreements], so what could now be a request for 38 metres… that’s nearly three times the current LEP, could potentially go to about 20 storeys by the time they keep on buying more and more height,” Ms McAdam said.
“It’s just a concern that once again, the whole West Oxford Street Charrette was just a charade, it was always developer driven. We have worked so hard as a community to try and maintain our amenities and work with the small businesses up there. They’re going to die once these developments go through.”