By Lydia Watson-Moore
Randwick Council’s approval of the redevelopment of Kensington Bowling Club has upset local soccer enthusiasts and residents.
At the latest Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday June 9, councillors voted in favour of the community centre development, which will terminate the current lease at the bowling green held by soccer club, Kikoff.
Liberal councillor Brendan Roberts voted against the development application, describing the $4.2 million development as a “white elephant”.
“It’s probably going to be under utilised. I hope I’m wrong… but on past experience, if you look at the record of other community centres in Randwick, a much smaller community room would’ve fulfilled the need for the space,” he told City Hub.
The site will be altered to include two community halls, a half basketball court, gardens and a 16 space carpark.
In initial 2013 deliberations, the Kikoff fields were included in plans. But in July 2014, Council’s report recommended the termination of the soccer club’s lease.
Kikoff currently uses an old bowling green as two small soccer fields, running competitions, coaching and access to children and adults of varying skill and mobility.
Clr Roberts said it was unfair to kick out the Kikoff club, and questioned why they couldn’t have stayed until the end of their lease.
“It was a five year joint venture agreement, they were only two years into it, so why couldn’t we let them stay for another three years?” he said.
“But no, what we’ve done is we’ve shut down a business that provides a service for over 1000 locals.”
Liberal councillor Harry Stavrinos supported the redevelopment, and said the community centre was a much needed asset.
“This is 15 years in the making and it has been a facility that has well and truly been missed by the community,” he said.
“I believe that a community centre might not look after the physical wellbeing of people, but the social, intellectual and cultural wellbeing is just as important”.
Clr Stavrinos said that while he loves soccer, he thought Kikoff shouldn’t be kept at the site due to proximity to residences and noise concerns.
“We had petitions and residents complaining about noise, and Council’s own report came back to say that the noise from Kikoff at night was in breach of industrial noise policies,” he said.
But spokesperson for Kikoff Nigel Bramley told City Hub the club had done nothing wrong.
“We’ve had an independent acoustics report done, which said we’re well within the law, noise levels are well within what’s allowed,” he said.
Mr Bramley said the club was extremely disappointed by Council’s decision, and that they had been misled about their future.
“Well basically the Council have lied to us. We’ve been there for nearly three years, and the Council has previously said we could stay there,” he said
“The local community are furious.”
Labor councillor Noel D’Souza thought Council should have delayed the decision and further engaged with the community about the impacts of the Kikoff site’s use.
“Haste sometimes makes waste…it doesn’t matter how long it takes us to make the decision, as long as we make the right decision, let’s go back to the drawing board,” he said.
Clr D’Souza said there was a division between Kikoff and a group he coined “Kick them off”, the residents complaining of noise issues.
He said the community centre would not be used enough and that keeping Kikoff could have been beneficial to Council as an ‘income generating asset’.