BY JOHN MOYLE
The proposed development plans to demolish almost an entire block of Darlinghurst Road in Potts Point has had an unexpected result: it has united the residents in such a way that hasn’t been seen since the days of the Green Bans of the mid seventies, complete with a rally scheduled for Saturday, February 24th at the Rex Centre.
After the initial shock of the Development Application’s scope and impact on the area, residents looked into it and found it wanting in many areas.
Development Application D/2017/1705 attracted 548 submissions to the City of Sydney, most of which we can presume to be objections against the development.
A City of Sydney spokeswoman referred to this as a ‘high volume’ of submissions, especially when most developments in the area attract 20 to 30 submissions either for or against.
The table of concerned imbibers at a pub in Bayswater Road had hopes of getting around 500 signatures to a change.org petition, but was overwhelmed when it reached 12,000 and is still rising.
While the petitioner realises that these digital signatures do not have any bearing on DA objections, the petition has been submitted to City of Sydney as an indication of widespread disapproval for the development.
A hastily organised meeting called by the Concerned Citizens and conducted by the 2011 Residents’ Association attracted an overflowing crowd of more than 250 residents, and was the first indication of concern in the community.
Local Aboriginal identity Rose Whittaker is from the Moree region in western NSW, and as such cannot speak for the area, but has come up with a novel protest idea.
“I’m going to ask some of my Gadigal sisters to put a land claim over the area,” Rose said. “They would expect that from us Aboriginals.”
Another protester wrote to City Hub suggesting that the space created after the demolition be turned into an Aboriginal food garden, planted with the original food sources found in the area pre-colonisation.
The residents of Kingsley Hall are rightly concerned about the possible structural impact on their much-loved building.
Built in 1931, Kingsley Hall is a reminder of an older era and gentler era for Potts Point when grand and architecturally-significant apartment buildings, including Kingsclere, Franconia, Twenty and Macleay Regis, replaced crumbling villas and terraces built after the breakup of the Macleay Estate during the 1840s depression.
Residents of the nine-storey Emil Sodersten-designed Kingsley Hall are united in their objections due to fears that the development’s call to dig down four levels for car parking and then an additional 1.5 metres to a house a lift well will impact structurally on their building.
Resident Martin Denny said, “Any underground water going into the hole will undermine the ground and could affect the structural integrity of Kingsley Hall.”
Martin added that the apartments on the southern side of the building would also lose their windows from the third floor up to the eighth floor.
“All these people living there will lose their light; it will be completely gone, and there is no regards for the impact of this at all.”
While Lord Mayor Clover Moore has been conspicuous by her absence from any debate concerning the Kings Cross/Potts Point area, some of her councillors and a state MP are quite vocal in their opposition.
“It’s obvious that Kings Cross/Potts Point hasn’t been a priority for some time and that’s why it has been left out of a comprehensive master plan,” Councillor Angela Vithouklas said.
This week Councillor Vithouklas met with a group of local concerned business owners who feel that their livelihoods will be affected by the development’s scale and length of construction.
“The meeting was about bringing a lot of their concerns together and sharing those concerns about the impact of the DA and the fact that they may never recover from the financial impact,” Cr Vithouklas said.
Compensation appears to be off the table as the DA is for a private development and not a State significant project such as the George Street light rail.
Councillor Vithouklas added “ People can feel very alone and angry and the stress and emotional upheaval can create a lot of mental health issues and people often don’t recover easily from these things.”
Rally organiser Andrew Woodhouse said “It is the biggest gathering of the community and groundswell of community angst about town planning in Kings Cross ever.
“Residents are outraged that there is no master plan for Kings Cross and their concerns are being ignored and the rally is a focal point for them to express those concerns.”
Local MP, Alex Greenwich said “I am currently reviewing the proposal, but the question is whether this is the tipping point for the Cross, where venues that added to the diversity and vitality of our city are being replaced with large residential developments.”
Artist Peter Bainbridge’s striking poster is creating a buzz in the area, as word of the rally spreads. Confirmed speakers are Alex Greenwich MP, Professor Kerryn Phelps AM, Councillor Angela Vithouklas, Andrew Woodhouse and a representative from Local Government NSW, with entertainment being provided by ‘Continental’ Robert Susz, Stephen Ferris and Brendan Gallagher.
This Friday night at 6pm the residents of Kingsley Hall are holding a placard vigil at the El Alamein Fountain to highlight the building’s opposition to the development.
In news to hand just as this story was being filed, the City of Sydney has issued a notice of motion for a Kings Cross Master Plan to be debated at Council on Monday night.
Never too late!