The Aesthetic of Rampant Capitalism
Bondi locals are frustrated and disillusioned with council processes after the approval of a development that they feel contradicts the stated aims of Waverley Council.
Residents of Castlefield street in Bondi petitioned against the application to develop numbers 5,7 & 9 Castlefield street into a new block of units with an underground carpark.
Tina Matthews, a Castlefield Street resident, says she feels the development is proceeding with complete disregard for the existing community.
“Having lived here for 45 years, I know that we all affect each other when we make changes and people object, so we compromise, but this [development] is really over-doing the space,” she told The Beast.
Ms. Matthews, along with other Castlefield residents Sarah Andrews and Nicholas Pellow, created a petition against the development that gained 73 signatures in 2019. Along with 43 objections on the council website.
By including “affordable housing” units, the developers can circumvent usual council restrictions such as floor space ratios and setbacks.
The Community Strategic Plan informs the Waverley Local Environment Plan and the Development Control Plan, but the Local Planning Panel doesn’t need to consider it when making decisions on developments.
Waverley Council initially opposed the development at 5-9 Castlefield Street and provided a report that describes the development as “an overdevelopment that overwhelms” and one that “ignores the prevailing character of the streetscape, provides little public benefit…and negatively impacts neighbouring properties.”
However, the council retracted this report in response to minor changes, and the Land and Environment Court approved the DA.
Residents’ concerns about the development include the sheer bulk of the building that will overshadow neighbouring homes, the disruption of a green corridor formed by a row of adjoining back yards that provides crucial habitat for local wildlife.
Castlefield Street resident Nicholas Pellow said that the disruption of the green corridor was one of the residents’ major concerns.
“There’s such a limited amount of green space left that it’s crazy to give it away so easily,” he told The Beast.
Castlefield residents are understandably frustrated, feeling that The Council has failed to deliver on their promises. However, Mayor Paula Masselos told The Beast that the problem lies in state planning laws.
“Under state planning law, decisions must be made on planning grounds and sometimes issues raised by the community fall outside matters covered by the LEP or DCP. The panel cannot refuse a development application if there are no planning reasons that could support the refusal,” She said.
Since the approval of the DA, the original developers have listed the properties for sale in one line, with the approved DA attached to entice a new developer to the site.
Bondi Resident Sarah Andrews told The Beast that this change has given them hope for a different outcome. “We are hoping that will see this as a unique opportunity to develop something different in Bondi that enhances rather than detracts from the heritage area and our way of living with each other and the natural world,” Ms Andrews told The Beast.
While residents may feel powerless compared to developers, Mayor Masselos said that residents still have avenues for voicing their concerns.
“There are three areas of input into the planning system for residents: firstly make a submission on applications. Secondly, make submissions on planning tools such as the Council’s LEP and DCP, and thirdly, call for changes to the state planning laws which set the rules around what issues can be considered in planning matters and how they are considered,” Mayor Masselos told The Beast.
Public Spaces Also at Risk Under New Planning Documents
In addition to the LEP and DCP, Waverley residents were also asked for feedback on the new Village Centres Strategy that dictates how areas such as Bondi Road will be maintained. Waverley Council released a Draft Village Centres Strategy in early 2020 with a stated aim to “prevent the erosion of the character of Waverley’s Village Centres.” However, there are concerns that the strategy undervalues the heritage and function of local village centres in favour of high-density redevelopment. Former Waverley Councillor Ingrid Strewe said that the Village Centres Strategy is a critical document in informing the future planning decisions in the east, and it is the role of all residents to speak up in the formation of these documents. “It’s up to residents to say, hang on this is not our vision. Residents shouldn’t have to keep having the same fight, but we do so they need to make their voices heard.” She told The Beast.
The plan’s introduction also states that it will “inform council decision making regarding Planning Proposals and Development Applications and to make recommendations for the future of Waverley’s commercial centres and public domain. It will also inform the comprehensive review of the LEP and DCP.”
The final draft of the Village Centres Strategy is currently under assessment by Waverley Council. Submissions on haveyoursay.waverley.nsw.gov.au have closed, however, residents can still email their feedback to the council at email@example.com and quote reference number SF20/2294.