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Coogee Pavilion Proposes Privatisation of Public Space

By Mike Ougie on October 23, 2020 in News

The encroachment continues. Photo: Ann Exation

Not content with taking over public land on the southern side of its historic building, Justin Hemmes’ Coogee Pavilion now proposes to take over a large area of open public space on its eastern side, adjacent to the beach. Understandably, the land grab has many Coogee locals pretty riled up.
The proposal, contained in a development application currently before Randwick City Council planners, involves a new outdoor dining area at the end of Beach Street, with nine tables and 54 seats permanently erected on public land.
The proposal would be even bigger than that, incorporating planters and ropes to effectively block off the space between the Pavilion and the tables. If approved, the plan would effectively privatise a large courtyard area that is currently used by the public to mingle, and also as a busy pedestrian thoroughfare and popular meeting place for casual recreation.
This public land would be replaced by a commercial, profit-making area for eating and drinking – somewhat ironic given Randwick Council’s policy to prohibit the drinking of alcohol in the open areas around Coogee Beach, although Council’s policy does allow for footway dining areas and the associated consumption of alcohol in these licensed areas.
The Beast has been advised that the Pavilion would be required to pay a fee for the use of the space in accordance with Council’s Fees and Charges policy.
Naturally, the proposal has made a number of locals hot under the collar, many of whom believe it does not pass the proverbial pub test. Many have also written to Randwick City Council to voice their disapproval of the DA.
Local residents have also expressed frustration with the notification process. To date, the only way most of the public would be aware of the DA is if they had read the small notice attached to the side of the Pavilion building. Council informed The Beast that notification letters were also sent to adjoining and neighbouring property owners, and the DA is posted on Council’s website in addition to the site notice.
People feel strongly about the privatisation of public space and believe that any proposal to take away public space and give it to a business should be more widely publicised and debated inclusively.
Locals have also questioned whether the proposal itself would provide any public benefit and struggle to understand the logic behind reducing public space in an area that is already groaning under the pressure of increasing numbers of visitors.
Another gripe is that the proposal would add to the already considerable noise impact from the Pavilion. During peak times, booming noise from the business bombards beachgoers and forces nearby residents to keep their windows shut.
This is far more than just another NIMBY issue; this is about protecting public open space for all visitors to the area.
Given that the three-storey Pavilion already has substantial outdoor seating on the rooftop and on Dolphin Street, many locals are hoping this proposal is knocked back by Council planners. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learned through the pandemic, it’s that public open space is valued very highly by all members of the community. We need more of it, not less.