Tirade Over West Oxford Street CharrettesThe newly installed convener of the Bondi Junction Precinct Committee has criticised the design charrettes for the recently announced makeover of West Oxford Street in Bondi Junction.
Marcela McAdam, the convener, attended the May presentation showcasing the initial draft concepts for the West Oxford Street Precinct Plan.
“When I attended the presentation last month at Easts Leagues Club, I started to walk around to all the various design teams,” she said. “Within five minutes, I was rather shocked at some of the ideas that they were presenting, which included using parts of Centennial Parklands.”
“There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on cyclists, a lot of changes to roads and directions of traffic flow, and I just lost the plot. I thought that this is going beyond what they are supposed to be doing.”
Council commissioned three ideas-based charrettes – Simpson and Wilson, Hill Thalis and Archrival – to develop concepts for the West Oxford Street area’s future. The concepts focus on transforming Oxford Street and Syd Einfeld into boulevards, planting more trees and addressing traffic congestion.
Ms McAdam supports beautification, but cautioned that the precinct is in a “beautiful conservation area”.
“It’s very unique to have that village section of the Junction still pretty much untouched and we would like to see massive high-rises avoided in that area,” she said.
“We feel that there’s just going to be these massive structures and major construction buildings taking place, which will take away from what is a really nice pocket of Bondi Junction.”
Ms McAdam said she was concerned Waverley Bus Depot would be redeveloped under the plan, but Mayor Sally Betts confirmed that the State Government had indicated the depot would remain untouched.
“I’m not going to buy into that,” Cr Betts said. “The government has said they are not going to do anything [to the depot], and that’s fine. They changed their mind; I’m happy with that as the bus depot is important for the community now and into the future.”
Cr Betts said the influx of cars around the bus depot needed to be addressed.
“Outside the bus depot, you’ve got people coming to catch a bus with the pavement at the bus stop not big enough and terrible,” she said.
“They’ve got bikes flying past them and they’ve got cars flying past them, and you’ve got people walking to the city. Something needs to happen. We need to change the priority of the way our roads work so that they are not completely controlled by cars.”
Labor Councillor Paula Masselos acknowledged there are a range of interesting ideas being canvassed, but hit out at the lack of traffic experts on the design panels.
“I’m concerned that they are talking about a number of changes where we actually don’t have experts on the panel to look at the credibility of those changes,” she said.
“This has been a developer-led process. I’m pretty appalled we are actually responding to the developer – I think we’re being reactive.”
Council held a public briefing on June 18 and has previously held a number of community drop-in sessions.
“Residents have been very unhappy with the process,” Cr Masselos said. “People are saying they are not getting notices, people are saying they are given very little time, they don’t know about meetings, and they have problems with the website saying they have already registered a response when they haven’t.”
Cr Betts said the process could have been handled better, but believes there’s been a misunderstanding about Council’s strategic approach to West Oxford Street.
“I understand that the way Waverley Council has worked in the past is Waverley decides on what they’re going to do, they get quite far down the track and then say to the community ‘what do you think?’
“The community have and will have lots to say. I think it’s good that the community and councillors just take a step back and let the professionals put some ideas on paper, then we will comment.”
A West Oxford Street Precinct report is scheduled to be submitted to Council with recommendations in August.