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Waiting For An Answer: The Future Of The Bronte RSL Site

By Sarah Healey on February 4, 2015 in News

Photo: Save Bronte

Photo: Save Bronte

As the saga of the Bronte RSL redevelopment enters into its third year, the whole community is waiting with bated breath for a final decision to be made on whether Winston Langley Burlington’s (WLB planning proposal to rezone the Bronte RSL site will be accepted or refused by the minister or a delegate of the Department of Planning and Environment. There will be no appeal rights following this decision.

In last month’s meeting, Waverley Council collectively voted to back the independent council planners’ report and reject WLB’s planning proposal for the Bronte RSL site. Council’s independent planning experts found that the WLB proposal had “no strategic merit and should be refused”, with a recommendation that NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward dismiss the proposal.

“Council undertook a robust strategic planning process for the site, which included in-depth consideration of relevant planning matters, expert advice and community consultation,” a Waverley Council spokesman said.

“A response to the planning proposal has already been sent to the Department of Planning and Environment summarising the outcomes of the public exhibition period, Council’s assessment of the planning proposal, and a request to refuse the proposal. A letter from the Bronte RSL Club, which strongly opposes the proposal, was also included in our submission.”

According to Bronte RSL Club president Brian O’Neill, WLB’s attempts to increase the height and floor space ratio limits is “a shameful attempt to manipulate a community club and the RSL’s name for personal profit.”

Mr O’Neill believes the reaction of the community against the developer’s plans was astonishing, and has urged the minister to listen to the community.

“The State Government must not be party to transparent attempts by developers to use community assets and the RSL as a means of private profit,” he said.

He also said that the club is more than willing to liaise with the developer to “agree on a development that complies with existing planning laws and benefits the local community”.

However, Simon Paterson, a former president of the Bronte RSL Club, fears that the new board of directors (held by ‘Friends of the Bronte RSL’) does not care about the reinstatement of an RSL club on the site at all, and that members of the board have only got to where they are now by rustling up negative sentiments about how the development will adversely affect the community.

“We fought very hard for the club to continue,” Mr Paterson said.

“You never know, these guys might come through, but I really doubt it because they’re not RSL people and their whole agenda was to be anti-development. They do not have the club land connections to gain support to reinstate a new club, nor the aptitude or experience to do the job.

“At the end of the day [the site] wasn’t coping well. The building became old and dilapidated and we needed to go through this process, but unfortunately we’ve got 100 or so ‘nasty neighbours’ who have got their own hidden agenda, and I believe they don’t care about the RSL or the movement, and all they care about is having a Byron Bay lifestyle in the middle of Bronte.”

Save Bronte co-founder Dr Stephen Lightfoot insists that the new board and Save Bronte supporters are not anti-development, and want to see a functioning RSL club reinstated in the new site.

“We are not opposed to the RSL Club, and we have had seven of our Save Bronte members elected with a view to run a viable club with a complying development,” Dr Lightfoot said.

“It [an RSL club] is allowed under the legislation, and we support the legislation.”

Dr Lightfoot is dumbfounded that the Department of Planning is still considering the developer’s plans, despite council and community opposition, as well as the report from independent experts suggesting they should dismiss the proposal.

“We have to have faith that the DoP reads the report and does the right thing – to follow Liberal Party Policy which is to allow Council to control local planning issues, and follow what the community wants, which is a complying development,” he said.