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NSW State Planning Wrecking Waverley

By Ludovico Fabiano on November 15, 2021 in Other

Enough is enough. Photo: Colin Charlton

In recent years, Waverley has lost many significant community institutions and open spaces. The state government’s planning regime prioritises large luxury apartment developments over other community needs. Developers and the Liberal state government have designed a neat playbook.
Land long ago gifted, with caveat, to a church or community organisations, or even land with historic zoning as open space, is no longer protected from overdevelopment.
State planning law voids all caveats on land in NSW and allows Open Space zoning to be sidestepped by developments claiming to be for “seniors living” called 55+ independent living units (ILUs). Is this aged care? The state government can up-zone any site. Bonus floorspace can be won with inclusions of seniors living or child care in the development proposal. Larger and yet larger buildings are approved under laws that override council.
Sites with approved building envelopes are on-sold to developers. Claiming the full floor space, the developer abandons the promised community benefits of child care, aged care, gardens and trees from their plans. Luxury multi-storey apartment complexes appear for sale. These are no substitute for assisted living units for the frail and aged in our community, for which the original floor space bonuses were intended.
The Benevolent Society was gifted Scarba House in Wellington Street, Bondi in 1917 as a welfare home for women and children, which functioned until 1986. Some modest units for the aged were built in the grounds, as well as a child care centre. Approval was obtained for 128 ILUs for over 55s, including low income allocations, and some supporting care services.
The site was sold in 2013 to Mirvac, who went on to build luxury apartments with none of the affordable units or medical services of the original plan. The lawns and some of the old trees remain, but the promise to provide much-needed local, quality aged care evaporated. The views and the profits are spectacular.
Waverley Bowling Club, on a large site zoned private open space, found itself in modest financial difficulty. It was “rescued” by Easts Leagues Club who hatched a scheme to build two ten-storey apartment towers, a club and a child care centre. When that was defeated by Easts members, the club settled for 55+ ILUs in buildings of up to seven storeys with almost 200 car spaces underneath and two new bowling greens.
With Mirvac now in control, any pretence at seniors living has been abandoned. Hoarding advertising “Luxury Apartments” for sale says it all – hardly aged accommodation, hardly desperately needed affordable housing. The community will now live with less open space and more density.
The Uniting Church is making similar claims to build 55+ ILUs at the War Memorial Hospital site. Plans are for four to seven-storey flats buildings lining Bronte Road and part of Birrell Street, and internal to the site demolishing its own gardens and magnificent trees. Some heritage features are to be retained, but the heritage values of the landscape setting are ignored.
The estate was donated to the (then) Methodist Church in 1919 to be established as a hospital for returned soldiers. Since then the War Memorial Hospital has continuously provided a range of aged health care, rehabilitation, training and maternity services. This alone is culturally significant. The public have benefitted from access to the beautiful grounds, as a quiet retreat from overcrowded Waverley.
Retaining access and outlook to quality open space and trees is vital for aged residents, particularly those with dementia. The 100-year-old fig trees and gardens form an important link in the ecological corridor from Queens Park to Waverley Park. This is all soon to be gone, along with the site’s potential for state heritage listing. Even the existing elderly residents are to be evicted!
It’s time to overturn these developer friendly planning laws which are overstretching our infrastructure, reducing care for the frail and aged in our community and damaging our neighbourhood.