16 December 2010
The Sydney East Joint Regional Planning Panel has rejected a proposal for a mixed use commercial/retail/residential development within the Freshwater village centre. The proposal involved the demolition of all existing buildings over eight lots and the construction of four new buildings of varying heights and seven townhouses.
Council officers initially recommended that the development be approved, but the panel rejected their recommendation. They set out three reasons for their decision:
- The proposal breached both the eleven-metre and the three-storey height limits. Council officers had said that “the non-compliance with the height requirement does not result in unacceptable or unreasonable impacts on adjoining and surrounding properties that would be symptomatic of overdevelopment”.
- The proposal was inconsistent with the “desired future character” of the Harbord (Freshwater) Village Locality. Council officers had said that “the proposed development has been found to be consistent with the Desired Future Character Statements for each locality”. The difference of opinion seems to be that the panel thought that every large building in the proposal should have a retail or business component, while the officers thought that it was enough that most buildings had that component.
- The public opposition to the proposal was “overwhelming”. There were nearly 2,000 objectors as well as the local and State representatives of the community. The panel said the volume of their opposition was sufficient to conclude that it represented “the public interest”.
Unlike the council officers, the joint regional panel seemed to have no regard to the NSW Government’s draft subregional strategy. In giving their support to the project, council officers found that the redevelopment of the site will assist in achieving its subregional strategy status as a “small village”.
This decision by the joint regional planning panel suggests that a large not-in-my-backyard campaign by local residents can justify refusal in “the public interest”. Joint regional planning panels are supposed to be expert bodies, making informed decisions based on state, regional, subregional and local planning considerations. By responding in this way to a community campaign, this panel has acted no differently to a group of local politicians.
The details of the decision are set out here.