Broken Promises and Bronte
A brief summary of the ongoing Bronte RSL saga
On 4 February 2014 one unelected officer in the Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DoPI), under delegation from Minister Hazzard, overruled the whole elected Waverley Council by overturning the council’s decisions on planning controls in the Macpherson & St Thomas Street Neighbourhood Centre (including the Bronte RSL site). The entire council-led strategic planning process, which occurred in 2012 and 2013, was discarded by the DoPI and its results ignored. This is the latest episode in the ongoing saga that involves the proposed re-development of the Bronte RSL site on Macpherson St.
The community’s involvement in this story began in earnest on 24 October 2012 when Waverley Council held a community information evening on the Neighbourhood Centre planning control review at the RSL itself. There was a substantial crowd at the event, more than three times the number expected. It was clear, to those who attended that night, that the community would not accept overdevelopment at the RSL site without a fight and the Save Bronte group was formed by some of those attending.
By February 2013, the Council planners had prepared amendments to the Waverley Local Environmental Plan 2012. Amongst other things, they sort to limit the shop size in the Neighbourhood Centre to 400 m2, which is about the size of Maloney’s on Coogee Bay Rd and maintain the 13 m height limit. This draft proposal was formally endorsed at the council meeting of February 2013 and sent to the Minister for provisional approval.
Soon after that council meeting, RSL development partner Winston Langley Burlington (WLB – directed by David Hynes and Sam El-Rahim), lodged their DA for a 6 storey building that contained a large retail space on the ground floor. The Waverley Council planners assessed the DA and found it to be non-compliant with many planning controls, in particular the height and floor space ratio (FSR) limits. Their report described the building as ‘monolithic’, being of ‘excessive bulk and scale’ and being ‘simply too big in this setting’. They recommended the DA be refused and the Waverley Councillors unanimously endorsed the DA assessment at their 16 July council meeting. A week later, a packed hall of local residents erupted in jubilation when the JRPP announced that consent was refused.
In the mean time, during April and May 2013, Waverley Council conducted further community consultation on their own draft planning control changes (the council planning proposal). Their planning proposal was then finalised, ready to be presented to the July council meeting.
And in June, WLB lodged a request for their own new planning controls (which matched the size of their proposed building) at the RSL site with Waverley Council. At their 16 July council meeting, the councillors unanimously rejected this request.
At the same July meeting the councillors endorsed the council’s own planning controls changes (the council planning proposal) which were then sent to the Minister for final approval and signing into law. This council planning proposal is still waiting for that approval.
Undeterred by the council’s refusal, WLB asked the DoPI for a review of that council decision. This is possible under the NSW planning system where any developer can pay $20000 in fees to have the DoPI review, and possibly overturn, such a rejection.
Save Bronte representatives, the Acting Mayor and local MP Bruce Notley-Smith met with Minister Hazzard in October. Together, we asked that the appeal be dismissed. Unfortunately, our arguments fell on deaf ears. Minister Hazzard ignored the community, council and our local member, and referred the appeal to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC). This was surprising given the only local significance of the proposal.
The PAC refused to meet with the community and shut us out of their meetings with the developer and council. In their report, the PAC ignored the community’s views, dismissed the council’s input, discarded the strategic work undertaken since 2012 and recommended the council’s decision to refuse the developer’s request be overturned. The DoPI immediately followed that advice and overturned the council’s July 2013 decision.
So now the DoPI has ordered that the council-led strategic planning work, that was completed in 2013, be entirely repeated and that the developer’s planning control request be progressed on the path toward legislation.
This decision by the DoPI represents the broken promises of former Planning Minister Hazzard. He promised to allow councils and communities to set the vision and rules for development in their local areas. Here at Bronte, he has broke that promise. It is not democracy and it is just not right.
The Department of Planning passed the developer-written planning controls through the “Gateway determination” in September 2014. A ‘community consultation’ period followed. This was the 5th time in 2 years that we have been consulted about development on the site. Over 1500 email and letters opposing the developer-written planning controls were submitted to the council and a petition of over 2500 signatures opposing the developer-written rules were delivered to local MP Mr Bruce Notley-Smith.
It is now up to the Department of Planning to implement Liberal state government policy at Bronte. The Department must let Waverley Council, in consultation with the community, determine the rules and vision for development in our local area. The council has established the rules and these rules must be respected by the Department.
Anyone who believes in due and proper process, who believes in democracy and who believes a community should control their own destiny should be up in arms about the treatment that has been handed out to the citizens of Waverley.
Last update 2014-11-14