High-rise objection to former Australian Taxation Office site

How much is too much? Residents believe developers are having too much say in the planning process.
How much is too much? Residents believe developers are having too much say in the planning process.

THE high-rise proposal for the former Australian Taxation Office building in Hurstville has been picked to pieces by United Kogarah City Residents Association (UKCRA), which accused Kogarah Council of pandering to developers at the expense of residents.

A development application submitted to the council for assessment before being passed on to the Joint Regional Planning Panel for a decision, called for a mixed-use development comprising two buildings of 18 and 11 storeys. They will contain community space, two commercial tenancies, 384 residential units and a six-level basement car park.

UKCRA was formed to fight the potential overdevelopment from the council's proposed New City Plan. The group has focused most of its objections about this proposal on the council's failure to be transparent and on the Voluntary Planning Agreement between the developer and the council.

Under the agreement, the council would get $4.8 million to be used for public benefit, an 80-space public car park and widening of Greenbank Street to allow for relocation of police vehicles there and provide opportunity for revised "Kiss and Ride" parking zones and taxi-rank arrangements on Ormonde Parade.

UKCRA spokesman Tony Soubris said it had researched all documents available and concluded the developers got their way and the council had made very little attempt to go into bat for the community.

"The developers get a lot more out of this deal and the community is being short-changed," Mr Soubris said.

‘‘What is the council doing and why are developers setting the agenda?’’

Mr Soubris said there was something odd about the fact the building was purchased outright under an unconditional contract when LEP changes allowing greater density had not been finalised — which made it look like ‘‘a done deal’’.

UKCRA also questioned the agreement figures, which they said favoured the developer, who stood to gain more than $10 million for the extra apartments.

‘‘If the developer is to gain financially from 69 extra units by reconfiguring the building, the community should obtain a commensurate increase of a net benefit and not have a negative outcome,’’ he said.

‘‘The proposed [agreement] is heavily weighted and in favour of the developer and is not in the public interest.’’

He said the monetary return would not deliver significantly more open space — an immediate, pressing need given a substantial influx of residents would move into the suburb. There was no extra parking for visitors, no room for movement and access by emergency services and no planned improvement to the bus/rail interchange.

There was no benefit in transferring the public car park land to the council as it already held a 99-year lease over it.

 ‘‘In our view it would have been more appropriate and just for all the contributions and additional payments of money to have been used to provide specific services to the residents by acquiring more open space, building extra car parks, providing affordable housing or rental housing for low-paid workers, more community-activity space and so on,’’ he said. ‘‘Sadly, the council has squandered an opportunity to deliver substantially more benefits to the community.’’

A council spokeswoman said the concerns would be addressed in a report to the council in due course.

Kogarah MP Chris Minns wrote to Kogarah mayor Stephen Agius about the inappropriateness of the development and received many emails from angry residents.


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