The state government has rejected the findings of two independent planning bodies and ordered a controversial high-rise development proposal at Sutherland be considered for the third time.
Under the proposal, an 11-storey apartment block would be built on a site at 10-14 Merton Street, which overlooks the playgrounds of both St Patrick’s Primary School and Sutherland Public School.
The present maximum building height of 20 metres (six storeys) would increase to 36 metres.
Controversy dates to July, 2013, when a mayoral minute by then mayor Kent Johns made multiple last-minute changes to the new draft local environmental plan (LEP).
One of the changes increased the height limit on the Merton Street site to 40 metres.
The independent Roseth inquiry into the draft LEP, which was set up by the sate government, recommended the building height be reduced to 20 metres, and this was adopted in the 2015 LEP.
Last year, the development site owner applied to the Department of Planning and Environment under the Gateway process for the LEP to be amended to increase the building height to 36 metres and the floor space ratio from 1.5:1 to 3:1.
Sydney South Planning Panel considered the request and recommended the proposal should not proceed to Gateway determination.
However, three weeks ago, the Department of Planning and Environment wrote to panel chairman Morris Iemma, ordering the proposal be reconsidered.
The department’s secretary Carolyn McNally wrote, “I am of the opinion the proposal demonstrates strategic merit, as it provides additional housing on a site that has strong public transport links, good access to jobs and services, open space and community facilities”.
Ms McNally said the proposal was generally consistent with state government objectives and directions set out in various documents.
Ms McMally said she noted site specific merit issues were outstanding, and the department would appoint an independent design consultant to determine the most appropriate controls to proceed to Gateway determination.
Labor councillor Diedree Steinwall, who has fought the proposal from the outset, said it was “so disheartening to see our LEP now frequently trashed by developers, aided by this state government”.
“Residents continue to have absolutely no say over the shape of their neighbourhoods,” Cr Steinwall said.
”Residents are understandably frustrated and angry they sometimes have to fight the same development over and over.
“Every aspect of the development process is now beyond the reach of residents with their own elected councillors stripped by the state government of any power to determine development applications in September last year.
“Surely, there must be some process that allows residents an input into the area in which they live.”
Cr Steinwall said the LEP took several years to develop and was exhibited three times, receiving nearly 5000 submissions.
“What is the point of developing an LEP for our area if it can be easily set aside and huge height increases approved?” she said
“Residents have every right to feel indignant, especially since two schools around Merton Street will be heavily impacted if this goes through.”