20 February 2014
To: Mayor Richard Quinn, Clr and Deputy Mayor Meredith Sheil, Clr Justine McLaughin, Clr Zac Miles, Clr Peter Astridge, Clr Mark Bennett, Clr Gary Bird
Re: DCP for Gladesville Village Centre
Dear Mayor Quinn and Councillors,
Following on from the Information Meeting with Architectus on Tuesday 11 February 2013, we are writing to renew the call for the immediate review and implementation of a new DCP for the Gladesville Village Centre. This call follows our previous request to you, written in November 2013 (copy attached).
The well-placed criticisms by Architectus come as no surprise to us and should go a significant way to explaining the anger and frustration expressed by members of the Gladesville community during the Council-conducted public forums in 2013. Many were trying, without the expertise of architects, engineers, traffic controllers and builders, to tell you in layman’s terms what was discussed by Architectus this week.
What was apparent from several of the points raised by Architectus is that the DCP that applies to the Gladesville Shopping Village, as it currently stands, permits and perhaps even encourages some of the fundamental design flaws that were part of the DA submitted to Council. In particular, it seems clear that, despite 2 pre-lodgement meetings with Architectus, ongoing discussions with Council and the clearly stated Design Principles of SEPP 65, the Developer had taken the view that, from a design perspective, the DCP permitted a significant departure from the contextual surrounds of our Gladesville amenity.
Additionally, while the DCP objective is to promote a vibrant community and to preserve public space, the Developer felt confident in submitting a proposal which not only restricted access to public space but also blocked the streetscape and visibility with high blank walls and minimal setbacks. It is of utmost concern to us that the Developer was confident, despite its obvious relationship with Council (having privately negotiated a call option allowing the developer to acquire Council-owned property), to submit a proposal which, to quote Architectus, “had building finishes which lack quality, particularly for a project of this size and scale.” This was the aesthetic that was considered appropriate for Gladesville!
It also appeared to us that, despite traffic and pedestrian access concerns being raised as a key issue at the first and second public forum in 2013, followed by a meeting with the Developer’s “traffic engineers”, many of the key concerns raised by the community and later by McLaren Traffic Engineering had been simply ignored by the Developer. In fact, the highhanded attitude of the Developer’s traffic engineers, who laughed and told us that they were simply doing what was permitted by the DCP, was telling indeed.
This, with respect, is not a DCP that promotes public amenity or a design of the quality being constructed in the Hunters Hill Village.
Please bear in mind that questions over the extent of Council’s involvement in this project remain unanswered. There remains a strong possibility that amendments were made to the 2010 DCP, and consolidated in 2013, to allow the Developer even greater leniency in the design phase, with opportunity to lodge a new DA which will comply despite strong public objection.
This was also the impression we got from the discussions over the heritage protection of 10 Cowell Street. Despite repeated questioning, letters and inquiries from members of the public in relation to 10 Cowell Street, Council staff oscillated from feigning surprise, to telling us the house was under heritage consideration, to telling us that the advice received was that it had no heritage value, to insisting that they had independent advice that there was no heritage significance attached to the property, to simply telling us the site was “to-be-determined”, but they could not confirm that 10 Cowell Street would not be demolished or sold to the Developer in the meantime.
Regarding 10 Cowell Street the General Manager, Barry Smith, is quoted in the minutes of Council meeting 4124 on 11 June, 2002 claiming [that] “the completed building is a tribute to the Council staff and contractors who undertook the work and Council can now justifiably point to its own work as an example of what can be achieved in heritage and conservation building works”. Council received a recommendation from Paul Davies (one of Sydney’s leading Heritage experts) to afford 10 Cowell St the protection of listing as a Local Heritage Item, when he was engaged by the Council in 2005 to audit properties in the municipality that are of Heritage significance. The Council was unable to make a decision regarding the heritage status of 10 Cowell Street in the Local Environment Plan of 2012, even though it was included as a Local Heritage Item under Schedule 5 in the draft of that LEP, which was publicly gazetted seeking community feedback. Instead of following the advice of the expert it engaged, and acting in a manner consistent with the Council’s own celebration of its achievement in heritage and conservation building works, the decision on whether to grant heritage protection to 10 Cowell Street was deferred in 2012 at the time of adopting the LEP, and remains unresolved. Notwithstanding the Council’s failure to decide on the Heritage protection to be awarded, the Council saw fit to enter into a contract to facilitate the sale of the property to a developer, likely to result in the loss of this important heritage item to the community of Gladesville – a staggering decision.
Architectus has now sought independent advice to confirm the expectation that 10 Cowell Street has heritage value. Why is it incumbent upon members of the public to protect a heritage listing from the very councillors we elected to protect such sites? Why are we having to dedicate our time and resources into making such inquiries, when we entrusted our Councillors with and, indeed, pay our Council to perform this responsibility?
We think the time has come to renew our call for a new DCP, with public consultation, which has clear design restrictions and objectives to support public space and which contextually connects Gladesville with the rest of the municipality. The number and the consistency of criticisms of DA 2013-1036 from the community, including 8 separate community groups, are a clear sign that this DA is not in keeping with community expectations. The de facto approval of some of its most undesirable attributes, aesthetically and functionally, show that we need a better DCP in place to prevent any similar DA being approved.
This will also be in Council’s best interests, as it may well avoid the enormous costs associated with engaging independent architectural and engineering expertise to nursemaid a development interest in the vague hope that it would provide some benefit to the Community. This is not the rational approach that should be adopted by any Council, let alone one for which the operations yield financial deficit year after year. As noted by Barrister Phill Jenkyn, during the Information Meeting, it is a gross waste of rate-payers’ money that such significant fees should have needed to be incurred in addressing the DA of this low quality, once received. A more efficient mechanism would be to prevent any such DA from being submitted in the hope of approval in the future by enshrining the requirements of quality in a proper DCP for the site.
We wish to thank Cllrs Meredith Sheil, Justine McLaughlin, and Gary Bird (who was, in our view, inappropriately placed in a dubious position of conflict) for their open support toward the cause of ensuring quality development for Gladesville. We hope that the clear message from the community and Architectus, that this poor-quality design is partially supported by the existing DCP, which was described by both Architectus and the Hunters Hill Trust as being inconsistent with the stated objectives of the LEP and the SEPP, provides all Councillors with the motivation to genuinely support this change.
We are looking for decisive actions, not simply words of support. We do not think that a timeline for the introduction of a new DCP, as requested by the community, should be dictated by a member of Council staff (see below), and the suggested timeline is unacceptable.
“LEP and DCP Strategic Review
The strategic review of these instruments will commence in 2014 and at the last Ordinary Meeting held on 9 December 2013, Council further resolved to review the controls applicable to the B4 zone in Gladesville. It is estimated the overall process will take not less than 8 months with changes (if any) unlikely to come into effect until 2015.”
– Barry Smith (General Manager), email to Russell Young on 17 December 2013
As outlined in the attached letter, we request that Hunters Hill Council act immediately to adopt a DCP which will restore the site controls relating to GSV to those of the DCP of 2010-unrevised (which includes setbacks and landscaping requirements). This restoration should serve as an interim DCP while the longer process of developing a DCP of the quality of that applicable to Hunters Hill Village is undertaken, including the genuine consultation described above.
At the Information Meeting, Architectus indicated that substantial amendments to DA 2013-1036 are required to address some or all of the 5 “show-stoppers” identified in its review, which ultimately caused Architectus to recommend that this DA be withdrawn. Given the scope and the extent of the required amendments, we believe the Developer will have no option but to submit a new DA, and any attempt by the Developer to consider such changes to be amendments would be rejected and treated as a new DA by the consent authority. Time is of the essence for Hunters Hill Council to demonstrate its commitment to our community by reinstating the DCP of 2010-unrevised, so as to provide some protection while genuine community consultation is undertaken in the development of a proper DCP for Gladesville which is equivalent to the standard applied to the Hunters Hill Village.
We request that the Council put the future of our community and its wishes as clearly expressed, ahead of the interests of the Developer to which the Council has chosen to bind itself with an option instrument for the sale of 10 Cowell Street, currently without Heritage protection. Put simply, when the DCP is good there will not be 300 submissions involving 8 community groups objecting to a DA which is architecturally flawed but substantially compliant with the prevailing weak DCP.
We wish to reiterate that our community group is not against development. We want to see the GSV site redeveloped into a mixed use retail and residential centre of higher quality than the retail centre which exists today, integrating the sites of the at-grade carpark at 4-6 Cowell St, the units at 8 Cowell St, and the retail site bound by Massey St, into one well-designed centre. The heritage value of the timber cottage at 10 Cowell Street should be recognised by this Council, as it has by been preceding administrations – none of which have tried to sell it off without heritage listing and appropriate protection.
We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss and work with all members of the Hunters Hill Council who are committed to leaving a respectable legacy. While the pre-conditions which have allowed this DA to progress as far as it did, and consume rate-payers funds in managing it, were mainly adopted by the previous council, it is this current council to which the outcome will be attributed. It is this council that can draw a line in the sand, and say that what has happened in the past is not good enough. The poor management of heritage protection, the lack of transparency in adoption of DCP’s, and the overly-accommodating provisions of the current DCP are matters that the current council can set right. We implore you to heed the call of the community as expressed in submissions regarding DA 2013-1036, and act to safeguard quality development for the future. We look forward to working closely with you on this.
Richard Li Justin Parry-Okeden Russell Young