Council has received another Planning Proposal that seeks approval for development way over and above what is allowed in Council’s Local Environment Plan (LEP).
The proposed development on the Pacific Highway between Oliver and Freeman Roads seeks to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with retail at street level with offices above and two residential towers (one 7 storeys – 28m and one 10 storeys = 35m) with a Floor Space Ratio (FSR) of 3.05:1.
Under the adopted LEP the maximum allowable height is 18m (5/6 storeys) with a of FSR of 2:1 whereas the FSR proposed nearly 3:1 (50% more than allowable).
It should also be recalled that this site is part of the infamous ‘Locality J’, an area that was investigated by an independent assessor some years ago and recommended for 5/6 storey apartments.
The proposal is significantly above the current allowable so the proponent is proposing a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA). The VPA proposes that the proponent would provide local road widening in Freeman and Oliver Rds. Looking at the plans it appears that the proponent would need to rely on these road widenings as part of the development as the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) will not allow direct entry/egress on the Pacific Highway. So the VPA is ingenuous and misleading.
All in all, the local communities’ feelings about this proposal is that it should be refused.
I am concerned that the proposal:
1. The proposal violates the Willoughby LEP, has key features beyond the existing B5 zoning, and requires re-zoning. Council should confine the timing of re-zonings to the regular revisions of the LEP. Then , Community-wide consequences of the numerous higher-density proposals can be prioritised, to accord with an affordable schedule of renovation and expansions of the full diversity of infrastructure facilities, and transport and traffic impacts. For example, development of the highway crest precinct to the north led to storm drain enlargements, and sewage horizontal borehole drilling.
2. The FSR is 3.0:1 greatly exceeding the LEP FSR maximum 2.0:1 Heights of 1 0 and 7 stories exceed the LEP maximum of 5 to 6 stories.
3. Once density standards are violated at one building site, it can trigger an avalanche of neighbouring higher density proposals relying on the precedent of the first re-zoning.
(Developers obtain substantial financial mortgage benefits from spot re-zonings that assist in funding commencement of construction.)
4. Spot re-zonings stand proper planning on its head, as higher density then occurs in localities deemed least suited by considered prior planning staff evaluations, and modified by often exhaustive public exhibitions and Departmental ad Ministerial ratification Includes two residential towers exceeding the height limits set by Commissioner Cleland for the adjoining Locality “J”.
5. It takes no account of the open space requirements of future residents. Commissioner
Cleland arranged an unsatisfactory agreement with Chatswood High School for residents in Locality “J” to access the undeveloped open space between the school buildings and Locality “J” residential blocks. Since then, the High School population has grown, and major new high school buildings have encroached on the open space. Further, overcrowding of Chatswood Primary School has resulted in the positioning of mobile classrooms for two complete primary school years on the same open space, with the further alienation of public access to the added portion of grounds required for primary children playtime and lunchtime breaks.
6. Although land dedication has been offered in the VPA for widening Freeman & Oliver
Roads, the offered land is not aligned with a long standing RTA scheme to divert the top
of Centennial Avenue with an “S” bend, to meet Pacific Highway exactly aligned with
Albert Avenue, including much of Oliver Road. The RTA proposal required sufficiently large turn radiuses in the Centennial Avenue extension to meet the needs of fast buses and commercial vehicles.
7. From the viewpoint of the role of Chatswood in the Sydney Metroplan, the CBD is expected to provide 7,300 more commercial jobs, to help absorb substantial excess proportions of population housing over new jobs provided in most other Sydney areas. Changes in office layout and management render existing Chatswood office blocks obsolete, due to small floor plate size and uncompetitive parking availability. In recent months, capricious decisions by Council, Planning NSW , and the Land an Environment Court have resulted in all suitable sites proposed for redevelopment being frittered away for more profitable unit towers, without significant contribution to ongoing employment in office spaces. Large sites that could accommodate large floor plate sizes should initially include an office building configuration, and an exploration of its marketability, and go through exhibition alongside any residential proposal.
8. The statement that relatively low returns are currently available for commercial floor space fronting Pacific Highway needs review – including the North Sydney program replacing small plate offices with much larger floor plate offices. The podium size of this building should be compared with recent successful North Sydney office buildings.
9. Podium shop potential users have not been identified. It may be possible to provide a local drive-by supermarket similar in concept to the Roseville one at Balfour Road supplying the west side of the Highway. Showrooms for cars or industrial products gain exposure to Highway users. However, for the building to serve as a “Gateway” to Chatswood CBD, a few floors of large floorplate area would highlight the standing of Chatswood CBD in State plans.
10. I am sceptical that 65 car spaces will be adequate for 62 residential units.