The following is a media Statement from Greens Councillor Murray Matson made prior to a critical urban planning debate by Randwick City Council onTuesday 13th December 2016.
What do Randwick City Councillors want to be remembered for?
Randwick’s present zoning only allows for between six to seven storey buildings in the Kensington and Kingsford town centres. But those height restrictions are now under siege from developers.
Next Tuesday night Councillors have a choice.
They might vote for a draft rezoning proposal intended to head off a tide of 25 story high developments presently hitting the Kensington and Kingsford town centres.
The proposal has many environmentally sound measures and will allow the Council to receive 5% of all new dwellings as fordable housing and only modestly increases heights. But it does propose higher buildings at three specific CSELR station sites thus attracting opposition from anti light rail critics.
So the Councillors could instead vote to abandon working on it and let the State Government catch resident ire when towers start mushrooming across the two areas.
Ducking for cover would be understandable for Councillors who may soon not be in office because of Council mergers pushed by the same State Government.
But it is only the present crop of Councillors who have any chance to stop the haphazard redrawing of the Kingsford and Kensington skylines. Any elected representatives who survive the transition to a post-merger Council are going to have a lot on their plates and maybe subservient to some degree to Government imposed administrators.
The State Government has been trying to use a non-Council body called the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) to permit re-zonings on specific sites. “Ad hoc” or “spot rezoning” are valid descriptive terms for this piece-meal approach to urban planning.
The Council does have one card it can play even though it is the JRPP making the decisions. The majority of the JRPP membership are professional architects who don’t want to be associated with ad hoc development any more than Councillors.
The JRPP has now knocked back five very high planning proposals after Council successfully argued that planning controls should be reviewed first.
On one occasion the Panel wrote back to the State Government on why it was it refusing the latest proposal:
“The Panel notes that the council is well advanced in a planning review of the Kingsford and Kensington Town Centres and has programmed the exhibition of a planning proposal for these two precincts for late 2016 to early 2017. Given that the planning proposal will include the subject site, a separate planning proposal for the site will not be necessary and would in fact be confusing.”
The Council is drawing from the winning entry of its K2K urban planning competition as the basis for a proposal that high rize of just 18 storeys be allowed on only three “node” (light rail station) sites across the two town centres.
Resident groups are not happy with this idea and are confusing the Council’s K2K competition with that of the State Government’s policy of randomly allowing 25 storey high rizes.
The organiser of one resident group has vehemently attacked Councillors who proposed the competition in the misguided belief that it had opened the way for the development push. In fact the K2K competition was put together by Councillors after the Government had already started pushing the 25 story proposals to the JRPP.
Thus K2K is an attempt by Councillors to head off a developer driven high rize tide – a necessity that was made clear in a recent media article.
“We want to help control development by working on a plan where development complements the streetscape, makes it more uniform so we do not have mega structures.” (Randwick Mayor Noel Souza, Daily Telegraph News Local July 18th 2016)”
For both residents and the Council the choice is quite stark.
If Council does not push on with a coordinated planning policy that proposes that only three sites go to just 18 storeys then the Government will continue to pressure the JRPP into allowing 25 story towers randomly across the Kingsford and Kensington town centres. And with no planning policy the JRPP will stop rejecting them.
One fellow Councillor said to me recently: “I don’t want to have to drive up and down Anzac Parade each looking at 25 storey towers that I think I could have stopped.”
CONTACT: Randwick Greens councillor Murray Matson 0409-984-587 @murraymatson firstname.lastname@example.org