Archive | September 2012

HOW TO DESTROY THE AMBIENCE OF AVOCA BEACH

Anyone who has been to Avoca Beach on NSW’s central coast will know what a quaint and picturesque seaside village it is. Lovely beaches, rock pools, surf club, sleepy seaside atmosphere, even a historic picture theatre to complete the scene. I personally happened to be there last weekend and was quietly amazed that such a peaceful and lovely hamlet can still exist so close to our major city Sydney in this day and age. Now all that is about to be ripped apart as Avoca Beach Picture Theatre owners Norman and Beth Hunter plan to launch their 1951 single screen theatre into the 21st century, with a 5-screen 615-seat multiplex monster along with cafe, gallery and apartment block containing 5 units over 3 stories. A big sea change from the existing old time theatre; residents say too big, and vow to fight the Development Application. Rightfully so, as this will dramatically reshape their little village into a modern metropolis, a change that many who live here don’t want to see.

Charming seaside theatre, for now

Several years ago Owners Norman and Beth Hunter bought an adjoining block of land and managed to get it along with the Theatre rezoned to allow mixed use commercial and residential. “Lodging this development application has been a 10 year journey,” Mrs Hunter said. “Now the time is right to get the DA through.” The proposed floor space ratio of the DA however exceeds council zoning regulations by 14 percent and the height exceeds regulations by 1.52m. They have sweetened the deal with Gosford Council by offering to pave the carpark opposite, as well as upgrade the adjoining park and footpath.

Aerial view showing size of the proposal

At a public meeting in the Surf Club on Monday 17th September around 230 residents turned up to voice their concerns against the proposed bulk and scale and of the plan (and that is a huge number in a community of this size). Avoca Beach Residents Group President Steve Fortey cited some of the residents concerns. “There is one road in and one road out of Avoca,” he said.”We are at capacity already and have managed to keep the high rises at bay so far…” Parking and gridlock would be an obvious concern especially on weekends when nippers, holiday makers, beach goers and now increased cinema traffic all drive around in circles competing for the limited amount of car spaces that simply won’t cope with what is being proposed here. “Most of the parking projection was based on a 2003 study, but traffic has increased substantially since then,” said Mr Fortey.

It’s a picture that is being played out up and down the coast… how to maintain the quiet serenity of a beachside locality that attracts people in the first place, while allowing for future development and increased population growth… Well, the answer is, at least in this case, fairly simple – Don’t.

  • Don’t build a 5 screen multiplex in a tiny beach village that clearly doesn’t want or need it. There are many, many places not far away that would be a far more suitable choice for this kind of development – Gosford, Erina, Wyong are all short drives away, and they don’t share the same traffic snarl and parking problems that Avoca Beach clearly would have to deal with.
  • Don’t ruin the charming character of a 1950’s heritage theatre, one that is obviously loved as it is, as shown by the loyal patronage and multitude of awards over the years including best Independent Regional Cinema three years running (that was obviously not won by being a multiplex!)
  • And quite simply don’t crush the irreplaceable ambience of this seaside village by trying to build a Westfield-like structure in the centre of it; a spectacularly oversized, gruesome looking structure so clearly out of place that nobody particularly wants to infect their lovely village. Make no mistake, once here, Avoca Beach will be changed forever. If a place like this is to change then it should be with community input and acceptance, and it must be a benefit to the townscape, not a brutal nondescript effigy beaten over the heads of unsuspecting locals, one that looks more like a public library than a cinema at that…

Heritage trashed, replaced by concrete box

Residents have until October 5 to comment on the ludicrous proposal, which coincides with busy school holiday period (funny that) so get busy writing.

Follow the link to a very informative Facebook Supporters page here.

A nice short film outlining the heritage of the theatre and movie-going on the Central Coast here.

Avoca Theatre DA details here

SHARKS CRY POOR, TURN DEVELOPER

In a deal described as “like winning the grand final” by Triple M’s Grill Team, the NSW Government has approved a $330 million development on the site of NRL club The Cronulla Sharks home ground and current leagues club in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. This is a big win for the struggling club, who have cried poor for some time citing $13m debts linked to developer Bluestone Capital Ventures, which they will now be able to pay off almost wholly thanks to the massive redevelopment. In a deal slated for quite some time, Bluestone Capital Ventures offered to kill off the club’s debt to St George Bank in a land grab that would see them ultimately take 100 percent of the revenue from the sale of the first 300 units in the 600 unit complex. Without this cash injection the club argued they may not be able to survive into the future, but the question must be asked, should their own financial mismanagement over many years be considered a plus in gaining consent for property development, and now, if any club or association cries poor, can they too build highrise on their own plots as well?

The plan which was granted state significant status (read ‘developer green lights’) includes eight towers up to 16 storeys containing 600 apartments as well as a new shopping centre, combining with the club facilities to form a so-called new ‘town centre’. Nearby Caringbah and Miranda Fair deal quite well with the need for local retail supply in a time when more people tend to be buying online and venturing less into multistorey shopping complexes.  The football ground itself would lose much carparking under the plan, but its not a problem, because according to the development consortium ”an extensive network of park-and-ride centres” in nearby suburbs would be created along with ”significant improvements to current public transport”. So the Sharkies can do what successive NSW state governments haven’t yet been able to – these directors (who have run their own club into the ground to the point where only a massive overdevelopment will bail them out) should be running our state!

Image courtesy SMH

Over 2000 objections were raised to the plan, many by concerned residents who fear a massive overdevelopment in the already congested Shire (try driving around Cronulla on a summer Sunday), waterfront eyesore, traffic gridlock at peak hours, and lack of public transport options, not to mention development infringement on the neighbouring Ramsar listed Towra Point wetlands and mangroves. A minimum buffer of 40m was recommended by council and various government agencies including Dept of Primary Industries – Fisheries, Office of Environment and Heritage and Office of Water, however, the project was approved with only 35m setback along the 70m length of the loading dock. Stormwater and flooding are also major issues on a development of this magnitude so close to important sensitive wetlands – so far these are yet to be properly addressed.

In an area already coming to terms with new housing estates such as Green Hills and Breen developments, Sutherland Council also rejected the plans as being too dense for the site as well as raising concerns with traffic and parking, but that didn’t stop the NSW Planning Department from giving it the final tick of approval. Local Member for Cronulla Mark Speakman SC MP voiced his disagreement with the project arguing against the scale and bulk as well as unsuitability of the location as a potential ‘town centre’.

At a time when the Caltex refinery at nearby Kurnell has signalled its imminent closure, with the loss of around 630 jobs, does it really make sense to be building massive residential blocks just down the road? Sure, in the short term there will be building jobs to fill, but building jobs are temporary, and after that there will be alot more people housed in these developments than actually working in them, meaning they all have to travel outside for their working lives, meaning more traffic, more conjestion, perhaps more unemployment for the area long-term. Cronulla will really struggle with this influx of people and cars.

On the same day the Sharks development was approved, so too was a $238 million development of the nearby Kirrawee Brick Pits envisioning another 432 units. Two towers of 14 and 11 storeys and seven smaller buildings will take form on the Brick Pits site in a decision that bypassed Sutherland Council altogether under Part 3A. “We put all our concerns on the table and they just didn’t listen to us…Once again the state government has not taken into account the concerns of the community. They are just walking all over us” said mayor Carol Provan, whose council spent $500,000 fighting the development in court. “We certainly need more development but we don’t need it in a place that is so gridlocked” she said. Earlier proposals for 250 units up to six storeys were knocked back in August 2009 by the Land and Environment Court – now we are double that size, and its all systems go, so work that out.

A new Shark Park. Watch those wetlands…

So when is a rugby league club not a rugby league club? When they turn developer and choose to chase millions of dollars in financial gain putting their own interests and that of their developer backers before any concerns of the community they apparently ‘represent’… Well done Sharkies, multi-million cash windfall for you, nice new shiny amenities and the toast of the NRL club stratosphere. Bad luck if you live nearby and are used to the pleasant laid back beach atmosphere of Cronulla – your club has just turned all that on its head and done its best to try and destroy it completely.

EPILOGUE
Perhaps after the recent elections the Sharks would have found a more sympathetic Sutherland council, with a landslide swing towards the Liberals across the suburbs, particularly in Sutherland. Whether this is linked to voters’ inability to determine between local and state matters remains to be seen, but having councils stacked with Liberal brands would only service Barry O’Farrell’s pro-development push on the state. We are aware of at least one Sutherland Liberal councillor voted in recently is a property developer, which beggars belief to some – do we really want property developers running our councils? The fact that one in seven votes at the local election was invalid shows that many people either don’t know or don’t care who they are voting for, and so developer friendly councilors are being allowed to creep in under the radar en masse.

Ramsar listed Towra Point wetlands fringe the waters around the Cronulla Sharks site, and have been described as ‘the last substantial habitat in the Sydney region for migratory birds and the myriad of species which depend on the Towra Point ecosystem.’ What impacts will this development have on Towra Point? Follow the link here.

Kirrawee Brick Pit development presentation here.

Sharks PAC Determination Report here