ST GEORGE UNDER SIEGE 3: ‘UNITS, UNITS, EVERYWHERE!’

Residents of the St George area are certainly feeling ‘growing pains’ of late. It seems each time you turn around you see another block of units going up. If you are lucky you may be able to catch a glimpse of the builder’s fence of doom surrounding a heritage cottage before it is swiftly disassembled, smashed up and torn down. In its place inevitably rises something far bigger and of greater scale and bulk, sometimes ludicrously so, to the extent that neighbours’ views are extensively impeded, solar access is significantly reduced and general streetscape ambience is destroyed. Nowadays it is not strange in the St George area to see a small cottage sitting side by side with a newly completed six storey block of units. As I’ve said before it is no longer a case of the development fitting in with the street, it is now becoming a case of the street fitting the development.

Residents’ concerns are being totally ignored at both council and state government levels. It seems that growth of the building industry is the ultimate goal at any cost, and the St George area appears to be an epicentre of overdevelopment at the moment, just as the formerly leafy suburbs of Kuring-gai have become over the past few years. If you want to see the impacts of unrealistic population growth and what happens when the building industry is slated as the next economic windfall after mining, come and have a look at some of these areas. A walk around Hurstville or along the Princes Highway Rockdale will put you in no doubt as to where the future of this city is headed.

Recently a number of Development Applications and approvals have raised alarm bells for groups of surrounding residents who try to cling bravely to some semblance of what their suburbs represent, of the lifestyles and the atmosphere they have invested into over many years, often an entire lifetime. They have made the choice to live here for certain reasons, under certain conditions, and that inevitably comes down to quality of life, being part of a community, living in suburbs that aren’t dominated by highrise but instead offer a variety of building styles; free standing homes with gardens, trees and open space, respect for heritage. This is all being stripped from many suburbs of St George at breakneck speed. And unfortunately many unit developments are based around financial targets that mean fitting as many individual dwellings onto the land parcel as possible, which is in direct conflict to preserving open, low rise, garden suburbs and healthy community lifestyles.

Planning Gone Mad…

In Kogarah recently a DA was lodged to redevelop a freestanding building at 44 Montgomery St with a total of 31 units, half being studio sized, on a site with a frontage of only 12.19m. Despite not complying with council minimum standards for site width, floorspace ratio, height, setback and carparking, the DA was somehow approved by council. The nine storey building will be shoehorned onto a site so tiny and with such limited vehicular access that a car lift will need to be installed to get cars in and out of the pokey basement. The owner claims that such lifts are commonplace in Europe – maybe in the centre of Paris, yes, but in the backstreets of suburban Kogarah, really? The local Chamber of Commerce has made strong complaints to council, who clearly are out of touch with their constituents. This comes at a time when peak train services are being culled from the bustling railway station of Kogarah – that’s right, not increased, culled.

44 Montgomery St, One freestanding building to become NINE storeys. Image Fairfax.

44 Montgomery St, One freestanding dental surgery to become NINE storeys.
The dentist-developer now has a healthy grin. Image Fairfax.

In Carlton on the site of an old plant nursery at 399-403 Princes Highway big growth has been announced for a structure that towers six storeys over the surrounding mostly single storey houses in an area governed by a DCP that allows only two stories maximum. Neighbours rightly believe this kind of development doesn’t belong in their quiet suburb, and would set an unsuitable precedent for future growth of the area. Railway transport is nowhere near this development, neither are grocery shopping centres or other facilities. Moreover, they argue, is why should a developer be allowed “to exceed planning controls, not by 100 percent, but by 200 percent?”

New plans for the old nursery site. Six storeys here is like development on Dynamic Lifter. Image Fairfax.

New plans for the old nursery site. Six storeys here is like development on Dynamic Lifter. Image Fairfax.

At Sans Souci and Ramsgate several large blocks of units are either rising or have been proposed along Rocky Point Rd, with little or no regard for residents’ wishes. Cottages are disappearing with their gardens, and being filled with multi-storey apartments… The site of the Darryll Lea chocolate factory is one such example, with plans recently revealed to convert the industrial site occupied since 1963 into residential highrise after the confectionary business moves out in September 2014. It is then that 430 dwellings will be squeezed onto the 3.3 hectare site in buildings of up to 12 storeys high, producing a sweet financial result for former owners of the bankrupt business the Lea family, but perhaps a sickly aftertaste in the mouth for nearby residents and commuters who have to battle traffic along the busy thoroughfare every day. Again the rail corridor is nowhere near this site, only adding to congestion on the already ‘Rocky Roads.’

The famous Darryll Lea chocolate site. The Lea family will win a sweet windfall from real estate values after failing dismally as bonafide business operators.

The famous Darryll Lea chocolate site. The Lea family will win a sweet windfall from real estate values after failing dismally as bonafide business operators.

Nearby at Ramsgate Beach another plot, a former caravan park on the Grand Parade known as the Grand Pines and famous for offering caravan and cabin holiday rentals on the shores of Botany Bay within site of the city, is being turned into a 51 dwelling townhouse complex. Quite a tight fit for a narrow site in quiet suburbia, and like the others, nowhere near railway transport.

Another site nearby at 183-189 Rocky Point Rd. intends taking over a petrol station and three heritage shopfronts, bulldozing and remodelling with 65 residential units, much to the despair of surrounding neighbours who will have to look over their back fence at a concrete wall six storeys in height. The DA started life as a 41 apartment complex five storeys high with retail component, but the local Ramsgate DCP allows only four storeys. Interesting that what is proposed now is a six storey monolith comprising 65 units, many of small scale with no cross-ventilation, eight commercial tenancies and basement parking.

'Six does go into four'... This site is set to become six storeys, under a local DCP that allows only four. You do the math.

‘Six does go into four’… This site is set to become six storeys, under a local DCP that allows only four. You do the math. Kogarah Council can’t.

Ramsgate's 'Rocky Road'... service stations are making way for extreme development.

Ramsgate’s ‘Rocky Road’… service stations are making way for extreme development.

These heritage shopfronts will be bulldozed soon.

Rocky Point Road. These Federation heritage shopfronts will be bulldozed soon…

Directly opposite, these are the replacements... bulky, square, obtrusive, frightfully ugly money makers... Note the driveway access cutting straight through the footpath.

Directly opposite, these will be the replacements… bulky, square, obtrusive, frightfully ugly money makers… Note the driveway access cutting straight through the footpath.

By comparison, the southern side of Ramsgate maintains buildings of a more suitable scale.

By comparison, the southern side of Ramsgate maintains buildings of a more suitable scale and character.

But this scenario is mirrored all along Rocky Point Road, such as the 18.85 metre tall block at 124-144 Rocky Point Rd known as the Jameson. This site has been under construction for several years already and has been constantly evolving even as it is being built. Just recently the developer lobbied to apply for extra single bedroom units to bring the total from 70 to 77. The alterations were passed by Rockdale Council officers without the councillors being involved. In actual fact it is surrounded by single storey homes and the odd two storey shop, nothing on the scale that we are seeing come up here. The nearest railway transport is literally miles away and bus services in the area are already overstretched. Traffic is gridlocked at certain times of the day and about to get much worse on this main north-south artery.

The Jameson. A monolith rising above a quiet suburban landscape.

The Jameson. A monolith rising above a quiet suburban landscape.

Like the wild, wild west…

I haven’t even mentioned some of the really massive developments going up around Rockdale, Hurstville (such as the former Dominelli Ford caryard known as Highpoint with 320 units proposed for completion 2015-16), Kogarah (such as the former Kogarah Mecca theatre site known as Grand Central comprising 92 units due for completion next year). And then there is the former Amcor Packaging site on Forest Road Hurstville now known as East Quarter, a series of massive towers taking over the landscape. All of these projects are selling off the plan, many to offshore investors in China keen to park their money somewhere ‘safe’ like Australia. Their gain may be to our childrens’ detriment, but who in power is really concerned about that…?

Hurstville Councillors Jack Jacovou and Nancy Lui spruiking the benefits of highrise at the East Quarter. Click for Leader story. Image Fairfax Media.

Hurstville Councillors Jack Jacovou and Nancy Lui spruiking the benefits of highrise at the East Quarter, gleaming with pride. Click for Leader story. Image Fairfax Media.

New precedents are being set, and quiet, suburban streetscapes are being radically transformed all over the area. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come under the Premier’s new planning reforms being passed through the NSW Upper House now, perhaps it is a sign of developer-biased decisions made in councils that turn healthy profits and show total disregard for community values, perhaps it is just the fate of a city that has chosen to grow at such a rate that it has forsaken its own residents in favour of accommodating many more new arrivals, at levels that simply are not desirable nor sustainable at any measure of the imagination.

Like a wild west gold rush these forces are being played out to the detriment of all around, and like a wild west gold rush some will get rich very quickly, but the effects of the methods and the physical scars will be felt on the surrounding environment for many years to come, and probably never will be fully reconciled.

Following gallery all images by Inheritance. Please click on the image for a slide show. Please read the captions as they describe even more obtrusive development in the area.
Title image at top of page is new development on Princes Highway, Kogarah. Image by Inheritance.

But wait, there’s more! Please find the time to watch these disturbing ACA videos. This describes some of the frightful planning decisions being enacted on Rocky Point Road, and is what can now happen to anyone if they just happen to find their home next door. Click on both images below, thank you.

Click here for ACA video #1

Click here for ACA video #1

Click here for ACA video #2

Click here for ACA video #2

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4 responses to “ST GEORGE UNDER SIEGE 3: ‘UNITS, UNITS, EVERYWHERE!’”

  1. Anne Field says :

    Andrew

    Don’t forget to include Dunmore Sreet , the aproval by RCC 2 Wed nights ago of an inappropriate subdivision and properties on acorner block ,corner of Gladstone Strret /Dunmore street n a heritage street.

    Anne

    Regards

    Anne Field

    http://annefield.net.au

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Yes Anne, there are simply too many to list… the overdevelopment of the area is rampant. And that is a shame that they approved the buildings at Dunmore St. that are so clearly out of character, and opposed by the majority of residents in the area. Dunmore Street should be a heritage listed precinct.

  2. RoseAnn Goldhawk says :

    I was just browsing your site & came across pictures of Victorian heritage houses for sale.My grandfather built one of those houses across from Kogerah Highschool & when I last travelled along thr Princess Highway,about twenty years ago through Kogerah it was wedged up against a block of three storey chocolate units.I don’t know if it still exists there anymore due to all the development up there at the moment.I now live in Victoria, at least down here they are trying to preserve their heritage buildings & houses . It’s such a shame that multiboxed lego land buildings have to replace history, because in the end people give away high rise apartments to live in fully restored or customised houses to make it a home.It seems it’s the developers that dictate the way in which society should live in order to construct high rise chicken coops in a square metre for them to make a profit.They are out of style become out of fashion & the whole whole area loses it’s character & charm & just becomes another mechano Americanized suburb.Syney used to be famous for it’s style just as Melbourne for it’s theme.Seems to me we no longer will be able to distinguish any suburbs or cities in Australia as in the end all countries will be the same

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Thank you for the comments… Kogarah and many other suburbs of Sydney are changing so fast to accommodate more ‘chicken coups’ as you put it. Our state government in NSW is failing residents with regard to heritage conservation. We can only hope and campaign for better outcomes in the future, as it stands much is being lost and the forecast still looks grim for Sydney.

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