Nissan Site - cnr Barker & Avoca Streets

MAY 2012

Alas, the Land & Environment Court approved the increase in unit sizes.  That takes the floor space ratio from an already excessive 1.4 to 1 to over 1.5 to 1.  The site has a zoning permitting 0.65 to 1 floor space.

The applicant 'tweeked' the plans to address Council's design concerns leaving the residents to make the case that larger units (eg 1 bed to 2 bed), which logically will attract more residents would impact their amenity, most notably traffic and parking.  It was difficult for residents to make their case without "experts" and the Court did not see any issue with traffic on Barker Street (this being the only entry to on-site car parking for the development).  PLEASE, is the Court mad ?  Probably.

See below for the whole sad (dodgy) story.  In any case, an absolute 'line in the sand' (or should that be soil dumped) is no further increase in the number of units (117) through revised floor layouts and the like, following the extra floor space granted by the Court.


April 2012 UPDATE

The Councillors were presented with a report by RCC officers recommending increasing the floor space and other concessions asked for by the applicant, and in essence no longer proceeding with a defence of the applicants appeal. Clearly this is at odds with the residents wishes.

In response to this, the following resolution was put to a vote.

RESOLUTION: (Mayor, Cr Nash/Matson) that Council proceed with a defence of this appeal based on the evidence of resident objectors.

One Ward Councillor, Mayor, Cr Nash, voted for continuing to defend the appeal and the other two Ward Councillors, Crs Hughes and Procopiadis, voted against, despite the residents wishes.


For Against

Councillor Andrews
Councillor Belleli
Councillor Bowen
Councillor Matson
Councillor Matthews
Councillor Nash
Councillor Seng
Councillor Stevenson

Total (8)

Councillor Hughes
Councillor Procopiadis
Councillor Smith
Councillor Tracey
Councillor White
Councillor Woodsmith

Total (6)

The site was previously granted by Council a Floor Space Ratio over 200% of the site’s zoned

FSR together with heights over 60% greater than zoned as well as zero set back from Avoca St.

Site zoning: Residential 2B
Site zoned FSR: 0.65
Previously granted FSR: 1.40

The RCC report given to Councillors contained a number of serious errors, omissions and incorrect statements. A number of residents contacted one or all of the Councillors to alert them off these errors and omissions prior to the March 13 meeting vote. For example it stated that the resident objectors had been provided with a copy of the amended plans created by the applicant in late February.

As of Friday March 30 the amended plans have still not been sent to the residents by RCC’s planning department.

These are the same residents who will represent RCC in the Land & Environment Court to try and stop this example of over-development.


March 2012 UPDATE
The plans have been revised again.  The latest is that Council staff are recommending a settlement with the developer based on these revised plans.  This goes to Council for a decision on 13 March.  Floor space ratio is now 1.45 to 1 up from 1.4, traffic concerns of residents who gave evidence at the on-site hearing of the Land & Environment Court have been dismissed by Council staff.
Interestingly, Council staff recommend the settlement, rather than having the Court decide, as this would bring 'finality'.  If only that were true, might any settlement include an undertaking from the developer that the agreement reached is subject to no further changes (increases) in the number of apartments (currently 117) ?
FEB 2012 Update
The applicant has taken Council's refusal (in Dec 2011) of the request to amend the existing consent to the Land & Environment Court.  An on-site meeting was held with resident objectors on Monday 20 Feb 2012.  Oddly, the applicant has also lodged what is known as a s82A application which is a review of Council's refusal of the latest proposal - in Dec 2011, see below.  In the latest plans they have redesigned many apartments, these to address 'design deficienies' identified by the Randwick Waverley Design Review Panel.
This Design Panel considers only the amenity of the apartments proposed NOT the impact on the neighbours and the surrounding community.  Still the redesigned proposal is a futher increase on the approved and excessive floor space ratio of 1.4 to 1 (the highest residential FSR elsewhere in Randwick City is 0.9 to 1).
The trick will be to get the higher floor space ratio for larger apartments (eg 2 bed) and then once construction has commenced in a further application, to say pre-sales for the larger "product" have been disappointing (no doubt due to inflated prices) and to convert back to 1 bed apartments, except this will end up being more than the 117 apartments already approved.  This already happened in the 70 unit development in Botany Street, cnr of Silver Street and is being tried on currently at 10-20 Anzac Parade Kensington. Economic viability is not supposed to be a 'planning matter', or does that just apply to the neighbours who will lose sun, views & on-street parking?  We hope the Land & Environment Court will see the matter differently and not approve the application.
Dec 2011 UPDATE
Fortunately, in Dec 2011, Councillors rejected the plans to revise the floor space ratio upwards from the already excessive 1.4 to 1 to 1.51.  Some part of the application, namely to correct an error in the original approval and for renumbering apartments were OK, so the Council staff report and Councillors could have approved this part of the application.  Therefore, we would not be surprised to see further issues to unfold for this site.
July 2011
On Wednesday 6 July 2011, the site was auctioned and was passed in for $20.9, the previous sale in 2009 (with the old development consent) was for $12m.
The Nissan site corner of Avoca, Barker and Dine Streets Randwick – we all know the outcome, that is 116 apartments have been approved, but how did we get to such an overdevelopment of this site?
For that we have to go back, way back, to a time before bird flu, the global financial crisis and facebook !
ACT ONE – the ground work (or not it seems)
In 2003, the site owner o lodged a development application for units pluis a small retail component facing Avoca Street – after community concern about the scale of the plans (this really being an ambit claim and a ‘softening up’ of community expectations), a revised proposal was lodged and approval was given in 2004 for 53 apartments with a floor space ratio of 1.4 to 1 – this figure being central to what we have today.
Why was the large 1.4 to 1 floor space ratio allowed given the site zoning is residential with a 0.65 to 1 floor space ratio? Well at that stage, under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act( EPA Act), the car yard was a non-conforming use and Council’s zoning requirements did not apply, rather they were used as criteria only and the site had ‘existing use’ rights.
These ‘existing use’ rights were really broad, not only could the non-conforming car yard continue but any other development, residential, commercial, school etc could be built on the site. The multi-level Horizon building in Darlinghurst is another example of existing use rights, this site formerly being part of Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Sometime in 2005 or 2006, the EPA Act was modified so the existing use rights were restricted to the actual existing use (in this case car yard) or the zoned use, which for Nissan was residential with a floor space ratio of 0.65 to 1. Of course the 2004 approval given for the Nissan site remained valid, provided building works started within 5 years.
Come 2009, and a new development application was lodged, this time being for 120 apartments, with the same floor space ratio as previously approved of 1.4 to 1. You don’t need to be good at maths to realize that, on average, each of the proposed apartments was less than half the size of what was previously approved. The application made particular reference to the floor space approved in 2004 and submitted evidence that building works had commenced, including one claim that more than 28 TONNES of soil had been removed from the site. Council in performing the development assessment accepted these claims, even though the neighbouring community could clearly see that no change to the largely cement surface car yard site had occurred.
ACT TWO – the ducks are lined up
During the period since 2004, “affordable housing” had become the buzzword in planning, although really is housing ever unaffordable? Sure it maybe expensive, but the property market in Sydney and Randwick especially are characterized by a high level of turnover. This alone indicated lots of people can afford the mix of houses and units on offer.Ultimately, housing cost is a matter of managing expectations (style of housing and location), but that seems have become redundant in the time prior to the global financial crisis.
So ‘affordable housing’ is really shoebox apartments. The idea being smaller units are cheaper or is it just developers get richer ? In any case, at a planned cost of more than $500,000 per unit on the Nissan site, the apartments were never going to be affordable. In fact, it’s likely many will be occupied as ‘crash pad’ homes, as the ultimate luxury of the well paid, places for 3-4 working days before departing for a larger McMansion on the city outskirts or perhaps in the Southern Highlands ?
The 2009 application included 3 affordable housing units for Randwick Council and went to the ‘Joint Regional Planning Panel – East (JRPP) who rejected it, based on overdevelopment and noted that Council should not have assessed the application given it was proposed they were to receive 3 units in the development. Certainly. Council staff had bought into the “affordable housing” argument.
The applicants response was simple. They lodged a new development application for 117 units which excluded the 3 affordable housing units which had been promised to Randwick Council. The same claims regarding work commencing under the 2004 consent were lodged as justification for the 1.4 to 1 floor space ratio, instead of the 0.65 to 1 ratio the land was zoned and despite residents concerns that a much greater intensity of site use (117 versus 53 units) and the impacts on traffic and parking.
In an odd meeting of the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) in June 2010 (odd because no objectors were invited as required), the revised plans were passed. Subsequent to planning consent being granted, the site was put up for auction, bought in 2009 for $12 million and passed in July 2011 for $20.9 million. Hardly bodes well for affordable housing.
  1. Why did Randwick Council accept the developers claim that work under the 2004 consent had commenced, this being central to continuing with the 1.4 to 1 floor space ratio when residents advised otherwise ?
  2. Did the promise of so called ‘affordable housing”, both explicitly promised to Randwick Council (3 units) and by moving from an approved 53 units to 120 influence the analysis of this development application ?
  3. Why weren’t objectors invited to the meeting where the revised plans of 116 apartments were approved by the JRPP?
  4. Should the community be similarly concerned about redevelopment of the Newmarket (Inglis) site a few hundred metres west on barker Street – remembering that Randwick Council included an exception on building height for “affordable housing” ?

    Newmarket site is currently zoned low density 2A, but the Inglis family is seeking a higher density for this site.
Only community interest and pressure will help “save randwick” from more Nissan-like events.
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