Heaven help the new residents of Lindfield Avenue

You hear it all the time: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And despite my use of a thousand plus words in nearly all of my posts on this blog, it’s an adage I believe in.
But the combination of words and photos often enhances the story, and I hope it does in this case (I wish I could make the picture above bigger! And just imagine, there are two more high-rise developments planned for the same street! More on that later.). This post is about my neighbourhood, but it could be about anybody’s neighbourhood in the state of New South Wales. For seven years, I have been part of a community protest against high rise buildings in six town centres in the Ku-ring-gai region on Sydney’s North Shore. Ku-ring-gai is one of the most beautiful places in Australia, with heritage homes, the Blue Gum High Forest, leafy, garden suburbs with a superb scenic and historic national park – all well worth fighting for. The high-rise project was part of a NSW Government Local Environment Plan (LEP) to increase population density, which residents were happy with, as long as it was done with proper planning.
Well, the Planning Panel brought in by former NSW Labor Minister Frank Sartor to override the Ku-ring-gai Council adopted a revised draft of the LEP during an angry meeting of 1000 residents at the UTS campus auditorium in Lindfield in May 2009. Attending the meeting was then NSW Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, who backed the residents in an eloquent defence of their arguments against the plans, and promised a return of planning powers to the local community. He also promised to limit NSW dwellings to 10,000 in Ku-ring-gai, where his seat is located: “And I specifically make this commitment to Ku-ring-gai residents. When elected we will review planning decisions like this in Ku-ring-gai and elsewhere, against the metropolitan strategy targets, and where it’s shown that they have been exceeded or are about to be exceeded we will review whatever means possible to ensure that the unsustainable, additional and unnecessary developments are ended.”
Three and a half hours later, the panel chair, Elizabeth Crouch, cut off statements from residents and after a short adjournment, adopted the plan and ended the meeting to cries of “we thought this was a democracy” from the audience. It got a bit ugly and Mr O’Farrell was gracious enough to escort a News Limited video journalist, Helen Parker, to the door after talking the security guards into allowing her to film the proceedings until the meeting was over.
Outside the auditorium, Mr O’Farrell told Parker in an interview: “The ham-fisted running of this meeting turned law-abiding, civilised people into angry, irate and downright frustrated individuals. They aren’t normally regarded as rabble-rousers but this process, driven by (then Planning) Minister Kristina Keneally, has driven them mad, and we almost saw that come to blows this evening.”
So you would think that Barry O’Farrell, now the NSW Premier, after his defence of the journalist, the residents and his commitment that night, would have no trouble keeping his promises. Unfortunately, the Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment (FOKE) are afraid the Draft Metrostrategy 2031 will be the NSW Government’s Regional Growth Plan for Sydney to 2031, and will allow many more dwellings to be built than the 10,000 the Premier promised (at least 7400 more). The Strategy will override community consultations and the Planning Bills, scheduled to be passed in February this year. Foke (http://www.foke.org.au/) and the Better Planning Network (http://betterplanningnetwork.good.do/), formed in August 2012 by community groups concerned about the NSW Government’s planning reforms, are fighting to make sure the Bills, as they stand, do not become law.
In 2011, the Friends of Turramurra had a major victory in the Land and Environment Court, with a judge declaring the Ku-ring-gai Local Environment Plan to be “invalid and of no effect.” They had challenged the LEP on many grounds, including too many changes made to it after public exhibition. The President of the Friends of Turramurra, Alan Parr, had warned at the time that “these terrible plans … must not be allowed to be resurrected” – and said the future of Ku-ring-gai was now in the hands of the O’Farrell Government and Ku-ring-gai Council. As the Friends of Ku-ring-gai noted in their latest newsletter, the O’Farrell Government scrapped the former Labor government provisions which allowed the Planning Minister to overrule local zoning guidelines. But it did nothing to stop approvals where construction had not begun. So this development was allowed to go ahead – and, making matters worse, be modified and increase the height of the buildings.
Okay, that is the background to what is likely to happen in the suburb of Lindfield within the next few months. The artist’s sketch of the new development (above) is focused on the eastern side of Lindfield station, which presently consists of a newsagent, a fish and chips shop, a liquor store, Franklins, a bakery, a chemist and behind, a parking lot and restaurant. A nice little shopping centre on Lindfield Avenue, which leads to a tiny street under the railway station bridge, which is always busy, due to a Coles across the road on the Pacific Highway, the Lindfield shops and the Holy Family Church and primary school one street to the right on the highway.
The Planning and Assessment Commission (PAC) has approved a 9-storey, 30.64-metre-high (100ft) development (PAC claims it’s only 8 storeys), with 112 apartments, and one level of retail stores. Here is the determination of modification application – a long way of saying decision – from the commission (http://bit.ly/K7x5Ws). UPDATE: Making matters much worse is that there are two more sites in Lindfield Avenue which are being proposed by developers, and, of course, they want their buildings to be 9 storeys as well. The 23-37 Lindfield Avenue approved development will now become the high benchmark for all future buildings — the developers will demand 9 storeys. The whole neighbourhood near the railway station is likely to become a Developer’s Paradise. The 43-55A Lindfield Avenue proposed development of 9 storeys now includes the area’s only full driveway service station. The station will be demolished, leaving Lindfield residents with no place to take their cars for repairs, registration or inspection. The traffic is already truly awful. Sandwiched between the two high-rise buildings are a Chinese takeaway shop and a café. They are quite justifiably worried about how they will fit into such an environment, and how they will get access. Concerned residents believe the owners of these two shops will be forced into high-rise developments as well. The three developments will create an infrastructure nightmare. I use that street nearly every day, and you often have to wait at least 15 minutes to go under the bridge and cross the Pacific Highway.
Residents, shop owners and shoppers trying to get out of the basement car park are likely to grow old getting on to Lindfield Avenue. The Pacific Highway cannot be widened in that area. Many have tried in the past, but politics and lack of space have stopped any attempt to do so. Miracles can happen, I suppose, if developers think they can make money out of it. There is only one floor for retail outlets now; and many of the shop owners are considering leaving the centre. I have talked to a few of them, who are depressed about their future, and the future of Ku-ring-gai.
And Ku-ring-gai, of course, is not the only council in New South Wales which is likely to suffer this fate. Any development approved by the former Labor Government can now be modified and submitted to the Planning and Assessment Commission, which is likely to rubber stamp the report. The President of the Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment, Kathy Cowley, who’s been fighting for decades to keep our suburbs from being turned into a mini-Chatswood, said something must be done to stop the madness: “Under any new planning laws, there has to be a more independent assessment panel than that of the current Planning and Assessment Commission. In addition, all modification to an approved development must trigger a new submission. The situation of one modification after another across Sydney must stop.”
The site will now be the highest building in the Ku-ring-gai railway corridor, with two big brother developments likely to rise beside it. Heaven, which is what the residents of the flats will be closer to, as well as a noisy railway station and terrible traffic, help them.
Barry O’Farrell, the Man Who Promised People Power, where are you now that we need you?

5 thoughts on “Heaven help the new residents of Lindfield Avenue

  1. So now since Barry has stepped down ,and development seems to be moving ahead , now what?
    You should talk to the people who,s lively hood has been wound down , what do us 50 plus employers and employees do now , not to mention the impact our goods and service withdrawn and not replaced will have impact on the local community ?

    • Hi Lee, Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I was hoping for an update from two Land & Environment Court hearings on January 21 and May 26, 2014. I have talked to a number of local shop owners and residents, who have given up any hope that the development will be stopped. An amended development application for premises at 43-51, 55 & 55A Lindfield Avenue (the petrol stations and flats next door) had resolved the majority of Ku-ring-gai Council’s concerns, with the exception of the removal of three Sydney Turpentine trees, part of an endangered ecological community. Land & Environment Commissioner Susan Dixon listened to residents’ concerns on May 26 on site. Friends of Ku-ring-gai Environment (FOKE) President Kathy Cowley spoke about the impact of the development on the Sydney Turpentine Trees, and the contamination that would result in the demolition of the service station on Lindfield Avenue. She said the contamination issue should be resolved prior to any sale. She also said Council had greatly underestimated the number of cars and traffic in Lindfield if a shop like Harris Farms was established in Lindfield Avenue. She concluded the development would destroy the village atmosphere of Lindfield. I told Commissioner Dixon the two high-rise developments in Lindfield Avenue would have an adverse effect on residents, including noise from Lindfield station, traffic in a gridlocked Pacific Highway, Balfour Avenue, Lindfield Avenue and Tryon Road, and a fairly ugly streetscape. I suggested it would no longer have a village atmosphere, but become a Nightmare on Havilah Lane. We’re still waiting to hear what the commissioner has to say about the development, but I think the last word should go to the Tesoriero family who owned the Market Garden on Lindfield Avenue, and posted this note on the window of their empty shop, titled The End of an Era:
      “After 63 years of supplying fresh quality fruit and veges, Lindfield Market Garden will be closing down this weekend 25.5.14. Started by Vince and Tom and later joined by Jennie and Connie, they soon established a thriving business. The Tesoriero Family would like to thank all our loyal and valued customers for their support and friendship over the years. We have enjoyed providing our service and have made many great friends. Your well wishes and sentiments have been greatly appreciated over the last few months.
      Vince Anthony Joe Mark”
      I think only a miracle can save Lindfield Avenue now.
      Lee, I hope you and the employers and employees who lost their jobs can find work elsewhere. I will let you know the outcome when the Land & Environment Court makes their final decision. I’m sure Ku-ring-gai Council will have something to say as well.
      Kind regards,

      • for near on 7 years i worked along side the deli, fruit market, pharmacy, the cake shop,the cafe , the newsagency and the chinese takeaway, i was a mechanic working at the garage ,the harassment ,the waiting, the lies and that was from the developers that owned the land the garage was on,when we moved there, the greed of the original owner who i believe got the council onside for development back in the late 90’s, the constant knocking on the door and letters to Mrs Ducker the house next to the sandstone coloured units next to the garage , the developers telling us it wont be long till we are out, because they bought the units , and that was at least a year before offers were made, i eventually had to find a more secure job environment, the garage has been on a month to month basis for over two years, a young concerned resident put together a petition about saving the small businesses and community atmosphere, Alex works 1 day a week at the garage, the developer apparently told Greg Doherty, the garage operator if the petition isnt retrieved and destroyed he can pack up and get out immediately at that would of been late 2013,no freedom to express community ideas and needs , no community loyalty, I’ve even said hello to Mr O’Farrell when he was premier as we stood side by side buying bread and pastries at the now closed bread shop , I was born on the North Shore ive watched progress change alot in the past 6 years out of the 46 years ,and that’s from Hornsby to Artarmon along the Pacific hwy ,nothing except more units ,shopping, hospitals, schools havent changed ,because you can take them up over 7 levels , like housing units. Its ironic that the developers live in leafy, open community based suburbs like Sutherland Shire, making money from greedy councils, and overseas investment – I guess this is what they call progress

  2. Thanks, Lee for that heartfelt comment. It deserves to be read by every resident of Lindfield, indeed, of Ku-ring-gai, as similar actions by developers and owners are likely to be taken in our suburbs. I have heard about the alleged harassment of Mrs Ducker, who has finally given up the fight and signed an option with the developer. I hadn’t heard about the petition, and the alleged harassment of Greg Doherty, one of Lindfield’s most respected businessmen, who has helped many residents in distress with car problems, and runs the best service station in Sydney in my opinion. It’s outrageous, if it’s true, that he was put under pressure because of a petition that clearly reflected the feelings of the community. It’s a petition I would sign immediately if it were presented to me. Saving small businesses and the village atmosphere are issues the entire community should be fighting for. I agree with you about the future of Lindfield and Ku-ring-gai. This isn’t progress; it’s more like the Brave New World of Aldous Huxley: “You pays your money and you takes your choice.”

  3. PS I now remember the petition at the garage. I did sign it, and so did a lot of other residents of Lindfield. Unfortunately, the Council did nothing about it. Alas, this is what they call progress.

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