By Maureen Webb
St Georges Basin residents are again up in arms, having been fighting over-development on the waterfront around Anson Street for over four years now. While there have been some small wins and some losses for residents, the development applications just keep coming.
Recently the Anson Street Concept Master Plan developer, David DeBattista generously made concessions for the community, lowering his four-storey plan down to three storeys.
While this may seem a win for the community, looking into the plan, we see 12 blocks of three-storey units, still large buildings running up both sides of Anson Street at St Georges Basin.
There is also a two-storey building with shopfronts underneath and living accommodation upstairs.
In this new plan, there are to be 237 new units built; a possibility of over 800 new residents. DeBattista already has two building developments close by, all approved and ready to go, both four-storey blocks of luxury units. This approval came despite community objection.
If approved this new Concept Master Plan means there will be a total of 14 large buildings sitting on a prime spot in St Georges Basin, there for all to see – from the land and from the water. The whole bulk and scale of the development is totally out of character for St Georges Basin and flies in the face of good planning.
The proposal will have significant social impacts on the local community as the added numbers of residents will place extraordinary pressure on all amenities, services and facilities in the village, especially medical, education and social services.
Is this what our community is looking for with new developments in their village?
Residents of St Georges Basin have worked extremely hard over the past four years to ensure good planning for their village. The community deserves better than this.
The Modified Concept Master Plan 17/1000/8 for 13 buildings is currently before the Land and Environment Court with comments being accepted by Shoalhaven City Council up until the 11th September.
If you believe a development of this magnitude constitutes bad planning, please consider making a submission to council stating your viewpoints and reasoning. Email submissions can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to Shoalhaven City Council, PO Box 42, Nowra NSW 2541 and marked as comment on RA17/1000 Island Point Rd (Anson St) St Georges Basin.
To look at a recent example Basin Villages Forum have given us permission for their detailed submission to council, lodged on 28th August 2020, to be shared here:
|RE: Concept Masterplan Application - Amended Plan. RA17/1000 Anson St, St Georges Basin|
The Basin Villages Forum is a Community Consultative Body that represents the interests of the residents of the villages of St Georges Basin, Basin View, Sanctuary Point, Old Erowal Bay and Erowal Bay, a great many of whom object strongly to this proposed over-development of the Anson Street site in a small South Coast village.
In excess of 300 written submissions have been made to Shoalhaven Council by people objecting to the applicant’s development proposals for this site and many more have attended Forum meetings to voice their disapproval.
Members of the Basin Villages Forum maintain that the following objections to the Amended Concept Masterplan need to be taken into consideration by the Land and Environment Court and represent grounds for the application to be rejected.
The amendments to the concept masterplan for Lots 22 to 29, DP 1082382, Anson Street, St Georges Basin in reality address only one of the several issue that concern the community. The amended plan now reflects the Shoalhaven City Council’s variation to the LEP which reduced the allowable height of building from 13m to 8.5m. However, it does not address problems with character, bulk, scale, density, social effects or the impact on local infrastructure.
It also does not speak to the matter of feasibility, presenting an option that the applicants own consultants stated was not financially viable (see RA17/1000 Documents - D17/101368 Economic Assessment – Opteon Report page 1). There are currently no apartments in St Georges Basin and there is no reliable data supporting a demand for this type of dwelling. A development that is destined to fail is not a desired outcome on a key central site.
Height of Buildings
The amended concept master plan purports to lower the height of buildings to be contained within the revised height control of 8.5m however, twelve of the buildings are three- storey and range from 8.7m to 9.54m in height and the footprint of the amended plan is virtually identical to the one originally proposed.
While the three storey buildings are shown as remaining below the 8.5m height plane they do so by excavating below the natural ground level. Contrary to the objectives of the LEP, from the street view their height, bulk and scale will still not be compatible with the existing and desired future character of the locality and the visual impact will not be minimised.
Character, Bulk and Scale
St Georges Basin and the surrounding area is characterised by low scale development and areas of significant vegetation. All existing dwellings are limited to two-storeys (the majority are single level homes) and even existing developments within the areas zoned B4 are of low scale. The proposal, specifying thirteen apartment buildings up to 3 storeys, is in conflict with the rural village character of St Georges Basin and the surrounding Bay & Basin area.
It has previously been noted that significant amendments to the original proposal were needed to mitigate the impacts on surrounding properties and in particular the character of the area. The visible bulk of the buildings should be predominantly 1 or 2 storeys to be more reflective of the local character. These concerns are not addressed by the ‘Amended Plan’. The proposed forms are still large and imposing, providing little visual relief, particularly to the public domain. These forms are out of character and incompatible with the prevailing building form.
The amended proposal remains out of character with the prevailing nature of development in this locality in a rural village. The Illawarra-Shoalhaven Regional Plan outlines areas in which new medium and high density housing is to be accommodated and the subject site is not identified. This might not be an issue if the proposal was minor however, in a village such as St Georges Basin and Basin View where there are less than 2000 dwellings, the proposed 237 apartments (plus 58 apartments already approved in Buildings A & B) is an extremely large number and is not consistent with the objectives of the Regional Strategy.
Additionally, the South Coast of NSW is a unique environment and is afforded extra protection by way of SEPP 71. Amongst the issues that are required to be considered by the consent authority are the suitability of development to ensure that the type, bulk, scale and size of development is appropriate for the location and protects and improves the natural scenic quality of the surrounding area.
The amended proposal is not in keeping with the existing character of the area and, given its scale and design, is not suitable to this location and will not protect the scenic qualities of the area.
We are also concerned about the potential for significant social impact on the local community since the proposal provides for a 20% plus increase in the number of dwellings in St Georges Basin all within a small area of the village, the potential effects of which have not been addressed by the applicant. Existing facilities and services are already stretched with Council and State Government funding insufficient to meet even current demands.
Together with the existing approval for 58 apartments, the proposed development will add more than 800 new residents to the village, a significant population increase that has not been planned for and which will place extraordinary pressure on all amenities, services and facilities in the village, especially medical, education and social services.
The Statement of Environmental Effects prepared by Cowman Stoddart Pty Ltd (D17/101204 Report - Statement of Environmental Effects) asserts that “the subject land is considered eminently suitable for higher density development”. It is relevant that they do not recommend ‘high’ density. ‘Higher’ density developments in St Georges Basin are generally single storey freestanding seniors living dwellings such as Rosevale Village and the AVEO Retirement Village, both of which comprise approximately 25 dwellings per hectare.
The level of density proposed for the site is totally out of proportion to the area. In a village that currently has less than 10 dwellings per hectare the applicant is seeking to build an additional 237 dwellings on a 3.6-hectare site that already has approval for 58 dwellings, which equates to 82 dwellings per hectare. By any definition that is high density and while this may be appropriate for a metropolitan location with access to adequate public transport, schools, hospitals, medical centres and other infrastructure, it makes no sense in a rural village with almost no public transport and very limited infrastructure.
We also challenge the need for a development of this size, density and nature. The 2016 census reveals that the villages of St Georges Basin and Basin View combined, contained 1977 dwellings. The Shoalhaven City Council forecast is that this will increase by 754 to a total of 2731 by 2036, that is a requirement of just 38 new dwellings per year. The 353 apartments proposed for the entire site alone represents nearly 10 years supply.
Demographics & Demand
In St Georges Basin 32% of the dwellings are occupied by elderly families, couples or singles. Another 19.8% consist of older couples and families and 20.6% by established couples and families. Over 73% of the market consists of mature aged people and their families who have chosen to live in single or two storey individual dwellings. Young families and independent youths, who might consider this type of dwelling, make up less than 10% of the market, mostly as a direct result of the lack of employment opportunities in the area.
Over the past several decades the population of St Georges Basin has exhibited a consistent trend towards an increasingly aged population. Due to lifestyle and affordability considerations, some families with young children make a house with a garden in the village their home but, once the children leave school and move on to university or jobs in the city, they leave home. Additionally, many retired couples relocate from the city to St Georges Basin for the same affordability and lifestyle reasons, so the average age of the population progressively increases and is likely to continue to do so.
Apartment style living has not been shown to be the choice of those moving into the village. The retirees come to places like St Georges Basin so that they can continue to live in their preferred single storey detached dwelling, albeit with a smaller garden or in a retirement village. We do not see either of these groups, who make up over 80% of the population, becoming prospective purchasers of these units.
The CoVid-19 pandemic has also highlighted a preference for individual dwellings as people shy away from the close encounters experienced by high-density apartment residents, especially in lifts, community facilities and common areas. A significant trend is evident of city dwellers relocating to stand alone dwellings in rural areas. The current proposal does not address this need.
We are especially concerned about the poor quality of the concept masterplan, which many of our members consider to be little more than a misguided attempt to increase the value of the land prior to on-selling the properties.
Little thought or consideration appears to have been given to the potential market for the end product. The context of the site or its location between the existing residential areas and the commercial centre of the village has not been taken into account. There is a lack of creativity in the layout, there is no connection to the rural environment, barely any sensitivity to the waterway and distant views and limited imaginative or high-quality architectural input.
The objectives of the R1 zone are to provide for the housing needs of the community, to provide for a variety of housing types and densities and to enable other land uses that provide facilities or services to meet the day to day needs of residents.
The amended concept masterplan provides little other than a still very large number of apartments for which there is no proven demand. It does not provide a variety of housing types and densities or facilities or services to meet the needs of residents.
The Bay and Basin community are not anti-development but do want future development to enhance the character of our region. This site in the village of St Georges Basin needs a much more sensitive and well considered plan than this amendment delivers. It needs a proposal that actually contributes to the future of our village not one that downgrades it. The residents of St Georges Basin and the wider Shoalhaven area, for whom this could set a precedent, deserve a better outcome.
We ask that the application be rejected.