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Developers gamble on re-zoning in Chippendale

It was a case of “mysterious disappearance” when it came to the City of Sydney’s latest round of development control proposals in the Chippendale and Darlington area. Property investors were shocked to find that the original results of an urban design study were scrapped, just days after a group of local residents was given the draft design plan, during a private community consultation meeting writes Candice Chung in the South Sydney Herald of November 2007.

“About a week before the public showing of the study, it was shown to the resident groups,” a local property owner said. “The proposal took months to formulate. It was for an urban renewal area around Regent, Abercrombie and Cleveland Streets.”

The owner, who did not wished to be named, told the SSH that the plans were “wiped off” by the council shortly after the meeting. “You can’t change a plan like this – that’s our real gripe. Had the original plan gone public, it may not have been a good plan. But now we’ll never know because we were not able to view it.”

According to a letter of complaint submitted by the Coalition of Chippendale Community Groups, the proposal was for a large part of Chippendale to become an ‘urban renewal area’, with zoning of up to eight storeys and sections of the heritage conservation areas potentially revoked. But the proposal presented in subsequent public meetings showed planning controls that are largely similar to existing ones.

A number of speculators had bought properties in Chippendale with the expectation that the council may loosen development controls. Local resident and community interest group member David Pocklington said investors should think twice about the potential risk before making their purchases.

“You’d think that smart property speculators would be aware of the gamble involved in relying on hearsay that an area may be ripe for redevelopment,” Mr Pocklington said.

“There are so many instances in our municipal history where speculators decide to buy properties in seemingly run-down areas, then they apply all sorts of pressures on Councils to bend zoning to allow excessive development.”

Mr Pocklington maintained that while residents are not anti-development, many are happy with the zoning as it’s now recommended. “It’s fair to say that the majority of residents would like to maintain the low-rise village nature of the suburb,” he said.

City of Sydney Councillor John McInerney said the urban design review is ongoing and the council is awaiting the next round of results from government architects. “Maybe in a year’s time, we might look at re-zoning … it’s a bit hard to say one way or the other at this stage,” he said.

Cr McInerney admitted there have been heated debates between property owners and residents over development controls but concedes that any significant changes are unlikely. “Assuming that property owners bought under current controls then they’re pretty optimistic to think that those controls would change.”

“It’s a bit like buying a Keno ticket isn’t it? You always think and hope you’ll win the prize.”

Results of the urban design study will be reported to the Council in November or December this year. 

Source: South Sydney Herald November 2007