by Philippa Martens
The community battle to preserve Bronte’s Macpherson Street shopping strip, under threat by a proposed redevelopment of Bronte RSL, continues.
The proposed redevelopment of the Bronte RSL began in October 2012 at a Waverley Council meeting held on site. Stephen Lightfoot, Co-founder of Save Bronte, was there.
“It was pretty rowdy, about 300 people turned up and everyone was anxious to know what was going on,” he says.
Save Bronte was formed to ensure the local residents concerns were heard. Mr Lightfoot says Save Bronte’s vision is to keep the Macpherson Street shopping strip as a neighbourhood centre with a focus on local shops for local people.
The Bronte RSL developer has now gained approval from NSW Department of Planning for a ‘spot rezoning’ of the site to allow for a six-storey residential, retail and RSL complex. At the same time, a community-approved Waverley Council proposal for a compliant residential, retail and RSL complex has been awaiting approval since August 2013.
Mr Bruce Notley-Smith, local Liberal MP for Coogee, has supported the Waverley Council proposal from its inception.
“The Waverley Council proposal should be approved and any proposal should comply with current zoning laws,” he says. Mr Notley-Smith believes the pre-gateway process is flawed, that it’s an “inappropriate mechanism to have in planning law” and he feels strongly that it breaks his party’s election promise to give planning powers back to local councils, he says. There is no justification for the Bronte RSL proposal to be sitting in the Department of Planning’s office. It should be dealt with at the local level, he says.
The pre-gateway process is currently under review by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment. A spokesperson for Pru Goward, the NSW Planning Minister, said the review is ongoing and taking place to ensure the process was “targeted at matters of regional significance”.
Tom Cha, owner of Bronte Food Centre, a mixed food business in operation for 14 years near the RSL site, says of the proposed redevelopment, “It’s not good for any small business around here, this is a small village. It’s also not good for children’s safety with more traffic, parking issues and trucks to come.”
Erin Verinder, manager of a herbal dispensary a few shops up, agrees. “There’s a real sense of community here, people know each other’s names and like the home-grown and local shopping experience.” However, Ellouise Tyrrell, who owns a property management business, said she didn’t want to comment, as it was “too controversial”.
Whether or not Bronte RSL is deemed to be of regional significance is a debate that continues to sizzle away, according to Stephen Lightfoot. For a suburb of 30,000 residents, many believe the local club is too small a fish to fry. For now, it’s a waiting game to see who gets out of the frying pan.