A Woolworths in Annandale? On the face of it, not the most pressing priority for the area’s future development. The suburb already lies within spitting distance of several major supermarkets in Leichhardt, plus those at Broadway Westfield and Marrickville Metro. But in an apparently shocking case of oversight from the market leaders, within Annandale itself, there are only small, local supermarkets.
Consequently, it comes as no great surprise to find a ‘Pre-Development Application’ has been lodged with Leichhardt Council for a two-level 2500m2 (gross) Woolworths on Parramatta Road, on the corner with Trafalgar Street. Woolworths has long wanted to establish a presence in this triangle of suburbs, currently dominated by rival Coles.
By their nature, Pre-Development Applications are a strange creature. They allow formal consultation with Council by a proponent, prior to putting in a fully-fledged Development Application. This can give a clear idea of what is possible and would be entertained by a council. But it is carried out by staff, with councillors often remaining unaware of the proposal, which can mean a proposal can get a momentum before coming to the notice of the elected council, but gaining at least a perception of council endorsement. Similarly, residents are not notified and discovery of this proposal has shocked neighbours. Leichhardt Council places pre-DAs with all available details on its website, but in the absence of notification, few take the time to regularly search. This one, for example, was lodged last December, but is only becoming known now. (It can be viewed on Leichhardt Council’s website, at http://126.96.36.199/DATracking/modules/applicationmaster/default.aspx?page=wrapper&key=375548)
In the words of the application, the proposal is for the construction of a retail and residential mixed use project with basement-level car parking, incorporating the demolition of the existing warehouse and shop on the site. At the rear, meanwhile, “15 one-bedroom residential units [will]… benefit from views across the residential precinct of Annandale”. Of course, those who would find themselves peering up at them may view matters a touch differently.
As ever, traffic will be a crucial consideration. A total of 108 basement car parking spaces are proposed, apparently inclusive of staff and residents. Deliveries would be limited to trucks up to 12.5 metres long, two metres under the size the turntable proposed for the delivery dock would accommodate. Traffic and opening times (understood to be 7am to midnight, everyday) are likely to be closely scrutinised by residents. This despite the fact traffic is already an issue in nearby streets, with Council looking at further traffic calming measures.
The Roads and Traffic Authority will probably have requirements for traffic flow to and from this busy section of Parramatta Road. Locals and nearby schools in Trafalgar Street, narrow Albion Street, Collins and Nelson Streets will be understandably anxious, especially if the RTA wants to keep traffic away from the main road.
The proponents did not include a traffic study in the pre-DA. It is understood one is currently being completed, alongside revisions to the proposal in response to Council’s 17-page letter, which cited issues with design, traffic, relation to streetscapes and non-compliance with the Local Environment Plan.
Local shopkeepers remain concerned at possible effects on their businesses and on the village atmosphere of Annandale’s small shopping strip.
The estimated cost is $12 million. That is over the $10 million capital investment value threshold requiring it to go to a Joint Regional Planning Panel for a decision. Opposed by many councils, these panels were established by the State Government. Each has two representatives from the relevant council, and three ‘independent experts’ appointed by the Minister for Planning.
The site is currently zoned ‘Business’ under the planning scheme, which allows mixed commercial and residential. From a real estate perspective the site, currently a tyre garage, would be seen as under-utilised. It is a prominent site and the owners have a reasonable expectation of development, but is this the right proposal for the area? Residents have a right to consider the implications, before the proposal develops unstoppable momentum.
by Ian Cranwell