By LYDIA WATSON-MOORE
Residents have been left dumbfounded following the announcement that a controversial Newtown development may expand even further.
The Alice Street site is currently being constructed by the elusive Al Maha company as a five storey residential block, which will house more than 200 units.
The developer has now appealed to the NSW Land and Environment Court to extend the site even further, seeking another two storeys to a development residents have labelled as “unbelievably overpowering”.
Concerned local residents, such as Maja O’Dell, are not only frustrated by the construction, but are anxious about future privacy, traffic and noise issues.
“There’s going to be a five, potentially seven storey building across the road from me with apartments and balconies that we know are going to be staring directly into my bedroom [and] my girl’s bedroom” she said.
Richard Elliott told City Hub that his Holmwood Street home would lose significant sunlight with the development.
“The extra two storeys they’re trying to build are going to cast a big shadow over our place in winter time. We’re going to lose the sun about midday,” he said.
Mr Elliott also expressed his concern about the potential road congestion in a difficult time for public transport in the area.
“It’s putting a lot of cars on the road at a time when the state government’s cutting back rail services to St Peters and Erskineville stations.”
Angered resident Emma Rafferty said that there had been no plan to coordinate the increased traffic flow in an already busy area.
“I can see major bottleneck problems there, and there doesn’t seem to be a plan to manage that,” she said.
Ms Rafferty also said that the development did not suit the inner west suburb, with surrounding terrace housing from the late 19th century.
“A building of seven storeys is completely out of the local Newtown character and streetscape. It’s going to be this huge eyesore,” she said.
Residents are not just concerned with the end result, as many told City Hub of the construction ‘nightmare’.
Debra Donnelly, a long time resident, said she was fed up with the noise and mess of the construction site.
“In summer we couldn’t open our windows because the noise and dust was so stifling,” she said.
Ms Donnelly she had been verbally “abused numerous times by workmen” and that council rangers had simply watched on.
Several residents told City Hub that the developer had been frequently fined for breaches of construction regulations, and that they thought Marrickville Council’s fines were not deterring the malpractice.
Ms O’Dell said that the developer seemed “to just pay the fine and get on with business”.
“It’s frustrating as it feels like there isn’t anything we as residents can do to ask them to clean up their act,” she said.
A council spokesperson told City Hub that “the site is the subject of ongoing monitoring by council and to date a total of 14 penalty notices have been issued totaling a large number of fines.”
“Given the large scale of the construction activities in this established location, and with the known breaches to date, the site remains a significant focus for monitoring services staff,” the spokesperson said.
All attempts by City Hub to contact the private Al Maha developer failed, and their design partners, SJB Interiors, did not reply in time for print.
Ms O’Dell said that while she understood the common inconveniences of large development, such as noise and dust, she believes the workmen are inconsiderate.
“The developers are just really bad neighbours, and they don’t have consideration for anyone,” she said.
Ms Rafferty told City Hub that the original plan for the development had included the seven storeys, but this was rejected by Marrickville Council.
The developer had then taken the DA to the NSW Land and Environment Court, under a controversial legal loophole that allows developers to bypass council.
City Hub was informed by Marrickville Council that this process was now again happening with this attempt to add two additional storeys.
“They [Al Maha] appealed before Council had made a decision. We are defending the appeal because, at this point in time, we do not support the application,” a council spokesperson said.
Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong said that this was “a clear example of what is wrong with planning laws in NSW”.
“Successive NSW governments have introduced planning laws which make it easier for developers to override community concerns,” she said.
Residents informed City Hub that the Land and Environment Court appeal from the developer included a ‘conciliation conference’ on July 21 between the council, the developer and the community.
All residents City Hub spoke to said that they would be attending the conference to express their concerns.
Emma Rafferty, along with fellow resident Miles Larbey, were preparing submissions to make at the conference.
“That’s an opportunity where residents can turn up and have their say, so we know that people are turning their minds towards that,” Ms Rafferty said.