The developers for a new Erskineville supermarket have won a major battle in their fight against the local community, gaining Council approval on Monday night to proceed with their development despite a well-orchestrated community campaign.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the community’s interests were of concern, and described the decision as “tough”, but supported the proposal because she wanted to support development “which is about pedestrianising our cities”.
Councillor Marcelle Hoff cited legal concerns for her decision to approve the development. “If we refuse it here tonight, it will go to the Land and Environment Court,” she said. “It will cost Council a significant amount of money, and we will lose. In order to make a point and perhaps be popular, we can deny the developer…it would be lost [in court], and it would be lost without necessarily having the conditions [we have imposed].”
Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard said he had experienced “unanimous opposition from shopkeepers and there was largely opposition from people I spoke to on the street,” but nevertheless voted in favour of the proposal, citing the fact the previous DA had been scaled back and that he did not want to see the proposal go to court.
Greens Councillor Chris Harris said the issue at stake was the viability of Erskineville. “For the supermarket to be viable it will need to take business away from the small businesses that have created a charming diversity in the Erskineville village,” he said. “In fact, history shows that this new presence will make some of the businesses unviable and cause them to close.”
“City of Sydney staff, who have recommended the proposal for approval, focused on whether or not the supermarket would draw its business from outside the area. However, the question that staff should have posed in their assessment was whether or not the existence of this supermarket would threaten the sustainability of the village.”
“It was very disappointing that Clover Moore’s so-called independent team voted to approve the supermarket in Erskineville without undertaking an independent economic analysis of the impact of the supermarket development,” said Paul Howard from the Friends of Erskineville Working Group. According to Mr Howard, this request was repeatedly made by the Group, to address the lack of economic analysis completed by either the developer or Council.
“We understood that Councillor McInerney was going to move that the decision on the development application be deferred several weeks while this independent report was commissioned, which we understood would take 3-4 weeks,” he said. “As residents, all we were asking was for our elected leaders to undertake an objective assessment of the impact of the supermarket before making a decision. This has not happened. If this is the quality of our council’s ability then we are in for a rough ride.”
Cr McInerney described the economic review as “superficial”, but voted in favour of the proposal regardless. He said the size of the outlet had been commonly overstated, describing it as more of a “large grocery store” comparable to the Thomas Dux in Surry Hills.
Fellow Friends of Erskineville campaigner Penny Hardy was angry with the justification cited, “particularly [Councillor] Marcelle Hoff saying she would support it in order to avoid going to the Land and Environment Court. I find it very wrong that a developer can come back and scale down till they can get it to the point where people are worn down, where the Council are worn down, and…don’t want to spend the money to go to the Land and Environment Court,” she said. “It’s not up to Council to be counting their pennies, it’s up to them to be protecting communities. They say Erskineville is a prime example of a village. This goes against it all…they’re going against their own propaganda.”