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Summer Hill Community Centre was packed out last Thursday evening, as area residents gathered to hear about progress on the grassroots campaign to oppose the McGill Precinct development in Lewisham.

A concept plan submitted by the developer envisages converting the current industrial site into a group of five towers, including one 12-storey and two 14-storey developments, housing over 500 apartments. This would be on top of a large supermarket mall, liquor store, other retail shops, and basement car parking. A DA has yet to be submitted for the project.

Local activists have concerns regarding overdevelopment, traffic, pollution, negative effects on local businesses, and setting precedents for similar buildings in the area.

The residents’ campaign has previously received support from Leichhardt and Ashfield Councils, but a Greens motion asking for support was defeated after Labor Mayor Sam Iskandar used his casting vote to reject the motion, arguing that adequate consultation would take place.

However, Cr Iskandar has said he does not support the development.

One resident at the meeting received audible support at the meeting after raising concerns about the potential of outrageous claims being negotiated back to the developer’s original wishes under the guise of ‘consultation’.

“I think what might be happening here is that the developer…has put in a claim that they know they won’t achieve, with the aim eventually of trying to achieve something less than that, maybe at half-way height, knowing that through community consultation and so on, they’ll approve something less than that,” he said. “But the question for this meeting is, what should we consider to be acceptable? We shouldn’t think we necessarily have to meet them halfway.”

“I think we should put a consistent case to the Government, consistent with general planning principles – which I think, for that particular site and its environment, would argue for two to three stories.”

The No Lewisham Towers Residents Action Committee said developer Demians Constructions was a donor to the NSW Labor Party and had hired former Carr government minister Carl Scully as an adviser.

Demian Constructions declined to comment on any aspect of the project.

A spokesperson for the Planning Minister said the Lewisham development had been a declared a major project because it was worth more than $50 million and considered to be “of significance”. She said any potential impacts on the area would be examined as part of the assessment process, with community feedback considered before any decision is made.