Development dilemma: the abandoned Kolotex industrial site in Leichhardt

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An eight-storey apartment complex at the former Kolotex and Labelcraft site in Leichhardt should go ahead, Urban Taskforce chief executive Chris Johnson argues, because it is a modest proposal in line with changing consumer preferences.

The NSW government sidestepped Leichhardt Council to approve the rezoning of the George Street sites for medium-density residential development. Up to 330 apartments could be built on the sites, which currently contain unoccupied industrial buildings. It is now the only medium density zoning in the immediate area, with potential for building heights of up to eight stories, or 32 metres.

The rezoning resulted from an amendment made to the Leichhardt Local Environment Plan by NSW Planning and Infrastructure, under the direction of the minister, Brad Hazzard. Although Leichhardt Council was bypassed in the rezoning process, its approval will still be needed for any specific development proposal.

Having failed to stop the rezoning, Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker now wants Leichhardt Council to block any forthcoming DA.

“A development application will now be lodged with Leichhardt Council and we’re calling on the council to listen to residents and refuse it,” he said.

Leichardt Mayor Darcy Byrne also criticised the move, saying that NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell ran on a mandate to “return planning controls to local communities” and that this amendment was a “clear broken promise”.

But Mr Johnson, whose organisation represents developers, said reasonable construction must go ahead to accommodate increasing demand for apartments, and that eight-storeys is a good fit for the area.

“The urban renewal of redundant industrial sites like the Kolotex and the Labelcraft sites in Leichhardt must occur at reasonable densities if Sydney is going to accommodate its inevitable growth,” Mr Johnson argued.

“Consumers are now preferring to live in inner city areas rather than on the fringe and this means we must get the most out of the renewal of industrial sites.

“Eight storeys can easily be accommodated in inner urban areas. Trees can grow to an eight storey height, softening the building design.”

If the 330 apartments are built, 1700 direct and indirect jobs would be sustained during construction, according to NSW Planning and Infrastructure, with 125 jobs ongoing after completion.