Site at Lords Road facing development. Image: http://www.commercialview.com.au

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Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne has raised concerns about the future of Leichhardt following a NSW Government announcement that it will build up to 1000 new units in the small inner west suburb.

Following this announcement, Mayor Byrne has questioned the level to which the NSW State Government is willing to let local councils control the development of their communities.

The Department of Environment and Planning last week announced the development of five different medium-density sites in a 1km space in Leichhardt.

This announcement came just as Leichhardt’s Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP), a panel created to assess development applications in the local area, is preparing to launch later this month.

Following the NSW Government’s announcement, industrial sites on George Street and Lords Road have already been rezoned as a medium density residential site and a similar site on Allen Street is said to be the next.

The Mayor said the NSW Department of Planning had instructed council that if they did not rezone the Allen Street site by October this year, the state government would take over the process.

Mayor Byrne acknowledged the extension of the light rail network to include Leichhardt may have changed the image of the suburb, but does not feel it justifies further development.

“The extension of the light rail should help make existing and new homes more accessible in the Leichardt area, but the Government and the development industry are using as an excuse to make Leichardt unrecognisable,” he said.

Mayor Byrne said he believes the new developments could have a negative impact on the suburb in visual and cultural sense.

“There is a real danger the landscape of Leichhardt will be changed forever,” he said.

On Tuesday, August 26 council rejected a development proposal for the Lord Street site on the grounds of traffic, a lack of provision, amenity impacts, and a loss of jobs.

“The proposed rezoning would actually result in a net loss of jobs in our local government area as it would dilute Council’s ability to provide sufficient industrial land to accommodate demand,” Cr Byrne said.

The strong hand the Department of Planning is playing raises questions about how effective and independent the IHAP will be when they begin operation this month.

“This Government was elected on the promise of returning planning control to local communities, but they are doing the opposite,” Cr Byrne said.

The IHAP will be made up of five members ranging from lawyers to architecture and urban planning specialists. Included will be one community representative.

Similar systems are already operating in the municipalities of Lane Cove, Manly, Mosman, North Sydney and Waverley.

The NSW Department of Planning was approached for comment on whether high-level apartments would change Leichardt and whether there was a need for them, but the Department said questions should be directed towards council.