New South Wales
The community consultation has been deficient and the proposed development proposal is therefore inconsistent with the objects and general terms of the EP&A Act.
The EIS is also inadequate in that it considers the proposal in isolation but does not consider the cumulative impacts that the proposal adds to the large number of projects already completed, under construction or planned for the immediate precinct between Regent and Gibbons Streets.
I am the owner of an apartment in Katia residential complex, 1 Margaret St. The apartment is a family residence.
The Elton Community Consultation and Engagement Report (Elton) states in Section 2.1(p5)
“Key stakeholder groups and individuals identified were owners and/or residents of the following properties” which included “ Strata management and residents of the ‘Katia’ residential complex, 1 Margaret St”
However, no direct community engagement that I am aware of was attempted with the residents of 1 Margaret Street.
Elton state in Table 1 (p6) “Email was sent to each of these stakeholders”. I certainly received no email from Elton although the proponent apparently did contact the property manager via email.
A circular (from the proponent) was forwarded by email by the managing agent. It was not obvious that the intention of this circular may have been to obtain community feedback. In fact the circular concludes in Next steps “The EIS and DA are to be publicly exhibited in late 2020 with community feedback invited during the exhibition period”
Elton state (p6) that a Doorknock was conducted on 11 September to:
“Provide verbal overview of the project
Provide initial opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback
Provide contact details for further information, to ask questions or provide feedback
Hand out written information about the proposal
Letterbox drop ‘sorry we missed you’ cards if not available at time of doorknock”
However Elton make it clear in Doorknock Engagement Section (p8) that the doorknock and letterbox campaign specifically excluded the residents of 1 Margaret St. This exclusion is clearly evident from both the descriptive text and the doorknock catchment plan (p8). Interestingly the majority of the sites included in the doorknock catchment plan are under construction or vacant and would have provided extremely limited capacity for community engagement/feedback.
Elton have identified that the residents of 1 Margaret Street are key stakeholders but then largely excluded them from access to the EIS consultation process. There has been no attempt at direct access to residents or offers of public explanation sessions or meetings. This lack of community involvement is clearly in violation of the EP&A Act “To provide increased opportunity for community participation in environmental planning and assessment”.
The statement in the EIS (p34) of “An inclusive public consultation strategy has been implemented throughout the project design process” is untrue and without basis.
I (and other impacted residents) have not been provided with an adequate opportunity to provide an input to the EIS process and therefore the current application is deficient.
ERRORS OF DEFINITION IN PROJECT DESCRIPTION
Even a cursory overview of the opening pages of the EIS Project Description brings up a number of errors and inconsistencies which creates some doubt about the overall quality of the EIS.
For example in the EIS (P11)
“The site currently comprises a former pub building on the corner of Regent Street and Margaret Street”
This is incorrect unless the proposed project has been relocated south away from Marion St.
Or again (p12) “Further south of Margaret Street comprises a heritage-listed church and two-storey mixed use terraces with commercial uses along the ground floor”. My property on Margaret St is actually a four-storey residential only complex with another four-storey residential only complex immediately to the south. Again the EIS is in error.
This lack of attention to the reality of the situation together with the failings in the Community Consultation process suggests the proponent has only made superficial attempts to understand the local community issues or concerns.
PROJECT CUMULATIVE IMPACTS
Although I have a number of concerns with the proposal, my major issue is with the cumulative impacts of the large number of construction projects completed, currently underway, approved and proposed for the small precinct bounded by Gibbons and Regent Streets and immediately to the south of Marion Street.
I do not believe the current EIS takes into account the cumulative impact particularly of construction activities and disruption over many years - the projects are not being implemented concurrently and this disruption to local residents and commercial activities has already taken place and will continue to occur for many years as the pipeline of projects continues to proceed in the immediate area. These disruptions include noise, vibration, transport, traffic, parking, air quality, visual amenity and public access restrictions.
The EIS does not acknowledge that the cumulative duration of disruption and substantial amenity loss for immediate neighbours is not just the ~2 year duration of this proposal but potentially 6-8 years depending on the eventual construction timelines of all the projects in the affected precinct. Given the duration of this timeline, the disruptive impacts on the neighbourhood become substantially greater than if only this proposal project was to occur and no consideration has been given for any ameriolation of this extended disturbance.
This disruption has become even more acute during 2020 in that a higher proportion of the community are currently working from home and therefore subjected to much more pronounced periods of disruption from these construction activities.