Australian Unity, please do not build units on playfields at Lane Cove

Australian Unity, please do not build units on playfields at Lane Cove

image of Australian Unity, please do not build units on playfields at Lane Cove

The Lane Cove Council (LCC) and Australian Unity (AU), propose to build a 7 storey, 150 unit seniors complex on the recreation play fields at 266 Longueville Rd. These playfields with beautiful views of North Sydney skyline, have been enjoyed by the local primary school and neighborhood for recreation and sporting activities. The proposal is unnecessary and has been rejected by various authorities and the public, but has progressed in a highly questionable manner driven by a $32M profit to LCC.

There are 5 other proposals for seniors living on operational land in Lane Cove, well above the provisioning required ...

The Lane Cove Council (LCC) and Australian Unity (AU), propose to build a 7 storey, 150 unit seniors complex on the recreation play fields at 266 Longueville Rd. These playfields with beautiful views of North Sydney skyline, have been enjoyed by the local primary school and neighborhood for recreation and sporting activities. The proposal is unnecessary and has been rejected by various authorities and the public, but has progressed in a highly questionable manner driven by a $32M profit to LCC.

There are 5 other proposals for seniors living on operational land in Lane Cove, well above the provisioning required for Lane Cove. Whereas the LCC Open Space Plan states that there is a scarcity of land to provision playfields for future growth. The Eric Armstrong public hearing report states that these fields were ear marked for junior sports fields in the LCC open space plan at the time. There is no justification for the Lane Cove council to build units on scarce public recreation land.

The proposal abuses an incentive designed to build 2-3 level seniors living on low density zones; by applying it to high density zoned land, to achieve a 7 storey building to house seniors in extreme density. Furthermore, by removing the “Fire prone” zoning to increase footprint, LCC maximises its profits to a premium of $32m (60% above the expected $20m quoted previously) by selling the playfields to Australian Unity (99 year lease). This gross overdevelopment will singularly pierce the tree canopy and overshadow the golf course and surrounding single dwelling properties.

The proposal was first rejected by Commissioner Eric Armstrong at the public hearing (Mar 2014) for re-zoning the land. Within a week of the report, 6 Liberal councillors who held a majority at the time, voted to ignored its recommendations, shutdown the public hearing and proceeded to re-zone the land. 

The proposal was then rejected by the Rural Fire Services (RFS) whose determination is being ignored; and the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS).

In May 2020, the Sydney North Planning Panel (SNPP) rejected the Australian Unity DA by issuing a Site Compatibility Certificate (SCC) which deemed the Australian Unity DA legally incompatible due to height. This SCC was issued based on the recommendation endorsed by Malcolm McDonald, Executive Director, Eastern Harbour City (SCC Assessment Report May 2020).

Australian Unity then states that the project is non-viable and decides not to seek SNPP consent as rejection of the DA was a certainty due to its significant height incompatibility.

Planning integrity had prevailed. The unviable proposal scrapped, protecting the surrounding 46 families and environment.

With the $32M in jeopardy, the LCC Executive Manager Environmental Services, the manager of this project; resigns and is immediately appointed by LCC as their representative to the SNPP, the very body that had just rejected the DA. Shortly after Australian Unity is invited to reapply for the SCC. In May 2021, a highly irregular anonymous unendorsed recommendation document titled the "SCC Addendum Report" is used to override the recommendation endorsed by Malcolm McDonald, revoke the SCC of May 2020 and issue a new one without the height compatibility clause that deemed the DA rejected. The Lane Cove Council provided demonstrably false input regarding incompatibility of height, dropped its previous concerns of height, bulk and scale impacts to surrounding residences, and asked that the proposal is approved “as proposed”..

In an alarming manner, the SNPP revoked their SCC of May 2020, and issued a new SCC with no height compatibility clause for the very same DA..

Australian Unity then seizes the opportunity to seek consent for the grossly incompatible but profitable proposal. The SNPP then provides consent despite its inappropriateness for its future senior residents; and devastating impacts to the surrounding 46 families, Golf course and tree canopy as identified in the SCC assessment report.

At every stage of this proposal, the community gave a clear unanimous message opposing the sale of these play fields to build units; with over 1300 formal submissions. The council has progressed unilaterally, driven by self-interests alone; against the wishes and to the detriment of the community it serves. An unviable proposal should be scrapped.

This proposal to house 250 seniors in a 7 storey building on high inclined highly contaminated land which is, rejected by the Rural Fire Services, with devastating impact to the surrounding environment is purely driven by profiteering, and lacks social conscience and due regard for its future residents.

This matter was a key issue leading to the council election. The community has spoken by throwing out the Liberals and electing a Labor mayor and independents.

Please join us save these play fields for posterity, protect the 46 adjecent families; and call out unjust, corporate / council greed. There is no rationale for building a grossly non-compliant and redundant seniors development with devastating impact to the amenity of the area and the surrounding residents on scarce recreational land.

UPDATE:  21 May 2022 - Australian Unity has paid LCC the $32m lease (6 months late) and immediately backed out by reassigning the lease to a company registered on 26th March 2022, Longuevile - The Village Pty Ltd. A company related to Pathways Residences. The assignment of the lease was done in secret, so public were unaware until after the lease was signed. The petition has been changed to address the Managing Director of Pathways Residences, Mr Graeme Skerritt.

P.S. Please refer to timeline page (from the menu), for details of questionable actions by LCC, the independent assesor, Planning NSW and the SNPP.

The SNPP SCC assessment reports and addendum can be accessed at https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/site-compatibility-certificates/application-site-compatibility-certificate-266-longueville-road  

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Petition to Revoke SNPP decision

This petition asks that the SCC of May 2020 is re-instated, and for irregular actions to be investigated by the Ombudsman NSW.

A list of irregularities is shown below,

  1. March 2014 - The re-zoning of the recreation land is rejected at the Public hearing by Commissioner Eric Armstrong, but within a week, 6 Liberal councilors who held a majority at the time, resolved to ignore the recommendations, shutdown the public hearing, and proceed to re-zone the land.
  2. March 2014 – Council removes “Bush Fire Prone” zoning to enable increase of footprint by eliminating asset protection zones legally required for seniors living.
  3.  2016 – Council signs agreement with Australian Unity structured such that the payment is made only on approval of the DA, where LCC is the assessor and the beneficiary of $32 and the Sydney North Planning Panel (SNPP) is the consenting authority. It is up the LCC to get what ever DA provided by AU approved, if it wishes to receive $32M.
  4. Nov 2017 AU Development Application (DA) is not supported by RMS.
  5. June 2018 AU DA is rejected by RFS as the land is Fire Prone and requires asset protection zones. AU fire expert recommends ignoring the requirement.
  6. July 2018 SNPP knocks back the DA requiring changes and further impact analyses.
  7. May 2020 Planning NSW recommends Site Compatibility Certificate (SCC) with height compatibility clause that deems the new Australian Unity DA as rejected. The recommendation is endorsed by Malcolm McDonald, Executive Director, Eastern Harbour City.
  8. May 2020 SNPP rejects the DA by issuing the SCC recommended by planning NSW. Shortly after, Australian Unity state unviability of project and drops out.
  9. Nov 2020 LCC Executive Manager Environmental services who managed the proposal, resigns and is immediately appointed by LCC to the SNPP, the very body that had just rejected the proposal. Shortly after AU is asked by SNPP to re-apply for the SCC.
  10. May 2021 a highly irregular anonymous document, with no endorsements, recommends that the height compatibility clause is removed. LCC input drops its previous concerns documented in May 2020, and requests that the proposal is approved “as proposed”. SNPP then, based on this document, revokes the SCC of May 2020 and issues a new one without the height compatibility clause.
  11.  Sept 2021 SNPP provides consent. The Chairman of the SNPP, who had been informed of the irregular activities; states that he may have a conflict of interest and did not participate in the decision despite having chaired the meeting of July 2018.

Please join this petition asking that the SCC of May 2020 is re-instated, and for the matter to be investigated by the Ombudsman NSW.

 

All references and further information can be found at the SNPP portal, https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/planning-panel/seniors-housing-development-3

and https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/site-compatibility-certificates/application-site-compatibility-certificate-266-longueville-road 

 

We, the undersigned, ask that,

  • The honorable Anthony Roberts, minister of planning, immediately revoke the Sydney North Planning panel determination PPS-2017SNH069 – 266 Longueville rd, to protect the families and conservation zone from council / corporate profiteering.
  • The Ombudsman NSW investigate the actions of the SNPP and Lane Cove Council regarding this matter.

This will help preserve the public confidence in the independence and integrity of the Sydney North Planning Panel and ensure that its focus is Environment Planning, thereby protecting the public and conservation zones from rogue Corporate / Council profiteering.