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Consultation in Good Faith
The first concern I would like to speak about tonight that I know many others in this room share is that the council has not consulted in good faith with the residents. If not for the work of the St Peters Residents' Association and especially Evonne Moore, many of us would have only learned about the changes when we looked out our bedroom window and realised that the house next door wasn't stopping at two storeys.
I have it by first hand account that at the Council Meeting on the 4th of February one of the councillors said words to the effect “It would be dangerous to inform residents”. The result of that meeting was a bland letter that gave no indication of the dramatic changes from R1 to 4 storey flats that the council have planned. If a summary of the proposed changes were provided, this would have at least been seen as an act of good faith by the council. Instead, these letters inflamed an already volatile situation. Contrast this with Grace Portolesi's actions in surveying her constituents for their feedback.
The fact that more than 80 residents turned up at the St Peters Billabong to chat with councillors at 6pm on the opening night of the Fringe to discuss the effect of changes on only 68 homes should have given an indication of community responses. The chaos at the information sessions because more people turned up than expected
and last minute relocation of this meeting conveys the impression of a council that is not in touch.
The FAQ provided at the information session contains a number of statements that are concerning. For example "Q2: Is the Council being forced to increase residential densities by the State Government?" starts with the sentence
"The Council is not being forced to increase residential densities by the State Government'"
and ends with
"In preparing Development Plan Amendments, these documents are required to be aligned to the South Australian Planning Strategy, prepared by the State Government, which includes The 30 Year Plan for Greater Adelaide. The 30 Year Plan provides regional targets for population, dwelling and employment growth for the Eastern Adelaide region, which the Council has taken into account in formulating its housing policies."
To myself and other neighbours this sounds very much like coercion by the State Government to me. When political double speak like this is produced by the council it only increases the concern of residents.
Carlos Buzzetti from Council metioned at the information session that the option of building 11 storey apartments in Kent Town had been considered but that council felt residents would only accept 7-8 storey complexes. The inference from this statement was that 4 storey flats along the linear park would be considered much more acceptable by the residents. Maybe council should ask the residents? Today in Adelaide now we read that developers are pushing for 20 storey apartments in Kent Town. Does that mean eight storey flats along the linear park?
The population growth figures that are in the State Governemnt 30 year plan are widely considered to be at the high end. Even Carlos said at the information session that his personal opinion was that the figures are not realistic, yet significant changes are being made based on dodgy numbers.
DPA is a Guideline
I would suggest that most residents would envisage the DPA as a set of rules imposing boundaries on the type of development that occurs. Yet when you speak with those people who work in the planning process, it is seen as a guideline and that proposals should be approved on the balance of their merits. What this means in plain English is that a development can have non-complying elements, but if it has redeeming features, it may be approved. For example, at the information session a planner told my neighbour Ben, unable to attend tonight, that the 2400sqm for four storey development could be lowered to 1800sqm depending on location. Could it also be raised to five storey development depending on location?
Council officers have accused certain residents of scaremongering. Mayor Bria was on ABC 891 last Tuesday talking about how it is a 30 year plan and development won't happen overnight. Sadly, all it will take is a single four storey set of flats to be built on the vacant land at the end of our cul-de-sac to completely change the quiet nature of our street. No longer will we be able to let kids play on the road. Littered throughout the heritage areas are 1970s cream brick two storey flats that stick out like a sore thumb. From the same era are high rise buildings like the ABC building in Collinswood and Transport SA in Walkerville. This DPA repeats those same mistakes along the Linear Park.
As time is limited I will leave it to others to talk about further on residents' concerns.
In closing, I would like to mention that I discussed the council's actions with a good friend who works in media. You could see it in her eyes that council are following a very similar strategy to how she would advise them as her client attempting to push through these changes without resident support. Tonight's meeting is another example where zero information was provided on how long people could speak for and the processes to be followed in the meeting.
Many in Australia are disillusioned by spin from politicians in State and Federal parliament. I would have hoped that our local council could engage with residents in a constructive, consultative manner. I would urge the council to restart this process by engaging social planners first.
To those councillors who have listened to residents and acknowledged their concerns, I apologise for my harsh words. I would particularly like to thank councillors John Frogley and Isaac Pasalidis for being kind enough to attend the meeting at the St Peters Billabong a few weeks ago.
Thank You for your time.