The $53 million Rola Property Group’s mixed-use development at 27 to 37 Mann St and 125 Georgiana Tce, Gosford, which included the heritage-listed Creighton’s Funeral Parlour, was approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel on December 15, 2016.
By a vote of three panel members to two (and one abstention due to a perceived potential conflict of interest), the Central Coast JRPP gave consent, signed off the following day by the Central Coast Council, for the demolition of existing structures, retention and adaptive reuse of the Creighton’s Funeral Parlour heritage item and erection of a new 18-storey retail, commercial, restaurant and residential development with 132 units and 205 car spaces.
The original development application was lodged with the former Gosford Council in August 2014 and was resoundingly rejected by the community and other stakeholders, including the National Trust, for the DA’s failure to incorporate the preservation of the Creighton’s building.
In September 2014, the then-acting CEO of the National Trust, Mr Graham Quint, said in a submission opposing the DA “The National Trust does not have any particular issue regarding the proposed new building on this site, except insofar as the proposal fails to conserve what is acknowledged in the associated reports as an important historical and architectural building in Gosford. “The Trust is at a loss to understand how the proposal has been allowed to proceed to this extent, when the conservation of the Creighton’s Building does not appear to have been considered either by the proponent, its architects, or the officers of Gosford Council, despite the inclusion of the building on Schedule 5 of the Gosford Local Environmental Plan LEP 2014.
“It should be understood that, as far as the Trust is concerned, the proposed retention of the façade (only) by demolition and ‘reconstruction’, is a ‘nonsense’ proposal which demonstrates a tokenistic attitude to heritage conservation. “In the Trust’s view, it represents a complete failure of the purpose and intent of heritage identification and legislation… especially when undertaken in as poor a manner as proposed by this development application. “The Statement of Heritage Impact cannot be taken seriously in the light of some of its bizarre assertions such as ‘the interior of this building does not contribute to the heritage of the streetscape’…
“The Trust is equally at a loss to understand the apparent acceptance of this proposed outcome in the Statement of Heritage Impact, especially as the accompanying Demolition Report identifies that the building has historical, associational, aesthetic and rarity values.” When the JRPP met on December 15, the decision to approve the DA was carried by Mr Lindsay Fletcher, Ms Abigail Goldberg and Mr Bob Ward (former Gosford Councillor). Mr Jason Perica and Mr Ken Greenwald (former Wyong Councillor) voted for refusal of the reworked DA. Another NSW Government-appointed member of the panel, Ms Kara Krason, declared an interest and did not sit on the matter. According to the JRPP Determination and Statement of Reasons, Ms Krason advised that she had previously sat on the matter, but was recently engaged on a project in Sydney with Phillip Grauss from Cox Architects who is the architect that was engaged by the proponent following the previous JRPP determination of the matter, to address the concerns of the previous Panel. While not a pecuniary interest, the association may have led to a perceived conflict of interest, the Determination said.
“The negative comments on the heritage impacts of the proposal from Council’s heritage adviser and the peer review noting concern were carefully considered, although there were positive aspects in terms of retention and adaptive reuse,” according to the JRPP’s Determination and Statement of Reasons. “The podium to Mann St complemented the retained building, the public domain was appropriately incorporated into the retained building/recessed ‘garage’ and the new building was separated from the retained building, with its curved shape helping to reduce the visual impacts of the proposed bulk and scale,” the Determination said. “While the new building would be considerably higher than the retained heritage item, this relationship was likely and reasonably foreseen from the applicable planning controls and, on balance, a good outcome was achieved.”
The development application was approved subject to the draft conditions recommended within the Council staff Supplementary Assessment Report, with an additional condition that stated: “An Interpretation Plan shall be prepared by a suitably qualified heritage consultant, to include appropriate measures to interpret the heritage significance of the building to be retained and adaptively reused, including measures for ongoing maintenance. “The Plan is to be submitted for approval and approval obtained prior to the approval of the Construction Certificate and approved measures shall be detailed in the application for the Construction Certificate.”
The Panel also upheld variations to maximum building height and Floor Space Ratio FSR under Gosford LEP 2014. The Panel “considered that compliance with the standards was unnecessary and/or unreasonable, and that there were sufficient environmental planning grounds to support the proposed variation. “In particular, the Panel considered the proposal was consistent with the zone objectives and consistent with the objectives of the height and FSR standards within Clause 4.3 and Clause 4.4 of GLEP 2014, and the non-compliance didn’t set an adverse precedent, due to the unique nature of the site and the application of bonus provisions though the planning instrument.” The panel, according to its Determination, also gave “some consideration and weight” to the Central Coast Council’s current draft Planning Proposal to change zoning within the Gosford CBD which, it concluded, “affects the likely future character of the area”. “The approach by the applicant to distribute the bulk on the site had appropriate regard to both view impacts (particularly to the Broadwater residential building to the east) and heritage considerations,” those voting to approve the DA concluded.
“In particular, the building … had less impacts on the views of the neighbouring building(s) than may occur with a complying building, due to the siting of the building towards the northwest and leaving a sizeable portion of the site well below the height limit (toward the south), where view corridors exist over the site.” The JRPP Determination and Statement of Reasons also spelt out how it believed the DA exhibited “design excellence” a matter recently unsuccessfully challenged by the Gosford Waterfront Alliance in its Land and Environment Court attempt to invalidate the JRPP’s approval of the Doma Tax Office building that will be located across Mann St from the Rola development. “The specific nature of the site, including the corner location, location of a heritage item, slope of the land and proposed design measures resulted in a development that suited the site and did not cause any significantly adverse impacts on neighbouring land from the non-compliances,” the Determination said.
In terms of other matters, the Panel generally concurred with the environmental assessment and balance of considerations within the Council staff assessment report, although it took the view that the proposed development warranted further regulation via the requirement of a Heritage Interpretation Plan. Mr Perica and Mr Greenwald held different views to those above. “They were of the view that the proposal had negative impacts on the setting and significance of the heritage item on the site due to the size, width, height and proximity of the proposed building to the retained building, which crowded and visually dominated the heritage item, thereby negatively affecting its significance.
“They noted the negative comments from two heritage experts engaged by Council regarding the proposal and were of the opinion that the proposal needed very strong reasons for support in light of such justified concern. “The height and proximity of the proposed building to the heritage item was also considered to cause adverse visual impacts on the setting of the surrounding items and this was at least in part attributable to the noncompliances with the height and FSR. “It was also acknowledged that there were efforts to address view impacts upon a building to the east. “However, view and heritage impacts should not be ‘traded off’ against each other, as both are environmental constraints applying to the site, and maximum standards cannot always assume to be achieved,” Mr Greenwald and Mr Perica argued.
Determination and Statement of Reasons, Dec 15, 2016 Jason Perica, Joint Regional Planning Panel Submission, Sep 15, 2014 Graham Quint, National Trust Website, Jan 11, 2017 Central Coast Council DA Tracker, DA46209/2014 Jackie Pearson, journalist