Early photographs of Coogee Bay Road show the shop level facades that are still in place today many painted in such a way as to enhance the heritage look, adding further to the village feel of Coogee. The historian Grace Karskens talks about the Coogee Bay Hotel as being one of the few Victorian seaside hotels that still looks much as it did originally along Coogee Bay Road. The Dive boutique hotel and the Crowne Plaza evoke the seaside village attributes in their marketing and the logo of the local Chamber of Commerce features Coogee as a seaside village.
This essential character of Coogee has recently been put to the test.
In 2009 developers submitted a proposal to the State Government under what was called Part3A of the Environment and Planning Assessment [EPA] Act to redevelop the site along Coogee Bay Road between Arden St and Vicar St Coogee. Residents in conjunction with the Coogee Precinct objected to this proposal with its 15, 8 and 9 storey towers. In May 2011 in response to community concern the Minister for Planning rejected this proposal. The developers came back with a second proposal of two options featuring 8 and 9 storey towers. One of the options involved removal of the heritage listed building which started its life in the mid 1830s as a school. Residents continued their efforts.
Through the then local Member, Paul Pearce, residents secured meetings with the Minister and the Department of Planning. There were also two petitions – one for the Lower House of Parliament and the other for the Upper House. These were tabled at intervals through 2010 by Paul Pearce [Labor] in the Lower House and Don Harwin [Liberal] the Upper House. One Parliamentarian told a group of residents that “all we hear about is Coogee, Coogee, and Coogee”. Residents posted stories and comments on the StreetCorner web site and submitted letters and online comments to the Southern Courier.
17,700 residents of Coogee and other nearby suburbs as well as NSW citizens who visited Coogee signed the petitions. Thousands emailed the Minister for Planning, the Shadow Minister, the Premier & the Leader of the Opposition. A photoshoot was also organised so there would be photographs for the web site and this turned into an impromptu rally which gained media coverage.
In August the Minister for Planning referred the matter to the Government Architect whose brief was to review the second proposal and in so doing consult with the developers, the Council and – in what must be a first – the Coogee Precinct.
In October the Government Architect’s [GA] report found that both options in the developers’ second proposal were unacceptable and set guidelines for the site which echoed the current heights on the site. In November the Minister for Planning, following this advice, rejected the proposal. The Department met with the residents to give them this news and made it clear that any future proposal would have to be within the GA guidelines.
Part3A of the EPA Act was repealed by the new Government and as a result no new proposals will be considered under this provision. Any new proposal would need to be submitted to Randwick City Council – not the State Government – and meet the GA guidelines.
Some 17,700 people are watching and waiting and will be forever vigilant!!!
For information about the Campaign see http://www.savecoogee.com/MainPage.html
For the Government Architects report see http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=MRQvBgVhjQw%3d&tabid=70&language=en-AU