Residents demand Inner West Council consult them on urban planning

Residents take their protest the Inner West Council meeting on September 14. Photo: Lisa Bonhole

Residents told the Inner West Council (IWC) meeting on September 14 that the lack of consultation around its “Our Place Inner West” strategy was a serious misjudgement that they were not going to brook.

They packed the public gallery with signs reading “Save Dully” in reference to Dulwich Hill, “Save our community” and “Where was the community consultation?”

The latest plans include high-rise additions near train stations and new plans for re-zoning and development in Marrickville, Dulwich Hill and North Ashfield.

Speakers made it clear that while they were not against new high rises, they were furious about the accidental nature of how they found out and the short time frame in which to respond to new rezoning proposals.

Residents from Marrickville and Dulwich Hill said IWC had released drafts, which included maps showing where high-rise apartments could be built, without any consultation, on August 22. They were given until September 25 to provide feedback.

Lisa Bonhole, one of the residents who came to the meeting, told Green Left that she accidentally stumbled across the plan while searching for something else on council’s website.

She said she was shocked to find out the rezoning included her house. She and three others decided to letter box and speak to residents in the affected area between Ewart, Riverside, Balfour and Tennyson Streets.

“We letterboxed 250 people over a weekend and all bar one had not heard of it,” Bonhole said. That person had a relative who worked for council.

“We asked [Greens councillor] Justine Langford and [Labor councillor] Jess d’Arienzo to hear our concerns,” Bonhole said.

“We have elderly neighbours who would not have known how to access the website, nor scan a QR code on a postcard that only some people were letter-boxed.”

Speakers at the IWC meeting made it clear their opposition was not based on “NIMBY-ism”. They know there is a housing crisis, Bonhole said, and are not against development per se.

A Save Marrickville spokesperson told City Hub that residents are worried about proposed 8-storey buildings along Illawarra Road and Petersham Road, along with “suggested pockets that accommodate up to 12 storeys”.

“You’re destroying a community to put in another community,” Dulwich Hill resident Jenny Whitmarsh told the Sydney Morning Herald the previous day.

IWC decided to scrap its “Our Place Inner West” strategy. A “Mayoral minute”, at the beginning of the meeting, asked council officers to seek independent advice on “how councillors should manage potential conflicts of interest”. This meant that a motion from Langford and another from d’Arienzo were not put to the meeting.

The Mayoral minute said councillors were not to blame because they “were not briefed on these studies prior to their publication” and that “no further work will be undertaken on these studies or the related consultation while Council is awaiting advice from the Office of Local Government”. 

“Residents know the fight is not over yet,” Bonhole said.

She hoped residents would be consulted to determine the amount and extent of higher-density development that permitted close to train stations at Marrickville, Dulwich Hill and North Ashfield.

[For more information, visit Save Dully AG and Save Marrickville South Facebook pages. Save Marrickville South is hosting a community meeting on September 22 at 7pm at Marrickville Bowling Club.]