‘Size is an issue’: Camden building proposal causes concern

Huge: An artist's impression of the building behind the heritage homes on Mitchell Street and (inset) a resident's mock-up of the design.
Huge: An artist's impression of the building behind the heritage homes on Mitchell Street and (inset) a resident's mock-up of the design.

Concerned Camden residents fear a new development proposal in the town’s heritage precinct could open the floodgates for more ‘inappropriate’ development.

The proposal, lodged with Camden Council by Graham and Sanders Pty Ltd, is for a three-storey building with retail, commercial and professional tenancies, and a basement car park.

The proposed site is directly behind two historically significant homes on Mitchell Street.

Camden Resident Action Group member Helen Cowell said the prospect of seeing such a large building in one of the oldest parts of Camden was “very worrying”.

“I couldn’t believe it when I first saw the plans,” she said.

“It seems very out of place. Such a big building would be seen from every direction and would tower over the little cottages nearby.”

The applicant has applied for a special variation to the town’s height limit to allow the development, which is three and a half metres taller than the seven-metre limit, to go ahead.

The application for height limit variation stated the site’s floodplain locality made it difficult to develop any building within the existing seven-metre limit.

“On sites where a new commercial development is proposed, and where the site is drastically affected by flooding, there is little utility in providing a development that complies with the height limit,” the application read.

“The development provided to this site must necessarily be a multi-storey development, and it is clear that a multi-storey commercial development which complies with the height limit would be inconsistent with the character of the locality and plainly unfeasible.

“The proposal provides generous setbacks to both level one and level two from the boundary shared with the heritage items [on Mitchell Street] and provides generous landscaping throughout the site to screen the taller portions of the building from these items.”

Mrs Cowell said if the proposal were to be approved as is, it would set a dangerous precedent from which the town might never recover.

She said she knew of at least 10 other people who felt the same way.

Camden mayor Lara Symkowiak said she doubted the existing proposal would be the last final version to come before council staff.

“I’m confident that the current DA will not be last one we see,” she said. “There will be back and forth with council staff to achieve the best result.”

Cr Symkowiak said the size of the building and the number of submissions received during the public exhibition period meant the local planning panel (formerly IHAP) would be the consent authority for this proposal.

She is personally in favour of utilising the site – which is currently home to a derelict house – for a “positive, productive” use that promotes employment.

“I think there’s got to be a balance between conservation and commercialism,” she said.

“Obviously the bulk and scale of this proposal is an issue and needs to be addressed.”

Council staff are assessing the proposal ahead of future determination at the Local Planning Panel.

All documents, plans and images submitted as part of the 20 Elizabeth Street, Camden DA can be accessed on Camden Council’s website.