get real!: Village says "no" to Woolworths

Re: DA D/2007/1932
I write with regard to the development application in regard to 21-23 Erskineville Road. I strongly object to this development and it would be reprehensible for council to approve it.
As a personal introduction, my husband and I moved into the area in 2003 from Rozelle. We chose this area as it had a unique charm to it – the village atmosphere we perceived has since proved itself time and time again. As a consequence we have purchased a home in this area. Unlike Balmain and Rozelle, Erskineville truly has a “village” atmosphere that congregates around a number of hubs within Erskineville/Alexandria and is largely pedestrian (somewhat by necessity) which facilitates a great deal of community interaction.
Both my husband and I have a work history in supply chain and logistics. Previously I have worked as a professional and/or consultant for some of the world’s largest retailers, and have worked within the supply chain and transport sections of both Woolworths and Coles in the last 5 years in a professional capacity.
I have tried to be succinct in providing the objections and observations below and have tried to stick to the areas within my professional experience. As a resident however I believe that the proposed development flies in the face of what I, my peers, and the city plan thinks should be supported in this unique area.
1 Location
The location for the proposed development is entirely inappropriate for the style of development proposed as the streets in this area, including the “arterial” Erskineville road are narrow, and the area is medium density residential.
Erskineville Road is already under considerable strain. Not only does it serve as an “arterial” road for local residents, but it is used as a thoroughfare linking the city east with the city south and inner west – namely from Moore Park Road and South Dowling Street via McEvoy Street and Fountain Streets to King Street. During peak transit periods, Erskineville Road can be backed up as far as the intersection of Copeland and Park Streets.
Erskineville Road is so narrow, that even recent works on the road and the bridge over the train line required many weekend road closures. There is no road shoulder, and the lanes (one each way) are narrow. At one stage Fox Avenue (between Harry Noble Reserve and Erskineville Oval) had to be closed to the public (without notice, I might add) in order to assemble construction to be used on the road as there was insufficient space or opportunity to do it in situ.
If it is not possible for council to maintain and upgrade Erskineville Road without major disruption and road closures, it is highly unlikely that a commercial, two storey, supermarket can be developed on this site without major impediment and disruption to the local community and other users of this roadway.
1.1 Traffic
The traffic report that has been submitted with the application presents a skewed representation of the road conditions in the area.
“It can be seen from Figures 1 and 2 that the site is conveniently located with respect to the arterial road system serving the region, while local access is available using the above routes. The one-way flow system creates some limitations on access but these are essential to preserve the amenity of the (predominantly) residential precinct that exists to the south of the site. The available kerbside parking in the vicinity of the site is generally unrestricted, with some short sections of period parking controls.”
Whilst King Street and Erskineville Road are indeed the arterial road system, they are already over-burdened, with local traffic deeply congested at times during each day of the week (including weekends). The “available kerbside parking” in the area is a curious reference indeed as there is very little parking available in the Erskineville area, no parking available along that section of Erskineville Road, and a highly residential area that would be significantly impacted if external traffic were to use this parking.
With respect to the potential traffic impact of developing the site, the submission states:
“The site is currently vacant and therefore the level of traffic generation associated with the previous industrial use can only be estimated. In this regard, the existing building has a floor area of about 1,750m2 and on the basis of application of the RTA’s trip rate of 1.0/100m2 of GFA for a factory use, would have generated about 18 vehicle trips per hour during peak periods. This would have included a proportion of heavy vehicles.”
The development proposed however, is not “for a factory use” but is for a retail complex! There is no way a supermarket would embark on such a venture if the envisaged custom was based on 18 vehicle trips per hour!
Figure 4 of the “Traffix” report submitted in the development application indicates grossly underestimated “peak traffic” volumes. Firstly, the period monitored is “4:00-5:00”. Even if one were to assume that this is “PM” rather than “AM” it would still not fall within the peak period experienced by local residents. Submitting this as evidence of peak traffic volumes is indeed, farcical at best. The conclusions drawn from Section 3 – Existing Traffic Conditions should be considered invalid, or at best, given little consequence.
You will note on Figure 1 the indicated one-way street system of Angel, Gowrie and Union streets. These three streets are narrow, residential streets; residents park on both sides of the street resulting in a narrow, one-lane thoroughfare. This street system would not cope with deliveries to any supermarket style facility.
As a case in point I recently had to drive a small rigid pan truck to access Union street, and it was a definitely a squeeze; I was unable to park the vehicle on the street and had to stop at the BP on Erskineville Road, and walk back down to the house I was visiting.
The traffic report indicates that the traffic impact on local residents would be negligible.
“This one-way flow arrangement provides maximum safety and convenience and is shown diagrammatically in figure 5.1. It is also possible for exits to occur onto Gowrie Street to travel south, though this would only be a secondary (local) access opportunity.”
The one way arrangement will only be effective if vehicles are able to enter and exit freely, with no impediment, queuing, and with full space availablility. Should any blockage in this flow occur, bearing in mind this driveway is being used for 8 heavy vehicles, 20-30 van deliveries and 31 car spaces, then residents will have access to Gowrie, Angel and Union Streets blocked, and the potential build up on Erskineville Road would significantly disrupt the community and those passing through.
1.1.1 King Street and other neighbouring streets
At no stage does the traffic report address any of the follow-on affects that will impact on neighbouring streets.
King Street is irrefutably a problematically busy street and is frequently congested between Sydney Park Road and Abercrombie Street regardless of perceived “peak transit periods”. The impact of any development on Erskineville Road needs to take into account that traffic heading south east from King Street and Enmore Road (via Wilson Street).
Currently a right hand turn is permitted from Erskineville Road (heading south east) into Gowrie Street. If there is any delay in the accessibility to the single entrance of the car park and loading dock(s), not only will significant delays be caused in Erskineville Road, but also King Street and Enmore Roads and hence traffic that feeds into those roads.
1.2 Local Pedestrian Use and Safety
Street closures in Gowrie and Union Streets appear to have been designed to prevent these streets being used as thoroughfares to King Street, and there appears to be substantial community activity at the end of the streets in the Fowler Reserve, Fowler playground and the pathways created. The safety of the residents, their children and pets needs to be considered when addressing any follow on traffic from the proposed development, not to mention any repurcussions on Newtown P.S that backs onto this area.
If potential customers to the proposed development decide not to enter the car park after turning into Gowrie street there is only one way for this traffic to head – down into a residential area that has specifically designed to deter traffic.
1.3 Parking
Curiously the provisions for parking the application can be used to support or deter from the objectives of the application, and at times the information provided seems to contradict itself.
The conservative estimation and limited provision of parking is curiously used in the “Traffix Report” to convey a positive environmental image for the development despite the inaccurate representation of peak traffic, and the assumption that passing foot traffic will provide sufficient business for the development to be a viable commercial operation.
“In summary, the adoption of a rate of 1/60m2 is considered reasonable in the circumstances and this will accommodate all normal peak demands within the site. It will also achieve some suppression of vehicle trips, without unduly compromising the viability of the supermarket.”
In the very next paragraph it is noted:
“…that the reduced parking has a potential to create additional on-street demands, if this it not managed appropriately.”
No comment is made as to what that management is, no provisions for preventing traffic issues are cited, nor is there any reference as to whom should be responsible for such management – presumably this will fall into the lap of the local rate and tax payers, who are largely opposed to this development in the first place .
“This may require monitoring of on-street parking conditions (post-development) to ensure that if parking pressures increase within established residential precincts in the immediate vicinity, measures could be taken to further protect residents. However, the need for changes to existing parking controls is not anticipated at this time and should only be implemented in response to a demonstrated problem, should it ever occur.”
At no stage is there a pro-active plan for the prevention of congestion and/or parking issues, merely a reference that something may need to be done in the future. To accept this irresponsible attitude of the developer shifts the onus of any detrimental outcomes of the proposed development on to the community as it is inevitable that parking conditions will be affected over time.
The developer frequently cites the Woolworths store in Macleay Street, Potts Point as akin to the proposed development. In May 2007 the Sydney Traffic Committee of Sydney City Council extended parking restrictions upon request from residents as they have insufficient time to park and do their shopping! This provides us with a good example of the the consequences of such developments and a lack of pro-active and preventative measures at the outset.
1.4 Operational Impact
The statements made in the traffic report with regard to the operational impact of the proposed development area raise more concerns than they address. The preference for supermarket operations is for deliveries to occur outside of peak trading hours, with delivery of bread and dairy occurring before store opening hours, meaning that heavy vehicle traffic in a residential area will commence in the early hours of the day.
The undertakings regarding the delivery schedule do not reflect the true position of supermarket operations. The developer has made these undertakings; at this stage it is not clear who the operator will be (conjecture suggests most likely Woolworths), and therefore should be considered null and void.
“The development will generate about 6 to 8 large (12.5m long HRV) truck deliveries per day and these will be scheduled to ensure that only one truck is present at the site at any time…”
The vehicles referred to are large indeed; in layman’s terms they are “semi-trailers”. In freight contracts there is usually a provision for “demurrage” whereby the consignor and consignee area allowed a period of waiting time after which the freight company may impose a fee for the ongoing waiting time in loading/unloading. This is usually ½ hour free time. In Australia it is commonplace for these provisions to be waived in favour of the supermarket chains as they require more time than this to unload, are not always ready to unload when the freight arrives, and have the power to negotiate this waiver into contracts owing the volume of freight they are able to manipulate.
Therefore, if we are to assume that each truck will spend 1 hour (a conservative figure) to unload, and allowing an additional 15minutes for the administrative tasks associated with the delivery the loading dock of the proposed development will be in use no less than 10 hours per day. This does not include any time required to manoeuvre vehicles, or gain access to the loading dock.
As recently as July 2005 Woolworths were unable to schedule or coordinate a store delivery with any more than “same day” accuracy – that is, if a delivery arrived during the day it was anticipated performance criteria were satisfied. To facilitate the above undertakings during trading hours (or a 12hour period), the delivery schedule would require a strict 15minute (thus the 12 hour period) window for deliveries to arrive. This standard is beyond the requirements of the best retail supply chains in the world and is usually reserved for deliveries upon which lives are at stake (such as organ transplants and anti-venom serums).
“…This truck can enter via Gowrie Street and exit via Angel Street so that they do not intrude into residential precincts. “The dock has been designed to accommodate this truck wholly within the site…”
The exit referred to earlier in the document is Angel Lane. Presumably the author means that the truck will exit this area via Angel Lane onto Angel Street in order to get back to Erskineville Road.
Accepting that, the statement would only be true if the supermarket operator is able and willing to achieve the aforementioned delivery windows. In the case that this is not done, trucks will either (a) queue at the intersection of Erskineville Road and Gowrie Street; or (b) travel down Gowrie Street, turn into Harold Street (that will be fun to watch) to get back up either Union or Angel Streets. There appears to be no management plan with regard to waiting trucks, nor contingency planning in the event (and there will always be events) that a delivery overlaps with another.
“In addition to this, about 20 to 30 deliveries by vans are expected per day. There is separate loading area for these vehicles within the loading area. It is noted that all vehicles can enter and exit each space independently, so that queuing effects will not occur.
“It is anticipated that a condition will require that supermarket operator to adopt a management plan that deals with all relevant issues, including the proposal to close the roller door onto Angel Lane when a truck is present, so that all noise is contained within the site.
In other words, there is no plan, and “all relevant issues” are not addressed within the report.
Furthermore the noise of trucks entering and reversing, and the proposed roller door opening and closing will be considerable and extend over a period of no less than 12 hours per day (as calculated above).
In addition to the above scheduling concerns, it must also be noted that the supermarket operation leads toward deliveries outside of major trading hours owing to the requirement for “all hands on deck” in store during those periods. Thus we begin to see that even if the unrealistic delivery windows outlined above are achieved the supermarket operator is unlikely to accept deliveries during peak trading periods thus extending the period of time in which the residents are expected to endure the interruptions incurred to the quality of life in this community.
This will occur regardless of any delivery or road usage restrictions as the supermarket operators are notorious for blatantly disregarding legislative restrictions and tend to treat potential fines as a business expense rather than a contravention of the law.

2 Public Interest

2.1 Don’t want it! Don’t need it!
The community response to the proposed development is well documented at It is clear that the community has not been engaged in market research with regard to the proposed development.
The application refers to a store that is dependent on “foot traffic”, small and frequent shopping baskets, and no shopping trolleys. This however does not sit well when the size of the store, and the fact that it is over 2 levels is considered.
The application suggests that the nature of the store will be similar to the Woolworths store in Potts Point however, the store there is part of a mixed use development, is over one level and has many other varying features. That store has not been without it’s own traffic issues (refer to appendix 1).
The catchment area that the development envisages is already well served by retailers, particularly if the marketplace specified is small basket size, frequent shopping, foot traffic. In Erskineville we have a convenience store, grocer, deli, newsagent, and 2 bottle shops. On Swanson Street there is also a convenience store, and one block further on, Bitton Gourmet has this year opened a small grocery section.
In addition to that, the area has supermarkets in Newtown – Franklins and Foodtown, both within walking distance of the proposed development. There is also a very good IGA in Redfern. The area is also serviced by home grocery services such as doorstep organics, and my own business,
In addition to all of this we have supermarkets at Broadway, Surry Hills and Marrickville Metro catering for this community where a broader array of “household and packaged food needs”.
The Retail Supermarket-Plan of Management document states that the intended operator will
“provide a range of products which are both fresh and dry grocery goods. The range will cater for all household and packaged food needs as well as some fresh food.”
The fact of the matter is that it is not in the public interest to have any more packaged household products and foods actively marketed to anybody, let alone the conflict of interest this poses to the City’s “Living Green” campaign.
2.2 Pedestrian Community
As a largely pedestrian community, Erskineville has a rare and desirable village atmosphere.
The dearth of parking and the village ambience is conducive to interaction with shop owners and customers and local residents at large, and residents such as myself chose to live in this area because of this environment. As the shops are around a central area there is a focal point for the community.
Aside from the village shops, the local residents form a community through various other activities including the local schools and dog parks and get to recognise, or become acquainted with, each other.
The proposed development is an indoor shopping development over two levels, as such it disperses people, rather than bring them together as the current shopping precinct does. Such a development has the potential to undermine the notion of “city of villages” that the City of Sydney is so actively touting, and which Erskineville represents.
2.3 Visual Pollution
The impact of the proposed development will have on the streetscape of the area is also concerning.
“The visibility of the store to the street frontages (Erskineville Rd and Gowrie St), is high and the use of security can be readily identified from these approaches to the store.”
The City of Sydney has spent considerable time and effort improving the “visual environmengt” of the city by removing unnecessary signage however a development such as this will impose garish neon lighting, advertising, store signage not to mention the fluorescent light pollution coming from inside the store.

3 Relevant Planning Instruments
There are many others more qualified than I to comment on this section, but I would like to remind council of the planning policies it has recently been pushing within our community:
 development mixed use buildings
 creation of a city of villages
 bringing people together
 living green
 supporting local businesses
 maintaining communities
 reducing visual pollution
 creating a sustainable city by 2030
To date, the major supermarket chains have held no interest in servicing the inner west. Once to poor and then perceived to be too “left-wing” this area is now the only region in Sydney where housing prices continue in double-digit growth.
The fact of the matter is that this area has thrived rather than survived without these corporate giants in our area, and residents such as myself have moved here to be rid of them, their greed, and their callous and unconscionable business practices.
In the City of Villages I want to live in we have a local community that supports each other. I see all of the businesses in this area pitch in whether by giving loose change or clothes to the disadvantaged, donating food to Ozharvest, hosting social events when locals sell businesses or have babies.
I know that the man from the deli owns a spaniel and will say hello when I see him at Harry Noble reserve. I know that the florist has a young child and I know that her staff carried on her excellent work whilst she was on maternity leave – so good that I actually emailed her to tell her as the deliveries I had ordered impressed the recipients.
I know that the aboriginal man on Park Street is bipolar and I can gauge his welfare by the pace that he walks; and whilst we have never spoken he acknowledges me with a nod. I keep an eye on Michelle and her mother Terry although there is little I can do for them.
I know that if a dog is lost it will invariably be taken to the vet on Erskineville Road until the owner can get there and pick it up.
On the other hand, if Woolworths is coming to town this will not happen. I once asked Roger Corbett (then CEO) at the Woolworths Annual Conference in 2004 what he though about corporate social responsibility and the role it played within the business. His dismissal of me was simple; “The only responsibility I have is to the shareholders and the board of directors.”
4 Likely Impacts
4.1 Hours of Operation
The proposed hours of operation are nonsensical. The plan of management proposes a 7am-10pm trading period with a proposed trial period of extended trading! Which is intended to be the hours on the day the store opens? This is what the application should be and if the development is approved, and if it goes ahead then any variation on that should be addressed accordingly.
“The store is proposed to trade between 7:00am and 10:00pm Monday through to Sunday, which is in line with those trading hours currently operating at the Potts Point and St Margaret’s stores”
It is irrelevant to draw a correlation between Potts Point and Erskineville with respect to store hours as the areas have a vastly different hub and kind of activity.
“It is proposed that the supermarket would undertake a trial period of 12 months to increase trading hours to 12:00am midnight in order to assess if any impact is made on the surrounding residences and business”
The proposal as it stands contradicts itself.
“The store will not operate outside of the nominated trading hours nor will deliveries be made outside of those hours.”
As detailed above, it is nigh impossible for the deliveries envisaged to occur only within the store’s trading hours.
4.2 Vulnerability
Whilst the Erskineville community is a rather convivial place it is not without its problems. There is a large amount of community housing (and department of housing paid rental residences) and thus many vulnerable and/or unfortunate people living within the community. Presently the community keeps check on these people as a part of the village.
Should a shopping (as a sole use) development go ahead, it is likely that these people will take to the air-conditioned maze it represents, losing the community interaction that they have. It is possible to see an example of this at the Surry Hills shopping complex on Cleveland Street, where the Coles supermarket plays host to many colourful and unfortunate characters.
It would be a sad indictment on our community should we compromise our village environment, as we will lose the ability to “keep an eye out” for those within the village that are vulnerable.
4.3 Rogue Elements
It is well known within the area that certain youths have a propensity to cause trouble. The construction of an indoor retail development can bring the possibility of these types of people congregating outside the visible reach of the community that has kept them in check and thus provide opportunity for petty crimes such as theft, violence and vandalism. The Chatswood interchange developed in the late 80’s/early90’s is a case in point where a shopping center was developed to improve the amenity of the area; instead it attracted youths, and gang issues became rife within the center and surrounding area. Our police in Redfern and Newtown already have a large base to cover – let’s not make it harder for them!
4.4 Pedestrian Safety
Pedestrian safety is an important issue within Erskineville and surrounds as the village community is largely pedestrian. Just this year a pedestrian crossing has been put in and the road narrowed at the intersection of Park and Swanson Streets (between Harry Noble Reserve and the Kurrajong Hotel) after much lobbying in the local community regarding the safety of this particular stretch of road.
As mentioned above , the issue of traffic & parking has been inadequately addressed in the application. Of further concern however is the likely behaviour that follows this kind of development, namely the “I’ll just pull over and grab [xyz]…” mentality. That is, traffic stopping, but not using the development’s parking, so they can quickly stop, purchase [insert convenient item] and drive off.
This is problematic owing to the pedestrian nature of the community, the lack of alternate parking in the area (which serves well to encourage pedestrian traffic) and the physical limitations of Erskineville Road.
5 Conclusion
I conclude this document pointing out to you that I have written this in my spare time, without the resources of a large company to do the homework, and yet am able to find these discrepancies on first reading the proposal.
I have not had time to investigate further issues that are concerning but outside my area of immediate knowledge.
I urge council to reject this application outright owing to the reasons outlined above and a great many more that affect our community and good governance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Erskineville is no village wake up to yourselves. Woolworths is badly needed and brings employment with great prices, freshest of food and the best of staff Love to see a Coles supermarket as well. Small shops rip off and their food is never as fresh. ACCC should be checking them.