Village says "no" to Woolworths

Erskineville village is nestled in between the better known areas of Redfern, Alexandria, Eveleigh, Newtown and St Peters and now falls under the Sydney City Council. Our Lord Mayor, the dog collar wearing Lord Mayor Clover Moore, and her council have the mantra "city of villages" and as Clover noted this weekend, Erskineville typifies the end goal.

There's limited on street parking and the streets are narrow with large islands in the middle and several pedestrian crossings to boot. The little village has no "super" market but a small grocery store, greengrocer, deli, bakery, pub (2 on the main strip), florist, cafes (several), thai food (again, 2), hairdresser, post office, vet, chinese takeaway and a few patches of grass and seats all within spitting distance from the train station. It's a very pedestrian area for "the big smoke" with a great community vibe and friendly smiles and nods between passers by. Hubby, puppy and I have found it a great place to live, and certainly enjoy Sydney all the more for it.

The area is traditionally working class and post war slavic migrants (the Serbian Orthodox church, technically in Alexandria, is still a steady business). Being wedged in between Redfern and Waterloo has kept housing prices in the area at bay, but over the past decade the last bastion of affordable housing within walking distance of Sydney's CBD has been getting pricier. In fact, at the end of last year, despite the slump in Sydney's housing ascent, the inner west of Sydney was the only area in double digit price growth.

Having ignored inner city pockets like this since starting out, our little community is now looking attractive to the opportunistic, notably one DA before council after the previous development on the site fell through, is for a 2 story supermarket (nominally Woolworths from the DA, yet Woolworths is not the developer). This has a number of locals up in arms and a community group has formed to "save Erskineville village".

Between you and me, and whoever else reads this post, I don't think Erskineville is going to need "saving" but I certainly agree that the village atmosphere we have should be preserved, and I believe that the proposal flies in the face of that namely owing to the proposed location a block with 3 one way lanes for boundaries, 3 blocks from the current village "strip", the "mixed use" zone encouraged by our "city of villages" plan, and the ludicrous "impact statements" that have been manufactured to support the DA (I don't know what hole they live in, but 4pm on Thursday is not peak hour traffic in Sydney).

Who knows what commitment Woolworths (or Coles) have given to the developer; having walked the halls of both companies I know they will not put their necks out for this and the current accessibility (which will not change unless they take the railway line between Redfern and Strathfield out) will give the transport manager and his contractor a headache or two.

I have submitted my objections to council without aligning myself to the aforementioned community group; I don't see the relevance a fast food retailer nominated on their leaflets alongside Coles and Woolworths has to do with the issue at hand, and when questioned I was told that they're anti big business. I am not. Big business has a role to play in our society, it is the merits of things that should be taken into account, not who is doing them.

On Saturday the village group hosted a sausage sizzle to raise awareness, raise a bit of dosh, meet and greet, and "our Clover" came to say a few words. This community happy clapping, back slapping isn't my cup of tea, but I am glad I went along because I got a real kick out of it!

Minutes before the Lord Mayor arrived I spotted a former colleague. She'd aged a lot over the 3 years since I last saw her (as we complained about our employer in her office whilst I waited for a meeting) but she confirmed indeed it was she. I was rather surprised to see her as I didn't think the sausage sizzle would be her cup of tea, and she explained that she was looking at moving into the area and signaled her Saturday newspaper as research. Talk about shitting in your own backyard-to-be... it was none other than Clare Buchanan, Woolworths Corporate Communications Manager & public spokesperson!

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