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Bitter battle over ‘elite enclave’

More than 50 residents and neighbours of this 1960s apartment building have protested the block's proposed demolition to turn the 28 apartment block into 22 luxury residences. Picture: NewsWire / John Appleyard

Residents in one of Australia’s richest suburbs are up in arms about a proposed $230m development that would knock down an 1960s apartment block and replace it with luxury units.

Dozens of residents and neighbours of the apartments at Billyard Ave and Onslow St in Elizabeth Bay in eastern Sydney met with the NSW Land and Environment Court this week to voice their fury over the plan from developer Fortis to transform the 28-unit block.

Warren Fahey AM from the Potts Point Preservation Group said the proposal would be “detrimental” to the area’s architectural heritage and its community cohesion.

“It’s not the most significant building, but in our area, you’ve got to understand there’s only 1km that encases Elizabeth Bay, Potts Point and Kings Cross, and we are losing housing at a rate that is appalling,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.


“There doesn’t seem to be anybody in state or the city that is snapping to attention to help us so the residents have got off their backsides and are protesting.”

The apartment block from Billyard Ave and Onslow St in Elizabeth Bay. Dozens of residents and neighbours of this 1960s apartment building are protesting the block’s proposed demolition. Picture: NewsWire / John Appleyard

The City of Sydney has knocked back the development application, but Fortis is appealing the decision to the Land and Environment Court.

Mr Fahey said he and other upset community members were not against all development, but what he called “unnecessary development”, and noted the development would degrade housing supply by reducing the number of units to 22.

He said there were five DAs in the area and if all were approved, the total number of apartments would collapse from 174 to 73.

“That’s a 56 per cent loss,” he said.

“But no one bedders, no studio apartments.

“If we keep becoming a yuppie kingdom, we will force out all the interesting parts of the history of this area and this includes young people and older people and they simply can’t afford to spend millions on apartments and that is what is happening before our eyes.”

An artist's impression of the proposed Fortis development at Elizabeth Bay. Picture: Supplied
An artist's impression of the proposed Fortis development at Elizabeth Bay. Picture: Supplied

Mr Fahey also slammed the style and technical aspects of Fortis’ proposal.

“(The) excessive height, the bulk, the scale, the insufficient setbacks, and it frankly lacks any design excellence,” he said.

“It’s detrimental to the area. We don’t believe good solid 1960s, 1970s, 1950s buildings should be knocked down just so some developer can put in some luxury apartments.”

“We want the architectural streetscapes to remain pretty much as they are. We’re not anti development. We’re just anti unnecessary development and we don’t want the social fabric to be changed so that young people and older people can’t afford to live here.”

The court has the power to overturn council decisions on developments, but Mr Fahey suggested community anger was gaining ground in the battle over the block.

A spokeswoman for Fortis said the developer would continue to engage with the community over the project.

“Community is at the heart of our work and we remain open to addressing matters as they arise,” the spokeswoman said.

“We always consider relevant feedback and collaborate with local community and planning authorities to achieve the best development outcomes for each location.”