The future of Robertson Road as the heart of community activity at Newport is under threat according to local residents.
In recent years, proposed developments have been put forward for both sides of Robertson Road, at the intersection of Barrenjoey Road, in the middle of the commercial centre.
After consultation with Council and community submissions, a $3m development proposal for 349 Barrenjoey Road on the southern side of Robertson Road was withdrawn by the developer but is expected to be revised and resubmitted.
A $7m Development Application (DA) has now been submitted for 351-353 Barrenjoey Road, on the northern side of Robertson Road for mixed use retail and shop top housing.
Local resident Simon Barlow (main image) says that while he agrees the area is tired and in need of development, a piecemeal approach should be avoided or the opportunity for a considered and co-ordinated approach to a community heart in Newport will be lost. A Facebook group called ‘Save Robertson Road‘ he started around two weeks ago now has over 600 members.
Mr Barlow is advocating for property owners at Robertson Road, including Australia Post, to come together and develop their landholdings in a co-ordinated way, in accordance with the 2006 Newport Masterplan.
“As described in the Masterplan, Robertson Road is at the centre of any possible revitalisation of Newport as a cultural, recreation and shopping centre.
“The full potential of Robertson Road as the heart of Newport is yet to be realised. That full potential is now under immediate threat with development applications for two of the four properties that front Robertson Road.
“The only opportunity to realise the full potential of Robertson Road as a central hub of Newport is now. Once one of the properties is allowed to be developed in isolation, the quality of any potential development of Robertson Road will be diminished,” said Mr Barlow.
President of Newport Residents Association Gavin Butler agrees with Mr Barlow and has invited him to join the committee of the resident’s association.
“We’re not against those buildings being revamped. As a principle we don’t mind any development in the town area as long as it’s in accordance with the Newport Masterplan. If it’s outside it or stretches boundaries we object at that point.
“Robertson Road is the only place you can have plaza type events. Originally the DA on 351 Barrenjoey Road was presented and that horrified us, especially with 50 odd car spaces and an entrance off Robertson Road, because if you have that volume of traffic going in to a place, how can you close the road off for plaza type events? You’re almost destroying the concept of what Robertson Road can be right there.
“When the Mayor came out with the ‘Eat. Play. Stay.’ proposal, we got excited because he said the road would be closed once per month for events and they’d put bollards up at the entrance of Robertson Road. From our point of view that was good because Council were thinking of maintaining Robertson Road for plaza type events and wouldn’t allow DAs that conflict with that. With COVID that appears to have paused though.
“Simon’s suggestion of having them all done at the same time makes a lot of sense. The difficulty of course is the legal system. You’ve got the current DAs put in. If Council knocks them back for reasons the developer doesn’t think hold up, you end up in the Land and Environment Court,” said Mr Butler.
An expert source close to Council who cannot go on record due to the potential to prejudice the Development Application currently being considered, agreed that Robertson Road was a unique location in Newport that required special consideration.
Award-winning Newport based architect Peter Stutchbury made a similar point in a submission in October 2020 on the now withdrawn DA saying the proposal ‘sets an unfortunate precedent to future applications’ and urged a piecemeal approach be avoided.
Mr Butler believes the facts on the ground point to developers needing to accommodate the intention of the Newport Master Plan and the regular closure of Robertson Road for community events.
“The end hasn’t arrived yet. We still have Robertson Road being closed off for plaza events,” said Mr Butler.
Mr Barlow has asked concerned Newport residents to review the Development Application currently proposed for 351-353 Barrenjoey Road and make a submission by 07 March.
Image: Northern Beaches Advocate