Ms McAlpin said further development had occurred along the shopping strip without breaching local planning rules or damaging historic facades: ‘This proposed development would ruin that historic scale and rhythm of the buildings.’

Ms McAlpin said the shopping street had thrived during the pandemic, with residents choosing to shop “on the sunny street in friendly stores, avoiding overcrowded and damp Bondi Junction”. “Charing Cross needs polishing up, not redevelopment,” she said.

Audrey McCallum, president of the Waverley Historical Society, also expressed concern about the heritage impact of the project.

A plaza and three-storey building would be constructed as part of the Charing Square development next to the Robin Hood Hotel in Waverley.Credit:Rhett Wyman

But Urban Taskforce chief executive Tom Forrest said there was a misconception that development and higher density made a suburb worse.

Planning rules were too strict and council staff should work with developers to protect “authentic heritage” while allowing development, Mr Forrest said. “Too often we see heritage militarized by using dubious and variable references to heritage used to simply block development.”

Dr O’Neill said the heritage of Charing Cross should be “enhanced, not destroyed” by unsustainable overdevelopment that will forever change the tone of the area.

“Once again we see a developer seeking to breach local planning controls for their own financial gain,” she said.

Waverley Greens councilor Elaine Keenan said the scheme was “out of step with the conservation area because it’s all glass and metal”.

Cr Keenan said his fellow councilors had campaigned against overdevelopment and “now it’s time for all of us to nail our colors to the wall and put community first”.

“What worries me is that the development proposal may be rejected in Council, but the developer will appeal and the Land and Environmental Tribunal will approve it,” she said.

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The planning proposal to increase the floor area ratio and height of buildings also covers the Eastern Suburbs Legion Club, which opposes the development plans.

Club chairman Peter Aston said the proposal was “disrespectful” to the area’s heritage and financially damaging to the club as it would jeopardize its ability to increase rental income.

“If this planning proposal is approved, it will mean that the proposed development will completely obstruct the floor-to-ceiling view from the upper level of the club,” he said. “The only view customers would have would be looking directly into someone’s apartment.”

Without the involvement of adjacent landowners such as the Legion Club, Mr Aston said the driveway and public square would be “landlocked” and unappealing to the public.

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But Mr Whitten said Charing Cross had fallen behind other commercial areas in the eastern suburbs due to a lack of investment.

“Apart from the two pubs and a few restaurants, there is very little appeal for local residents to stay in the area past 5pm,” he said.

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