The newly elected mayor of Waverley Council in Sydney, John Wakefield, says he plans to scrap highly contentious plans to upgrade Bondi Pavilion.

Redevelopment plans for the heritage icon were approved last year, despite a groundswell of community opposition. The project continued to be a headache for the previous council, with Wakefield’s predecessor Sally Betts even saying she received death threats over the planning proposal.

Designed by Robertson and Marks in 1929, Bondi Pavilion was affectionately known as the “Playground of the Pacific”. According to the NSW State Heritage Register on which it is listed, “its construction marked the establishment of Australian beach culture”. Today the pavilion serves the dual function of amenity and cultural hub to Bondi visitors, containing a theatre, gallery, artist studios, function halls and public amenities.

Under the initial $38-million proposal, Bondi Pavilion’s existing pavilion theatre would have been moved to the lower level and replaced with retail and hospitality space. The proposal also included plans for a redeveloped grand entrance and atrium.

At the time of approval, then-councillor Wakefield voiced his opposition to the plan, telling the ABC that the redevelopment had been “given the nod based on a handful of very rough diagrams”. After succeeding Betts as mayor last month, Wakefield reinforced his opposition to the controversial upgrade and stated his intention to overhaul it.

In an election speech given on 26 September, Wakefield said that he plans to use his power as mayor to “reject the previous concept plans” for Bondi Pavilion. However, he suggested that an upgrade would not be out of the question altogether.

“We will be drawing up, as time goes on in the coming weeks, new plans, new process, a new program for our community’s cultural facility,” he said.

A development application containing revised designs – and which included the retainment of existing music studios that were previously targeted for removal – was submitted by Waverley Council in April. Wakefield’s term as mayor will last two years, and he has said that the Bondi Pavilion upgrade is his council’s “number one issue”.