Sydney suburbs earmarked for high-rise blocks      Leesha McKenny, 15 March 2013

activation map

Bill  Randolph's PictureBill Randolph, from the University of NSW’s City Futures Research Centre, said the precincts were located in the right areas.

Admin Comment in response:

The original Metrostrategy – “City of Cities” – focussed on Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Chatswood, Hurstville, Liverpool, Parramatta and Penrith. The idea was to create fully functioning stand-alone cities within the Sydney Basin. Each of those cities needed major health,education, transport and recreational facilities. Having the airport, port, major teaching hospitals,3 of the top universities, and major recreation (beaches, botanic gardens, centennial park) in the one relatively small subregion of the basin – the East – is the big problem. Density is already high in the East and that’s without factoring in commuting workers and recreational visitors. Packing more people into the East around Mascot, Maroubra and Randwick will make it more difficult for the majority who live in the rest of the basin to access existing facilities. While parkland experiences can be delivered in the west we need to ensure that people have easy access to attractions like beaches that are only available in the East. Open space is a priority. A second airport to service the west is long overdue. There should be a priority to improve hospital facilities in the west. Education is changing with technology so the need for more campus space in the East should be examined closely before facilitating growth. The biggest ‘grower’ in the East is the Port – Freight is projected to grow around 10 times everything else – see http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/state-infrastructure-strategy.aspx We need a smart freight plan which utilises Kembla, Newcastle and Parkes and puts a lid on Port Botany. We don’t need residential growth right next to Australia’s largest airport and second largest container port. We need a buffer. Growth for Mascot is a bizarre notion and even South Maroubra is only 10 minutes from the Port/Airport complex.

Eight suburbs have been earmarked for high-rise apartment blocks up to 30 storeys tall and increased commercial development as part of a state government plan to boost high-density housing and employment in Sydney.

Fairfax Media has identified the eight “urban activation precincts” – where development is to be intensified near transport hubs – due to be unveiled by the Premier Barry O’Farrell and Planning Minister Brad Hazzard.

Parts of North Ryde, Macquarie Park, Epping, Wentworth Point, Sydney Olympic Park, Mascot, Randwick and South Maroubra are facing a raft of zoning and development control changes encompassing hundreds of homes and businesses, as well as government-owned or council land.

The effects of the highly anticipated changes are already being felt. Chris Dunkerley from the Epping Civic Trust said developers and real estate agents were doorknocking his neighbourhood, where single-storey dwellings are facing a likely rezoning for five storeys.

While some of Epping’s existing houses will be protected by a heritage conservation zone, Mr Dunkerley said new controls were expected to increase maximum building heights, ranging from 3 to 22 storeys.

In North Ryde, 30-storey buildings have been mooted.

In the Randwick and Ryde local government areas – which will host education precincts around the University of NSW and Macquarie University respectively – public housing estates have also been earmarked for possible redevelopment.

Bill Randolph, from the University of NSW’s City Futures Research Centre, said the precincts were located in the right areas.

“If this doesn’t work then we’re really stuck as a city,” he said. “We have to activate urban renewal across the city, and we’ve got to do it appropriately.”

But Professor Randolph said the authorities needed to take heed of the “real traps” that had befallen previous plans, such as overdevelopment in Strathfield and a community backlash in Ku-ring-gai. And he said it would be a concern if the precincts resulted in less affordable housing.

“It’s not just rezone and walk away,” he said. “It’s work with the local community, masterplan the areas, get agreement, and then work with the development sector to develop that agreed plan.”

Councils will be eligible for money from a $50 million fund to help them meet the additional demands that will come from the increased population.

But some of those councils, brought into Department of Planning working groups to develop the detail, have criticised the way precincts were determined.

Randwick’s Labor mayor, Tony Bowen, has said its council had “no input whatsoever” in nominating its two precincts. Nor did Auburn City Council, which likened the process to the “removal of local planning powers and decision making from council by the State Government”.

Ryde City Council also expressed concern that heights discussed for development on government-owed land in North Ryde “are substantially higher than the planning controls applying to the adjoining properties in the corridor”.

Mr Hazzard, who declined to comment on the location of the precincts, has previously said they will go out to public consultation once finalised.

“As Planning Minister, I well understand some local councils desire to have no development, or next to no development. This is unrealistic in many parts of Sydney, where the community wants to live.”

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