Bays and Foreshores Subcommittee
Glebe Society activity relating to the Bays and Foreshores over the last 12 months has been framed by the implications of larger interconnected issues: increasingly clear indications of the O’Farrell Government’s intended planning regime; Government encouragement of, and increase in, unsolicited developer proposals relating to public land/assets and the fate of the long running Bays Precinct strategic planning process.
The Bays Precinct Task Force Report was sent to the Minister for Planning in August 2012. The community was represented by Professor Jane Marceau and Glebe Society’s Dr Lesley Lynch. The Report was a mixed bag. We were successful in getting the community’s perspective, including strong planning principles, into the body of the report, but many of the recommendations were much weaker than our proposals. We were outraged when, right at the end, a core principle that has for years had legal standing in planning documents, was removed by officials. This was the principle protecting Sydney Harbour and its foreshores as a public asset, by affirming that public good should always have precedence over private benefit for all harbour and foreshore development approvals.
In retrospect, this was an early signal of the direction of overall planning policy in NSW.
The Government responded to the Report in March 2013 committing to five areas of action. Of most interest to Glebe is the planned removal of the cement works (Hansons and Hymix) from Blackwattle Bay to Glebe Island freeing up foreshore space for ‘public access and appropriate urban renewal’. If this eventuates there will be intense interest in what replaces them in Blackwattle Bay.
There will certainly be strong developer interest. There is also a commitment to investigate the potential for recreational and open space at head of Rozelle Bay. Work has started on an extension of a pedestrian cycle path which will connect with James Craig Rd.
The Sydney Fish Market has resisted an unsolicited developer proposal to incorporate its publicly owned site into a larger re-development and has proceeded with plans for a modest refurbishment that will make the Glebe end much more salubrious and attractive. The foreshore walk is in the process of being extended from the bottom of Ferry Road through the secondary college to Bridge Road.
The long term future of Glebe Island remains unresolved. The Government made a unilateral decision to temporarily locate the Sydney convention facilities there, pending the re-development of Darling Harbour. This is not a bad outcome, but the Glebe area will share the increased transport hassles that will undoubtedly flow from this temporary relocation. There have been disturbing reports that a consortium of developers, supported by the Sydney Urban Taskforce development lobby, is testing the waters for an unsolicited development proposal to build (very) high rise residential apartments on this public foreshore. This may tempt a cash strapped Government, but would be a very poor and non-strategic use of a very special public asset – and contrary to recommendations against residential use from every recent report on the Bays. Not to mention the traffic implications.
We failed in our efforts, along with nearby residents and park users, to block excessive and inappropriate development of the Super Yacht Marina in Rozelle Bay. The Marina will now include major entertainment areas which will create significant noise discomfort for nearby residents, are in breach of the current zoning, will change the character of Rozelle Bay and threaten the preservation of Glebe Island Bridge. This was a clear example of private benefit overriding public good.
The community/councils versus Ports/Maritime struggle around the future of the heritage Glebe lsland Bridge is unresolved. Along with both local Councils, we have strongly supported the re- opening of the bridge for much needed pedestrian and cycle commuter traffic. Ports and Maritime have for years favoured demolition and constantly mount arguments against preservation. The latest being that the super yachts need to be able to exit on call!
Preparations for the relocation of the Sydney Heritage Fleet from its current site at Rozelle Bay to Bank Street in Blackwattle Bay are underway. We supported the local residents in successfully opposing the siting of the industrial activity and sea dock associated with the restoration workshop to Bank Street. No alternative site has been identified yet. The associated facilities for the HeritageFleet have been reduced to ensure they do not disrupt rowing and dragon boat activities.
The future of rowing and dragon boat recreation in the Bays is under pressure from other activities and remains one of our priority concerns.
The B&F committee works collaboratively with Pyrmont and Ultimo residents through the Blackwattle Cove Coalition. Considerable discussion occurred relating to a joint, unsolicited development proposal from a local developer (FishBank) and the Elias Group (Casual Cruises at B1, 82 wharves) for an integrated development of much of the Blackwattle foreshore, including the Fishmarket. The Glebe Society vehemently opposed it on the principle that approval of unsolicited development proposals in relation to public lands and assets rarely delivers value for the public benefit.
For the moment this proposal has lapsed. The next issue will be the development of the B1, B2 site near the Fishmarket.
In summary, the Bays Precinct area continues as an active re-development area. In the absence of any overarching strategic plan we will continue to monitor individual proposals/developments closely.
Notwithstanding some losses, the Glebe foreshore remains one of the most beautiful public parklands in Sydney. Thanks, in significant part to the work of the B&F subcommittee over many years.
Community Development Subcommittee
This entity has been dormant for most of 2012/13 due to the lack of a convenor, however since February 2013 Janice Challinor has attended several FLAG meetings to represent the Glebe Society and reported back to the management committee. The President, John Gray attended the FLAG Networking Event for 2013 which was held on 8 May. An outcome of this meeting was the identification of ‘conflict resolution’ as a question for consideration by the FLAG group in future deliberations.
Following an invitation from President John Gray to consider taking on the role, and with support from the Acting President Jan Wilson and the committee, Janice was confirmed in the position of Convenor in July, 2013.
However the Glebe Society has engaged in many community initiatives and activities in 2013. They
include activities such as the naming of lanes for Glebe identities, developing community gardens and supporting concerns such as Friends of Tranby and Friends of Centipede, amongst others. Reference to these will be found in other relevant subcommittees’ annual reports.
Should you have a special interest in Community Development and/or suggestions for consideration re possible future projects, please contact the President or the Community Development Convenor. Your interest will be valued and considered.
Policy, action plan and guidelines
In the second half of last year the Environment subcommittee revised the Society’s environment policy and prepared an action plan for the coming year. We also decided that the Glebe Society should make a clear commitment to environmentally sustainable practices when organising events, and with the support of the Events Group we produced a ‘Commitment to environmentally sustainable events’ that guides our actions and can be displayed at events.
Submissions to Council
Submissions have been made in response to a number of Council draft policies and proposals on exhibition.
Register of Significant Trees
We were successful in recommending that the Black Bean (Castanospermum australe) in the grounds of Bidura, 357 Glebe Point Rd, be added to the Register, which now notes: ‘It is a representative example of rainforest species planting common in the late 19th century, early 20th century and has a clear association with the landscape context and history of this important 1850’s villa.’
Tree Management Policy
Our submission emphasised the importance of community consultation and engagement, especially by providing information, following new street tree planting, concerning the rationale for tree selection, and care instructions, in order to engage residents. We also recommended a more active approach to replacement of weedy species, especially Celtis sinensis.
Johnstons Creek Parkland Masterplan
Our recommendations covered: interpretative strategy concerning the watercourse and the importance of saltmarsh species and freshwater flows; a collaborative approach to landscaping around the tramsheds, in partnership with Mirvac, to ensure a seamless treatment of the surroundings of this heritage structure; construction of a new toilet block close to the location of the current block rather than near the Eglinton Rd entrance; treatment of the bridge over the canal to enforce speed reduction by bicyclists. (Submission available on our webpage)
Support for local businesses and sustainability
Three local cafés expressed interest in participating in a Council program for small business to reduce water usage and waste. We were able to organise a Council officer to visit their business and recommend low or no cost strategies. The effectiveness was more noticeable with the largest of the cafés, Naggy’s, where waste and recycling strategies will make a substantial difference. The exercise has emphasised the difficulty of finding recycling services willing to work with small businesses.
Planning is underway for an event in November on the ‘Grow it Local’ movement, including local residents sharing their experiences.
As one of our members has moved from Glebe, we would be keen for new members to join the Environment subcommittee.
Blue Wrens Subcommittee
Monthly meetings of the Subcommittee continued over the year and we also gathered for a Christmas Party to which we invited locals and those from the City of Sydney whom we wished to thank for all their assistance during the year.
Our major work was again centred on community planting days in Glebe’s pocket parks that were organised in conjunction with the City of Sydney and led to the enhancement of biodiversity in our suburb. In September, 30 appreciative local residents and many children gathered at the Palmerston Ave and Sarah Pennington reserves (near the Glebe light rail stop) for the planting of native flora, and in celebration of Earth Day in April a working bee was held in Paddy Gray Reserve in Hereford St.
Other events in which members of the Subcommittee participated and gave support were a Biodiversity Workshop held in September in St John’s Church Record Reign Hall and a landcare walk through Glebe, organised as part of the National Landcare Conference held at Darling Harbour, also in September. During the year, members of the Subcommittee also liaised closely with the Friends of Orphan School Creek, a newly established bushcare group working to improve wildlife habitat along the creek and surrounding areas.
In December, members of the Subcommittee gave oral presentations to the Environment Committee of the City of Sydney regarding its plans for a community garden in John Street Reserve. The Society had written as follows to the Chief Executive Officer: ‘We look forward to the long overdue restoration of St James Park and John Street Reserve. They are much loved and used spaces in a congested local community, contributing to enjoyment of nature and the outdoors, peace of mind and community cohesion. The last recorded breeding in the Glebe area of Superb Fairy-wrens was in John Street Reserve. We look forward to seeing it used again by wrens for that purpose.’ The City agreed with the submissions from the local residents and the Society and the preliminary work leading to the construction of a habitat demonstration garden has commenced.
Funds held by a previous subcommittee of the Society, the Friends, Residents and Rate Payers of Orphan School Creek Gully Subcommittee (FRROGS), were retrieved during the year and donated to the Blue Wren Subcommittee. We are presently in discussion with the City of Sydney about their use for a future biodiversity study in Glebe.
Sadly, we received no new sightings of blue wrens in Glebe or Forest Lodge during the year but a colony still thrives around the grass tennis courts on the campus of the University of Sydney. Other interesting birds recently sighted in the locality include tawny frogmouths, plovers, black shouldered kites, brown goshawks and a fantail flycatcher.
Members of the Society are most welcome to join the subcommittee and to assist with the organisation of future planting days.
The convenorship of the Subcommittee has been shared over the last 12 months, between John Gray (first six months) and Liz Simpson-Booker. Composition of the Subcommittee has been fluid due to the pressure of travel and work commitments but to those precious members who have hung in, special thanks for your guidance, generosity and support.
So how has Glebe fared in the Heritage stakes over the past 12 months?
Happily, we saw the culmination of a painstaking restoration and refurbishment of the Glebe Town Hall with its reopening in March 2013. The community now has a venue of which it can be justly proud and a meeting complex which will be well used by our active residents and which augments the limited meeting spaces elsewhere in Glebe.
Unhappily, the Glebe Estate and its parlous condition continues to concern the Society. President John Gray and Dr Vanessa Witton canvassed these issues in a major series of articles on the history, heritage and nature of the Estate in the Glebe Society Bulletin. The Estate and its residents are an important part of Glebe life and we have an obligation to do all we can to ensure that the heritage infrastructure is appropriately and adequately maintained and to support the continued well-being of its residents.
The Society made a submission to the Heritage Council supporting a proposal to list the 1903 Glebe Island Bridge on the State Heritage Register. The Society argued the heritage and historic merits of the Bridge because of its role in Sydney’s growth, its juxtaposition with the Anzac Bridge but also its potential to provide an important cycle and pedestrian conduit for Sydney.
The Heritage Subcommittee explored the possibility of national heritage listing for Glebe – readers will recall that Glebe as a suburb was listed on the now-defunct Register of the National Estate. Unfortunately the federal government has implemented thematic filtering streams, as a financial brake, which presently preclude a successful application for heritage listing of Glebe.
Currently, the Subcommittee is working to update and enhance heritage statements on the Glebe Society website and has formulated an approach to progressively review State Heritage Register website entries for correctness and currency.
The future of heritage in Glebe – and other heritage places in the State – hangs on the outcome of the NSW Government’s proposed changes to Planning. It is to be hoped that NSW Planning will have noted the strong protests by communities around the State at the absence of virtually any mention of Heritage in the Planning White Paper. Heritage places and heritage conservation areas must be excluded from the ‘wave through’ process.
The 2012 CityPlan is being thoroughly tested by a number of laneway proposals, particularly off Glebe Point Rd. The Plan relies on a number of layers of controls, so it cannot be assumed that if a proposal meets one or several of them it will be approved. Nevertheless, my fingernails have become white watching the progress of some of these applications.
When my previous annual report was published the Masterplan for the site had just been approved, after a two and a half hour struggle in the Council Chamber. Shortly afterward the Lord Mayor replied to the points the Society had raised, and this letter was published in full in the October 2012 Bulletin. The height and density of the development remain unchanged, but we made some progress in the areas of traffic management and conservation.
Subsequently various applications for the separate precincts of the residential component have been advertised, and with very minor exceptions they show Mirvac is sticking to the limits imposed by the City. The most recent proposal is for the adaptive reuse of the Tramsheds, and this is covered in this Bulletin.
Shortly after my report the City signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the State Government to extend Light Rail through the CBD and out to UNSW. This is, of course, in addition to the extension westward to Dulwich Hill due for completion in 2015, and the route is similar to that proposed by the Society in its seminal monograph of 1983. The City is paying for most of the CBD section, which will see most traffic redirected from George St between Bathurst and Hunter Sts. The project will take at least five years to complete, but it will make Light Rail more attractive and useful, and the benefit will be felt most keenly by Harold Park. It has the added benefit of making Glebe people, already less inclined to use cars than other parts of the City, less car-dependent.
The other factor affecting the Harold Park development is the Masterplan the City is proposing for the Johnstons Creek Parklands. This has been extensively covered in previous Bulletins, but 3.8 ha, or one third of the site, is to be handed over to the City by Mirvac. Crucially this includes the area around the Tramsheds, and most of the land at the base of the cliff (including the cliff itself). The new park connects Wigram Rd at the south with the Hill and the existing Federal, Jubilee and Bicentennial Parks, and is proposed to include a new playing field and collection and recycling of storm water as well as small bird and amphibian habitats. As I note in my report on the Tramsheds proposal, the interface and connection between these areas is important, and needs further negotiation. Mirvac’s pocket parks adjacent to this parkland are now proposed for dedication to the City.
New Planning Legislation
Members will be aware the new State Government proposes to replace the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act of 1979 with a number of pieces of legislation. Initially there was a positive response, as there had been so many changes and additions to the Act it had become unnecessarily complicated.
There was a large response to the Planning Review conducted by former planning ministers Dyer and Moore. However, Minister Hazzard chose to ignore the resulting Green Paper and his personal staff produced a White Paper for public discussion that was much more controversial. Large claims are being made for the White Paper and the draft legislation based on it, but on closer examination it is a document drawn up at the behest of developers to make approvals easier.
Almost immediately after our 2012 AGM we were invited to join the Better Planning Network, a coalition of groups, mainly resident and environmental, that have an interest in keeping an eye on development. Under the leadership of Corinne Fisher the Network has grown to a membership of about 400 groups, and has mounted a steady campaign to ensure the public is aware of what the government intends, and why it is so deficient. The concomitant of this is to produce a better alternative without these deficiencies. Corinne will be guest speaker at our 2013 AGM.
Virtually all the organisations with which the Society has links have made adverse comments on the draft legislation, from the Independent Commission Against Corruption to the National Trust, and many of these have been reported in the media. Although submissions closed on 28 June, the Better Planning Network will continue its campaign until the Bill comes before Parliament, probably in September, and hopefully beyond as well, if necessary.
Transport and Traffic Subcommittee
This year saw the release of two major reports commissioned by the State Government on transport options for NSW over the next 20 years. NSW Transport’s draft Long Term Transport Master Plan was released in September 2012 with an emphasis on public transport initiatives. Infrastructure NSW’s report ‘First Things First’ was released one month later and recommended new road projects. The State
Government decided to adopt most of the public transport initiatives. This was a good outcome for Glebe and Forest Lodge residents who will now have real access to the CBD by Light Rail.
Transport NSW: Public Transport
The Master Plan made several proposals to improve and integrate public transport, encompassing rail, light rail, buses and ferries and including an electronic ticketing system, transport interchanges, improved timetables and new rail links. It proposed the redesign of the bus network and investment in the cycling network and pedestrian infrastructure. The Plan identified three corridors for the extension of the light rail system, including through the Sydney CBD and to UNSW and Randwick. the Glebe Society made a submission to Transport NSW supporting these proposals as, in line with our policy, we believe that residents in Glebe and Forest Lodge are best served by a high quality public transport system and infrastructure for safe cycling and walking.
Infrastructure NSW: New Road Projects.
Infrastructure NSW put priority on new roads, including the WestConnex project and recommended a network of bus tunnels in the CBD instead of light rail. the Glebe Society’s submission on this report raised our concerns about putting road projects ahead of investment in public transport, and we objected to the idea of bus tunnels in the CBD.
The outcome was a win for public transport, with the State Government adopting most of the proposals in the Master Plan, including light rail in the CBD and to UNSW and Randwick. The WestConnex proposal was also adopted. A more detailed discussion of these reports and our submissions is contained in the 9/2012 November/ December edition of the Bulletin.
Glebe Island Exhibition Centre
We made submissions to the State Government in December 2012 and February 2013 on the interim exhibition centre to be built on Glebe Island. Our concern was that the traffic management study undertaken for the developer was deficient. This was because it did not take account of the potential for traffic, including construction traffic, to access the site through streets in Glebe and Forest Lodge, including Glebe Point Rd, St Johns Road, Wigram Rd, Ross St and Minogue Cresc. We asked for a traffic study that focussed on Glebe and Forest Lodge and for the community to have the opportunity to comment on the study before the development application was approved. However the development application was approved on 3 May 2013 without this study being undertaken. We will continue to monitor this situation.
Neighbourhood Parking Policy
In May 2013, City of Sydney released its draft Neighbourhood Parking Policy which sets out the City’s approach to managing parking demands in all its precincts, including Glebe and Forest Lodge. The City is endeavouring to bring consistency across all the areas it administers and sought feedback from local communities on a range of questions regarding parking time limits, resident, visitor and business permits and permits for the disabled and for care workers. We made a submission to the City focussing on parking in Glebe and Forest Lodge. The main points of our submission are referred to in a separate article in this edition of the Bulletin.
Structure of the Subcommittee
The Communications Subcommittee has only existed for about three months. The role of this new Subcommittee includes: co-ordinating the various communication activities of the Society, including the Bulletin, its websites and Facebook page, ensuring that its communications activities accord with the Society’s constitution, in particular to ‘providing opportunities for members to express their views on issues affecting Glebe’ and ‘encouraging the village atmosphere and community spirit in Glebe’. It will also provide guidance to the Society with regard to managing its public image, in particular the design of its publications and its communications.
The website for the Glebe Society continues to grow in size and usage by members of the Glebe Society as well as by many others. Website statistics record the number of people who access the website, and the current number is an average of 822 users per day, an increase of 52% in the last two years.
Our website is the place where members can check on the latest news about the Glebe Society, campaigns that it is involved in, and other issues that affect Glebe’s residents. Members can also view past issues of the Bulletin, and book and pay for Society events.
Why are so many people looking at our website? Most people find websites by using Google Search, and the most common search criterion for people who access our website is: ‘Glebe Society’ – 8%, followed by ‘Edmund Barton Glebe’ – 8%, whilst ‘Bidura’, ‘Blue Wrens’ and ‘417 Glebe Point Rd’ are also popular search criteria that result in people using our website.
An indicator of the popularity of smartphones such as the iPhone, the iPad, and similar portable devices is that a surprising 26% of visitors to our website are using such devices.
Saturday 6 July 2013 saw the record number of users of our website, with 1,314 users that day, just beating our previous record usage in January 2011 at the time of the Post Office closure.
A current priority of the Communications subcommittee is to both update the content of the website, and to refresh the design of its layout. We hope that members will enjoy the results.
Edwina Doe resigned as Editor of the monthly Bulletin at the start of 2013, after 10 years of outstanding commitment to the role. Virginia Simpson-Young took over the role, and has slowly been making changes and improvements to its design and layout.