On exhibition until 4 December is the Stage 1 envelope and concept plan for this prominent site. As mentioned previously, there will be a design competition sometime early next year, and a DA that includes design and detail will follow in due course. The lease back to the State Government has about 18 months still to run. The Society has requested successfully that the model of the proposal be displayed in Glebe Library from Monday, 16 November. All documents relating to the proposal will also be available in hard copy. The Society has also requested the architect to attend the Library on successive Saturdays before the exhibition closes. Some of the major issues the Society will comment on are:
Heritage: A heritage consultant should be retained to advise on the restoration of Bidura, the ballroom and the gardens fronting Glebe Point Rd, and on the appropriate curtilage at the rear and north and south boundaries.
Bidura has a long history as the home of the Colonial Architect and a former Lord Mayor of Sydney, and more recently as a Care Home for State Wards. An interpretative display of its history and uses should be publicly available.
Height: The maximum height in the City of Sydney’s Development Control Plan 2012 for a building in that location is five storeys. The developers are seeking to increase this to eight; one of their justifications is ‘design excellence’. The Society should seek a reduction of three storeys. There is no justification for claiming extra storeys for design excellence.
Traffic: The traffic study should be extended to include all surrounding streets and intersections, and address ease of traffic flow.
Open Space: Replacement for public open space and plantings on Avon St at the rear of the site should be equally accessible to the public.
Demolition and construction: As in every development these are the most critical stages for residents. Council should require ongoing consultation with residents to minimise disruption and disturbance through both phases.
Design and Finish: Old Bidura and its garden are significant heritage components for Glebe Point Rd, Glebe Point and Toxteth Conservation Zones. This applies not only to the items themselves but to any structures visible behind them. The treatment of these structures should harmonise with the Conservation Areas and the many surrounding Heritage Items.
Objection Letter from The Glebe Society
City of Sydney
4 December 2015
2015/1398 STAGE 1 DA BIDURA 357 GLEBE POINT ROAD GLEBE
Bidura is the site of a Heritage Item. There are many other Heritage Items nearby, in Glebe Point Road and in Ferry Road. It is a significant part of the Glebe Point Road Conservation Zone, and is also adjacent to the Glebe Point and Toxteth Conservation Areas. The streetscapes of Glebe Point Road, Ferry Road and Avon Street, those streets closest to Bidura. are all intact in the areas closest to the site, and although the upper part of Forsyth Street has some modern buildings, most of them are medium-rise except for 2 and 2A. Forsyth Street is otherwise intact.
Thus the surroundings of the site have a high degree of integrity and heritage value. This should be the highest priority in considering what character any redevelopment should have. For example, the 1960s towers in Forsyth Street are an aberration. It should be the Heritage buildings that provide the models for the form and scale.
The Bidura site at 357 Glebe Point Road consists of two parts. Old Bidura, fronting Glebe Point Road, consists of the residence built by the Colonial Architect, Edmund Blacket, about 1860, for him to live in while he built Sydney University. The original garden and carriageway still remain, as does a Ballroom added in the 1880s.
The current application includes the restoration of the buildings and garden and a Conservation Plan. Council should require restoration of both buildings and grounds to be by qualified heritage practitioners. The Plan does not specify a use for the building. However, it is not likely to be a residence. Presumably it is the commercial space included in the proposal. Council should require the use to be compatible with its Heritage character and not detract from its significance.
The Glebe Society, which identified all the most important heritage buildings in Glebe, attaches particular importance to Bidura because of its association with Blacket, its intact grounds and its prominent position. There are other important associations, including a Lord Mayor of Sydney (Perks). From 1920 the site operated as a Care Home, and is especially significant to the Stolen Generation. Their comments can be found on the Society’s website www.glebesociety.org.au.
The Conservation of Bidura should be to the highest standard and include public access to the rear of the building, where it is three storeys, and extension of the lawn, with demolition of the wall along Ferry Lane.
There should also be an interpretation of the entire history of the site accessible to the public. This could be placed inside one of the original buildings if necessary.
The fence fronting Glebe Point Road is in poor condition. The fence should be replaced with one as close to the original as possible, and it should permit pedestrian views of the site and buildings from Glebe Point Road. There should be a Heritage Landscape Survey, and restoration of the grounds should include retention of significant trees, such as the Black Bean, and reinstatement or original species as far as possible, or otherwise those typical of the period.
Another consideration is the surrounding street pattern. In Glebe terms these are relatively narrow and intensively developed. Because they are rat-runs to Bridge Road, Ferry Road and Forsyth Street each have turn and speed controls. Avon Street is one-way. Ferry Lane, with the longest frontage to Bidura, is a narrow lane lined with garages, with parking prohibited, except for the short section connecting with Ferry Road. Traffic will need to be managed carefully during demolition and construction.
The proponent’s traffic study is clearly inadequate. It should be extended to include all the above-mentioned streets and their associated intersections. It may be necessary for Council to alter traffic and parking arrangements to minimise the impact on residents.
This partly five-storey building from 1980 was superseded even before it was complete, and has never really functioned as intended. Some parts of it, including the gym and pool, have rarely, if ever, been used for their original purpose. Several attempts to find alternative uses for the building have failed, and apart from the Children’s Court, the current uses were never intended.
Given this background, it is not surprising the current proposal is for demolition. However, the Brutalist style employed a great deal of concrete, and the building is massive. This is very different from previous development sites in Glebe, where the existing building has been relatively modest. The surrounding road network (see above) was clearly not designed with this sort of activity in mind. It is essential the City institute a system of consultation with residents that will ameliorate both the demolition and construction phases.
The major replacement for the Remand Centre consists of two residential tower blocks. The Stage 1 DA will set a building envelope and maximum height, and this height will determine the number of dwellings, and hence the amount of parking and traffic movements, and also the degree of overshadowing of existing properties, especially those at the upper end of Ferry Road. The attempts of the developer to maximise height, and hence number of dwellings, should be resisted and the amenity of existing residents protected.
Council’s DCP 2012 sets a maximum height of five storeys. The Society is strongly of the view that this limit is the correct one, and reflects the view of the community that was consulted about the DCP controls. The Society understands the State Government was not satisfied with this limitation, and insisted the height limit should be 27 metres, and that this should be the figure displayed on the LEP gazetted in 2012. This figure is a gross overdevelopment and was adopted without the community’s consent.
Council will be the consent authority for Stage 1, which is under $ 50 m. The Society believes the Heritage nature of the site, the surrounding Items of Environmental Heritage and three Conservation Zones and the likely impacts on traffic volumes and the overshadowing of existing dwellings gives the City sufficient arguments to retain the controls of the DCP, and to set a limit of five storeys.
Currently the Remand Centre is not visible from Glebe Point Road directly in front of Bidura, and only a small segment is visible when standing on the left hand, or northern, side. This presentation should not be exceeded by any new building, or there would be a detrimental impact both on the existing original building, but also on the Heritage Streetscape and surrounding Heritage Items.
There should be a general requirement that as much as possible of the curtilage of the Heritage buildings should be accessible to the public when restoration and redevelopment is complete. This should include the lawn and access from the rear of Old Bidura, with its three storeys and wide balcony, and from Ferry Lane, as well as from Glebe Point Road.
Currently there is a small park with significant planting on the corner of Ferry Lane and Avon Street. As part of any redevelopment here should be replacement public open space and plantings that should be equally accessible to the public.
Neil Macindoe OAM