People generally only become interested in planning when a development affects them personally. Then they can become quite obsessed by it! One reason why the Glebe Society is so valuable is that it takes a larger view, and keeps members informed about the rules that govern all development, not just particular proposals.
When the new State Government proposed revision of the original Act of 1979, there was a good deal of interest. I have recorded the progressive disillusionment with this process in my Annual andmonthly reports, most recently the amendment of the new Planning Bills in the NSW Upper House earlier this year. As a result the Government appears to have abandoned the Bills, though not necessarily attempts to achieve its goals by stealth. This victory for residents was almost entirely the result of a public campaign, led by resident action in the form of the Better Planning Network (BPN), formed when volunteer bodies similar to the Glebe Society banded together in Sept 2012.
As outlined in my June Report, the BPN is not content to defeat this pro-developer legislation, and has committed itself to genuine planning reform in the interest of everyone by producing a Planning Charter, to form the basis of new legislation, and to be circulated before the next State election in March 2015. This Charter will be widely distributed, and the Society will, as usual, play a significant role in winning public support and the commitment of as many parliamentary candidates as possible to its principles.
The big change in Sydney in recent years, as in Melbourne and Brisbane, has been the increase in home unit development as suitable sites for houses become rarer and further from the City. In Melbourne the supply of units now exceeds demand, and this is likely to happen in Sydney sooner rather than later. Moreover, as demographic patterns in Pyrmont/Ultimo reveal, many young couples are choosing to start families in these apartments.
The main problem with this trend is that, particularly in inner city areas, the infrastructure is old and often inadequate (note especially the demand for more inner city schools). There are also arguments about where densities should be increased, and by how much. The State Government’s answer has been the Planning Bills, but these propose code-based assessment and other schemes that make it much easier for developers to get planning approval. New infrastructure is notoriously too little, too late. At a Planning Forum at the University of Sydney on 17 Jul the capacity audience made it very clear they believe new infrastructure should accompany new development.
In a similar way both State and Federal governments have neglected the demand for more affordable housing. Essentially they are leaving it to the market to solve our housing issues, rather than requiring affordable housing as part of each large development.
I pointed out in my last Annual Report that Mirvac had stuck to its agreements with the City, and this has continued to be the case as far as the residential sector is concerned at least. By the time you read this the first residents will probably have moved in, the first roads will be open, and the first trees planted. As I stated in my June Report, about two thirds of the 1250 units have been approved.
The City appears to have won various tussles over preparation for the new 3.8 ha public park that is such an important achievement for residents. The City should begin work on its design, approved after wide consultation, later this year. It will take up to 18 to complete.
Another plus is the completion of the extension of the Light Rail westward to Dulwich Hill. Work on the eastward extension through to the Quay and the University of NSW is due to begin in 2015. This will be the largest factor in counteracting the increase in traffic resulting from new development.
The adaptive reuse of the Tramsheds, approved earlier this year, has been more controversial. The Sheds themselves are to be restored, and the uses include community space, a gym, a supermarket, cafés and other retail. One restored tram will be retained on site. Some people are concerned that a supermarket will attract shoppers from a wide area, increasing traffic problems. While it is not possible to be dogmatic about this, the danger is probably exaggerated. The main customers will be the 2500 people living on the site, and others living nearby. There are plenty of other supermarkets that are more easily accessible and with more parking within driving distance. Experience in other areas of high density, such as Pyrmont, suggests closeness and ease of access are the main factors.
The efforts to secure the best result for Harold Park can be found on the Society’s website, but a more succinct summary should be available shortly.
Glebe Affordable Housing Project and 87 Bay Street
The Society’s correspondence about this controversial project began in 2010, almost four years ago, and the site is still rocks and weeds. The 130 previous occupants, promised accommodation in the new buildings, have long since dispersed. Now the Glebe site is supposed to accommodate those displaced by the Department of Housing’s equally controversial sale of public housing at Millers Point. From the time when the City withdrew from the scheme the proposal has faltered and deteriorated, although officials for HousingNSW have recently stated that the first plans for the site, related to engineering work, will be presented to the City before the end of the year. We’re not holding our breath.
By contrast, the adjacent 87 Bay St is proceeding, and the private developer presented the result of the design competition to the Jul meeting of the Committee (see Jul Bulletin). By the time you read this the application may be in advertising.