By Ian Stephenson, Planning Subcommittee Convenor, Glebe Society Bulletin December 2020
The Glebe Society has lodged an objection to the planning application by the NSW Government to amend the Sydney Local Environmental Plan 2012 to remove 2A-2D Wentworth Park Road and 17-31 Cowper Street from the St Phillips Heritage Conservation Area (HCA), increase the maximum building height from 9 metres to RL 36 (the equivalent of eight storeys) and increase the floor space ratio.
The objection can be read in full here. The grounds for objection include that the application is not justified because:
- It will have a serious impact on the heritage values of the St Phillips HCA.
- If implemented, it will further undermine the controls protecting the heritage values of the St Phillips HCA and adjoining conservation zones leading to further loss of heritage values.
- It will lead to the demolition of two buildings included as being of heritage significance to the St Phillip’s HCA and included on LAHC’s sec 170 register.
- It is based on a flawed Heritage Impact Assessment, the serious shortcomings of which make the justification for the planning proposal invalid.
- Contrary to the claims in the proposal the removal of the two buildings from the HCA and their replacement by two eight-storey buildings is not an acceptable heritage outcome.
- It reduces the liveability and amenity of social housing in Glebe.
- It does not explore other options for introducing additional accommodation into an HCA as recommended in Housing for All, City of Sydney local housing strategy, June 2020.
- It is incorrect to assert that there are no alternatives to achieve the intent of this planning proposal.
- It compromises the cultural and landscape values of Glebe.
- It does not provide, as claimed, the sensitive introduction of mid-rise development into an established inner city environment.
- It undermines the viability of the Glebe Point Rd high street.
- 2A-D Wentworth Park Rd and 17-31 Cowper St are well built masonry structures, shaded by verandas and have a relatively small ratio of glass to wall mass. Their demolition and replacement wastes embedded energy and does not contribute to reducing carbon emissions.
- It is contrary to the NSW Government’s Future Directions for Social Housing.
- It is contrary to Housing for All, City of Sydney local housing strategy, June 2020.
- It is contrary to A Metropolis of Three Cities, the Greater Sydney Region Plan, Eastern City District Plan.
The importance of retaining the low rise of the scale of the area as well as the heritage significance of 17-31 Cowper St in particular are addressed. Two experts assisted the Society.
Dr Clive Lucas, OBE, a distinguished conservation architect who was commissioned in the 1970s by the Federal Government to conserve the houses in the church estates advised that:
17 to 31 Cowper St ticks all the boxes, scale, character and materials. It is what all infill development in historic areas should exactly do. It is an exemplar.
While Dr James Broadbent, AM, who has written and lectured widely on 19th-century houses and gardens and conservation philosophy and practice advised that:
Just as the Glebe planning scheme as a whole is an important example of mid to late 20th century heritage conservation in urban areas, so the individual houses are fine and considered responses to the design and heritage significances of the 19th century houses. The respect and appreciation shown in the design of the infill houses to the scale, materials, colours, textures and forms of the old houses is masterful: sophisticated, romantic yet practical.
The 1980s houses have achieved heritage value themselves, and the whole – old houses and new – is an homogenous collection of items of heritage significance. In this area of the Glebe Estate the proposed development will destroy this homogeneity.
The planning proposal and the associated development are an undesirable erosion of the Glebe planning scheme. They show minimal respect, aesthetically, for its context of scale, materials, finishes, textures and colours, and minimal respect for the heritage significances of the original 19th century housing or the 20th century infill housing.
It should not be approved.
Response from City of Sydney
By Virginia Simpson-Young
The Society wrote to the City of Sydney Lord Mayor with our objections on 26 October and we received a reply on 17 November from Andrew Thomas, Acting Director City Planning, Development & Transport.
Mr Thomas writes: ‘I note your objection to this proposal, and your concern it will erode the historical character of Glebe for a small increase in social housing residences.’ The letter goes on to state that the NSW government commissioned a heritage assessment which found that ‘demolishing the existing buildings will have a negligible impact on the significance of the heritage conservation area, and that the proposal to remove the subject site from the conservation area would be an acceptable heritage outcome.’
The Society does not agree with this assessment of the heritage impact of the development. The letter goes on to say: ‘the site is at the outer edges of the conservation area where its qualities and architectural values are not as obvious as at the centre’ – a clear red flag that this is a ‘thin end of the wedge’ situation.