Originally this proposal involved a large proportion of City Council land, and was consequently less dense and less controversial.
Now, five years later, it has shrunk to just a Department of Housing block owned by the State since 1948. Controversially, it now comprises a large private component. This appears to be the model for the future treatment of Department of Housing sites, as announced recently by the Minister, Brad Hazzard.
An application for a portion of the social and affordable housing components was lodged over the holiday period. This piecemeal approach makes it difficult to evaluate the total impact. The Society’s objection is below.
City of Sydney
15 January 2016
D/2015/1794 1 Elger Street GLEBE NSW 2037, 83 Bay Street GLEBE NSW 2037
It is a major concern for the Society that the social and affordable housing section of this mixed proposal is being advertised separately. The true nature of the development is concealed by this process. It is also of concern that seven years after the concept was discussed and five years after the first DA a transparent and acceptable process has not been achieved.
This site is public land, one of the first acquired by the newly formed Housing Commission after World War II (1948). The site was previously occupied by 129 social housing dwellings in good condition which were demolished with the intention of letting part of the land be developed as private housing. The Society regards this whole process as a betrayal of the proper function of the State Government as the custodian of public land and provider of social housing, and as an arrangement of dubious legitimacy.
Moreover, this proposal actually provides only a few more dwellings for social housing tenants than were previously available on the site. This is despite having four times the number of dwellings altogether, and being up to three times the number of storeys in height. If this proposal were for private land rather than public, this result would still be objectionable, but it would be less offensive. It would still be objectionable, because this is a site adjacent to a Conservation Area, and one where existing buildings in the wider area are generally much lower. Hence the increase in density and height could be considered extreme, whereas a redevelopment of the previous social housing could have accommodated many more people with less impact and at lower cost.
It is unclear whether the adverse impacts on nearby residents in Queen Street, or on the St Phillips Conservation Area, mentioned in our letter dated 17 May, 2013, have been addressed, and if so what amelioration has been achieved.
Much is made of the effort to redesign the towers to increase the amount of solar access, and it is certainly a commendable impulse. However, the remaining towers proposed for the site sit to the north, and it is not clear what their impact on solar access and views will be as they are not part of this DA.
Moreover, since the Stage 1 DA the City has approved a development (Parkview) with five residential towers to the north of this site and opposite Wentworth Park. An assessment thus can and should be made of the impact of this development on the current proposal. It is not clear whether it will in fact be possible to reduce the number of dwellings without adequate solar access as this proposal claims. There should now be enough information to recalculate solar access and ensure this is achieved for the maximum number of dwellings. With advice from Council’s planners, all possible strategies, including re-orienting buildings and individual units, should be explored in order to maximise solar access for residents.
Similarly, the provision of rooftop gardens in a commendable attempt to provide more adequate open space and suitable healthy activity for a development that will be so congested and overshadowed. However, the success of a rooftop garden depends on the sense of ownership and on-going involvement of the residents, especially if growing of vegetables and herbs is envisaged. This is unlikely to happen without a community development strategy to support it, and Council would be well advised to clarify whether this will be provided by Housing NSW, or whether the responsibility for community development is likely to be left to Council.
There are also other questionable conclusions. The proposal claims the social housing is primarily for the elderly, and so there is no provision for basement parking whatever. This is despite the fact that public transport is neither conveniently close, if you happen to be elderly or mobility impaired, nor very useful, as the Light Rail at least does not now, and will not in the future, take the elderly where they are likely to want to go.
The Society realises that although this proposal is so unsatisfactory, it is on Government land and cannot be refused, and changes require the consent of the applicant. However, there is an obligation to seek improvement, and the City should have no hesitation in pursuing the matters raised as vigorously as possible.
Neil Macindoe OAM