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16-storeys was proposed at Marrickville Railway Station in 2014 and the community thought this was way too high. Now developers are going for 19 storeys on both sides of the road.

Last Sunday we attended a public meeting arranged by the Sydenham to Bankstown Alliance ( www.sydbankalliance.com ) to learn about & discuss proposed developments along the Sydenham to Bankstown Corridor, comprising 11 precincts along the 13.5 km corridor & the Metro line.

Herb Greedy Hall in Marrickville was packed with no standing room to spare.  Some ex- Marrickville Councillors were there.  NSW Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi was the only politician who attended despite invitations being sent to “a tonne of politicians.”

The official speakers were from the Rail Tram & Bus Union, EcoTransit, Friends of Erskinville & the Hurlstone Park Association.  Other representatives from Save Dully, Better Planning & Canterbury also spoke.

It’s been so long since I attended Council Meetings I have lost my ability to take notes fast.  The following is what I managed to write down.  My additions are shown as [  ].  All mistakes are mine.

  • Marrickville Council did a Local Environment Plan review (LEP) to set the development levels.
  • For the LEP the Council & State government decided to increase dwellings across the whole Marrickville municipality by 5,000 to the year 2031.
  • Then the state government added a further 6,000 dwellings in Marrickville & a further 2,000 in Dulwich Hill – more than what was planned for the whole LGA.  
  • The State government Gateway project just gave approval for a further 800 new dwellings at the Victoria Road Precinct in Marrickville. [Do your sums.  This is horrendous.]
  • We already have a train line. There are lots of places across Sydney with no train service.  The Metro is privatised & will cost more.

New speaker –

  • The Metro is not about public transport. It is about over-development. If it were about public transport it would not go along a current rail line.
  • An article in the Sydney Morning Herald 29 June 2017 said there was a push for Australia to become more like Asia.
  • The government calls it an upgrade, but it is a downgrade.
  • It is described as urban renewal, but it is a destruction of a community.
  • The Metro trains are less safe than a current double decker trains. The crash-worthiness of the new Metro trains is not good.
  • There will be shorter trains initially with 10% less seats than currently.
  • The proposed travel time between Bankstown & Sydney will be 26 minutes, 1 minute slower than the old Red Rattlers.
  • The Labor Party has not come out with a position regarding the Sydenham to Bankstown Corridor & Metro Line.

New speaker –

  • The Canterbury development now is a fulfilment of the LEP gazetted in 2012. In 2012 the Council factored in the public transport needs into the LEP.  What we are talking about now is more development on top of the LEP.  It is all about development.
  • The government has not provided a detailed business case, which was noted by the Grattan Institute.

New speaker –

  • There is a lack of transparency in costings.
  • An unprecedented number of community action groups show the opposition to the Metro line & the over-development.
  • Canterbury Road is like a car park already.
  • The high-rise is a poor design uality that will destroy streetscapes & the quality of life & amenity.
  • The public has had no input to plans & the government threatens to take over all planning.
  • The local councils are critical & the locals are suffering.
  • The Hong Kong Model is not appropriate for Sydney.
  • There are no plans for new schools or public buses.
  • The only plan is to rezone the land for developers.   This will lead to the slums of tomorrow with a high price tag.
  • No social housing is included.
  • 20-30% profit is expected.
  • The Metro will lead to a lowering of the tree canopy, heritage, green space, character & quality of life.
  • This project is divisive.

New speaker –

  • Currently there is a move to privatise all Inner West buses.
  • There is nothing wrong with the Bankstown train line. It is not as overcrowded as the Western line.
  • The real issue is there will be no drivers, no guards, no station staff & a lot less seats. It is not about improving services.
  • It is a major Hong Kong property developer developing the Metro line & the housing corridor. All profits will go back to Hong Kong shareholders & the Hong Kong government.  Sydney will be subsiding a foreign government.
  • We have already lost the Sydney Ferries to privatisation. They are pushing to get rid of some of the ferries for smaller ones.
  • The buses are privatised in Newcastle.
  • Region 6 buses are up for sale.
  • It’s increasingly difficult to run a car in this city. It’s even harder to run a bus.
  • The big issue is that people will lose their homes. If development potential was met, 5,000 existing homes, many of them heritage, will be lost.

New speaker –

  • Garden suburbs are being destroyed. Lots of heritage is being lost & will be lost.
  • The developer wants 15 new priority precincts to be announced every year.
  • We have gone from mining to development to sustain this country.
  • A recent Financial Review article warned – proceed with caution on rail privatisation.
  • Read the new plan. We must write submissions & get friends & neighbours to do so as well.
  • They want to build 19 storeys on either side of Marrickville Railway Station. 

New speaker –

  • The area between Canterbury & Bankstown has the largest amount of low income housing in Sydney. The developments will not be for low income people.  This will destroy our community.
  • The Mayor of Blacktown wants to install rail lines across the greater west so people can work there instead of the CBD.

My impression was that this crowd was unhappy with the plans & extremely worried about the destruction & over-development of the area, with the loss of heritage & the look of the streetscapes.

Seems Inner West Council & the City of Canterbury Bankstown Council are not happy either, judging by an article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled, ‘Push for elected councils to have say on plans for 35,000 new homes along Bankstown train line.’  See – http://bit.ly/2sOVnw7

Some points from the article –

  • “Administrators for the Inner West Council and the City of Canterbury Bankstown have criticised the decision to close consultation on the plan to build 35,000 new homes along the existing Bankstown train line on September 3, six days before elections are held to replace administrators with councillors.’ This means local councils cannot put in submissions. Now I would think that, if the government believed what their planning was good, they would not lock out local councils from being part of the consultation process & having their say.
  • “The plans indicate more than 30,000 dwellings are proposed to be built along the rail line, but the only new open space suggested is a linear cycle way,” said City of Canterbury Bankstown administrator Richard Colley. Active and passive open space areas for a good deal of the corridor are undersupplied – even for our existing communities.” I would like to remind you that the former Marrickville municipality has the least green space in Australia.   A bit of green along the Metro line will not cut it when there will be many thousands of new dwellings & a significant increase in the population.
  • Both Mr Colley & Mr Pearson mentioned the need for 40 more schools, upgrades to two hospitals, storm water management [Marrickville municipality was at capacity a few years ago], additional roads & transport. What fun.  It is not hard to envision the loss of amenity.

In a Press Release from Inner West Council dated Thursday 29th June 2017 the following is especially of interest –

  • “One of the aspects of the initial draft that was supported by Council was the promise of new jobs.  But the revised draft has 1,200 fewer jobs, with no explanation. This is disappointing, especially as it is inconsistent with the State Government’s own principle of jobs closer to home.”  See – http://bit.ly/2uPOdc6

In another article from The Conversation titled, Market-driven compaction is no way to build an ecocity,’

  • “Market-driven intensification has in many places permitted a fracturing and ransacking of urban value and amenity, and of human wellbeing, by development capital that has worn the thin robe of legitimacy provided by the compact city ideal. We might summarise this as “urban fracking”: a new means of blasting through accumulated layers of material and symbolic value to extract profit.”  See – http://bit.ly/2uQfXgU 

Yet another article titled,Proceed with caution’ on rail privatisation, UK infrastructure investors warn.’ See – http://bit.ly/2ucL9ZK

  • Britain’s rail networks was “not seen as a great success”. The British government was forced to reassume control of overland rail networks following fatal accidents due to poor maintenance after the networks were privatised in the mid-1990s, while government agency Transport for London took over the running of the London Underground after the public-private partnership running it collapsed in 2010.”

You can download plans for the the Sydenham to Bankstown Corridor here – http://bit.ly/2u7qI0A

The deadline for submissions is Sunday 3rd September 2017, which incidentally is Father’s Day, so get your Dad to put in a submission too.  If we sit back & do nothing, then we essentially consent to radical & perhaps ugly changes to our neighbourhoods.  Nothing is set in stone.  The government will only make changes if enough of the community demands it.

This is the motion put up at the end of the meeting and carried unanimously. Click to enlarge.   Thank you to the Sydenham to Bankstown Alliance for allowing me to share it here.

This is Alexandria from the oasis that is Sydney Park. Alexandria is only part way through being redeveloped and is a good indication of what the development will look like along the Sydenham to Bankstown corridor.

Development along very busy Canal Road in Alexandria is a good example of what is being built for housing these days.    The building comes right to the footpath.  Having no buffer zone between the cars and the housing is is not healthy living for residents in my opinion and that of a whole bunch of researchers into pollution and health. 

 

Showing the boundary of the proposed Victoria Road Precinct. Click to enlarge.

Showing the boundary of the proposed Victoria Road Precinct. Click to enlarge.

This was the Infrastructure, Planning & Environmnetal Services Committee.  All Councillors attended.

The Councillors & Wards are as follows – LABOR:  Iskandar/Central, Haylen/North, Woods/South. GREENS:  Phillips/Central, Ellsmore/North, Brooks/West, Leary/South.  LIBERALS: Gardener/North, Tyler/West INDEPENDENT:  Macri/Central, Hanna/South.

The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.

Status Update Report preliminary planning proposal for part of the Marrickville/Sydenham Industrial Area – Victoria Road Precinct. – The proponent wants to amend the Local Environment Plan (LEP) to change the zoning of 18-hectares of industrial zone ‘employment lands’ to provide “creative industries” & residential housing to a “maximum building heights to 14-stories” with a 3:5:1 floor/space ratio.

The Council staff’s recommendations concluded with – “By submitting a planning proposal to Gateway, Council would signal to the Department that it considers that the proposal is justified & has strategic merit prior to it being able to reasonably conclude this to be the case.  It is self evident why the proponent would prefer this approach.”

Clr Macri put up an amendment to send the proposal to Gateway for assessment. FOR: Clrs Macri, Hanna, Iskandar, Woods, Tyler & Gardiner. AGAINST: Clrs Brooks, Leary, Phillips, Ellsmore & Haylen. The proposal now goes to Gateway.

The debate lasted around 2-hours, so would be too much content to post here. Instead I will quote some of the more memorable comments by Councillors in the order of speakers.

Cr Macri: Our staff are reading the rule books. I can see merit in the proposal. I grew up in the area. I hope this proposal can move us to a better outcome. I can see overhead pedestrian bridges & open public space. When I was Mayor we made things happen. I haven’t given up.   We have to move forward. We are the Councillors & we drive the agenda. In Arlington, our kids are out there playing soccer, while others are stuck at home. Clr Phillips: Clr Marci doesn’t even live in the area. Clr Macri: I work in the area.

Clr Gardiner: The Greens Press Release says it will drastically change the area & it will. This area is a disgrace – an urban blight.

Clr Phillips: It stayed an employment area in the LEP because it was close to the airport & Port Botany. Where will the employment lands be?  Staff say if we send to Gateway this gives the message that Marrickville Council endorses the plan. We shouldn’t endorse a plan that has serious flaws that the community doesn’t know about.  It cost Council $2 million to consult with the community to develop the LEP & the LEP did not have this area rezoned for 3,000 extra dwellings. 3:5:1 floor/space ratio is rarely found in this area.

Clr Ellsmore: We are exceeding our housing dwellings.

Clr Hanna: I am sick of residents coming to me & saying my kids can’t buy in the area. The RSL units were bought for $500,000 & now selling for $750,000. Do we want people buying from the Eastern Suburbs & the North Shore & not the kids of Marrickville?   The petition was a waste of my time because the postcodes were not in the area. Last time I was told, you will lose, but I got more votes than before. I am running again. [for a position as Councillor].

Clr Woods: We struggle with most employment lands & we don’t employ anyone.  The heavy lifting is in the South Ward. Item 5: a 10.8 hectare rezoning near Sydenham Station to become a light music hub. I will be interested to see if this gets the same response to the Victoria Road Precinct.

Clr Leary: Do we really think that these properties will be selling at an affordable price? We are talking about thousands of new residents. I catch the bus to work & the buses go past full. Recently some of our bus stops have been closed down. Our transport is to capacity. If you bring in 6,000 to 9,000 people, where are they going to stand to catch the buses? Clrs voted to LEP that increased density beyond what we thought comfortable & now we have a whole new ball game.

Clr Brooks: Property economists will tell you that buildings like this will not help single people or families. There is no evidence that affordability will be achieved at all.

Clr Macri: Marrickville is evolving. I’ve been around for 45-years & it is changing. If you want to know what Sydney will look like, look at other cities.

Showing the boundary of the proposed Victoria Road Precinct. Click to enlarge.

Showing the boundary of the proposed 18-hectare Victoria Road Precinct. Click to enlarge.

Call me naïve, but what much of what I learnt during the Council Meetings I observed came as a surprise. One of the most important insights was the incremental changes, brick by brick, & the Victoria Road Precinct is a great example.

The developers came to the May 2012 Council Meeting & said what they wanted to do with the 18-hectare site.  The Councillors voted as follows –

Clrs Olive (Greens), Phillips (Greens), Byrne (Greens), O’Sullivan (Labor) & Wright (Labor) against the proposal.  Mayor Hanna (Ind), Clrs Macri, (Ind), Iskandar (Labor), Tsardoulias (Labor), Thanos (Ind) for the proposal with the then Mayor Hanna (Ind) using his casting vote to pass the vote. See – http://bit.ly/1rF1roi

During the extensive consultation process for the Local Environment Plan (LEP), the community was shown things like height restrictions & floor-space ratio & together with Marrickville Council, agreed on a development plan for the future. I have been very surprised that the LEP has been changed a number of times post approval & is still being amended to allow for more rezoning, development & higher buildings.

Since the LEP was finalised, the total for new dwellings for Marrickville has increased from a government required 4,150 by 2031 to a Councillor increased amount of 12,000 whenever these dwellings can be built.   The debate in Council Meetings went something like, though don’t quote me – “I remember when Marrickville had 110,000 residents & it was busy on the main street. Marrickville can cope.”

Once the LEP was finalised development started & many in the community went into shock with the ugliness of some of the developments, the loss of heritage buildings & the application for 16-storey high-rise in a location where 8-storeys was the maximum in the LEP.

“But how can this be allowed?” was a very common response from the community & they had to start fighting Council to prevent this. Thankfully Railcorp saved the day & stopped the 16-storey development because it encroached on Railcorp land.

In response to community outrage over a high-rise development in Dulwich Hill, Mayor Haylen lobbied for an Architectural Excellence Panel & thankfully, this was established.  Problem is though, this panel cannot be employed to assess every development because of the costs to rate-payers & if the Councillors don’t vote to send the DA to the panel, it doesn’t get assessed.

Earlier this month I sat in a Marrickville Council Meeting & watched the Councillors vote to allow for one-bedroom apartments that were a whopping 40% BELOW the floor-space ratio requirements.  My question is how can this be allowed?

The “Victoria Road Precinct” development is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s Infrastructure, Planning & Environmental Services Committee meeting on 2nd September 2014 & for the first time I see mention of 14-storey buildings planned for this massive 18-hectare site.  This is vastly different from the 6-storey buildings shown in their proposed images of the site that was provided to the Councillors in the Council Meeting of May 2012.

One other point that I think is important is that the development of the Victoria Road Precinct will be razing most of the area to the ground.  Also in Tuesday’s Infrastructure, Planning & Environmental Services Committee meeting is the attempt to save the lovely Beynon & Hayward building in Livingstone Road Petersham to be demolished to extend a Council car park. The community does not want to lose this iconic building, judging by the numbers who signed the petition & the comments left on the local Facebook site. See – http://bit.ly/1skfXi2

Both the National Trust & the Australian Institute of Architects have criticized Marrickville Council over this move. Also an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the proposed demolishion said –

“London or New York might salivate at the prospect of reviving an inner-city heritage landmark, but in Sydney it seems we’d still just as readily swap character for a car park.”

Back to the Victoria Road Precinct, a new modern glass, steel & concrete precinct is not at all in keeping with the character of Marrickville in my opinion.  Many of these buildings could be repaired & repurposed to make the area similar to those in London or New York. However, the plan is to make this area of Marrickville look like what is happening to Alexandria at the moment – a suburb of high-rise square blocks.

Demolishing all the buildings may be easier for the developers, but I personally think it will be a loss to the community & to Sydney itself.  The Meatpacking District in Manhattan was once regarded as a slum, but since it has been rejuvenated it is now a marvellous place to live & work. Part of the charm is that the buildings were retained & repurposed into housing & employment.

I am in total agreement with this recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald.  It is about the Beynon & Hayward building, but it could just as easily be about the proposed plans for the Victoria Road Precinct.

_________________________

Marrickville Council is under heavy fire from heritage experts, who fear “ill-informed” decision makers are repeating Sydney’s errors of last century in the race to redevelop increasingly valuable inner-city space.” See – http://bit.ly/1k8JINc

_________________________

Now I must state clearly that I am NOT against development & that I believe that we need more housing.

I just would like development to conform to the height restrictions & floor/space ratios in the LEP, not be substandard housing & also retain as much of the streetscape character of the area. It can be done well & beautifully. See my post on The Gantry in Camperdown http://bit.ly/1sR1PMg for an example of great housing that retains the façade, yet provides housing of a great standard of modern housing for the same or similar financial outlay as other recent housing developments in Marrickville & Dulwich Hill that are currently polarizing the community.

I would also like the so-called “affordable housing” to actually be affordable & for those that are rental “affordable housing” to be given to actual finacially poor people & not to people based on what job they have.

My greatest fear is that I will end up living in an area that has lost much of what motivated me to move here in the first place.  I fear that traffic, which is already becoming unmanageable, will be horrendous. I believe that, if this push for  concrete, glass & steel high-rise goes ahead, the community will be asking why were these developments allowed just like they do about many of the local monstrosities built in the 1970s.

We are in the hands of our Councillors. Let’s hope they do not destroy Marrickville for the profit of developers.

Planning diagram of the development proposal for the Victoria Road precinct back in May 2012 - nothing like the current 14-storeys proposed.

Planning diagram of the development proposal for the Victoria Road precinct back in May 2012 – I can’t see the 14-storeysas currently  proposed.

The planning diagrams for the  Victoria Road frontage of the Victoria Road precinct as part of the development proposal.  Again, nothing like the 14-storeys currently proposed.

The planning diagrams for the Victoria Road frontage of the Victoria Road precinct as part of the development proposal in May 2012. Again, nothing like the 14-storeys currently proposed.

whistle

There is big news right at the start of Marrickville Council Meetings for the New Year, which commences next Tuesday.  I suspect it will be ongoing news for some time.

In late 2012 building corporation Meriton made an offer of $5 million to Marrickville Council to be allowed to add a further 10-storeys to one of the towers of controversial Lewisham Towers development.  This would have taken the tower from 10-storeys to 20 storeys.

Greens Councillor Max Phillips informed the community, with the Sydney Morning Herald publishing an article about Meriton’s offer on 11th December 2012.  Clr Phillips has always maintained that he was not aware that the oral briefing from staff to Councillors was confidential.

 

A code of conduct complaint against Cr Phillips was pursued on a split vote of council with then mayor Victor Macri using his casting vote.”

 

The matter was referred to the Division of Local Government who suspended Clr Phillips for a period of two months starting on 17th February 2014 because he refused to apologise for this actions.

Essentially, Clr Phillips was not punished for informing the community of the $5 million dollar offer by Meriton to Marrickville Council.  He was punished for refusing to apologise for doing so.  Clr Phillips is appealing the suspension.

On 28th January 2013 Clr Phillips posted the following on Facebook –

I’ve been informed that the Division of Local Government has ordered my suspension as a Marrickville councillor for 2 months starting 17 Feb. The suspension is because I refuse to apologise for letting the community know about a developer proposal on the Lewisham Towers in late 2012.

I am refusing to apologise because I am not sorry and believe I acted ethically in informing the community.  I could offer an insincere apology, but that would be dishonest and I refuse to lie. 

I will appeal the decision as I believe it is wrong for council and the Division of Local Government to put pressure on a councillor to offer an insincere apology under threat of a sanction.”

Not surprisingly, there was lots of discussion on Facebook.  I have cherry-picked to give an idea of the community response –

“I want more housing in the Inner West but he should not have been fined and the public should have been told about the $5 million.”

“….. council effectively took an alleged bribe, did not correctly disclose info to the citizens, and unjustifiably punished the one who cared about what is right.”

“We will see more and more developers entering into voluntary planning agreements in a bid to overturn local environment plans. There needs to be a high level of transparency in these agreements as they essentially overturn plans that have had extensive community consultation.  In station street a developer is trying to build a sixteen story tower where only 8 storeys is approved. They are promising the council all kinds if things; none of which benefit the community.  I get frustrated as it feels like we never know what really goes on.  The certainty of living in an area, and knowing and accepting a planned level of development is turned on its head. You think you have a fair idea of the level of development that will happen around you, then a developer can come in and swing a bag of cash at council, and then it gets doubled. This has nothing to do with nimbyism or having a sustainable level of development in an area, it’s about a council that could be deemed as untrustworthy (or corrupt!).”

“Are you serious? It’s a pretty basic requirement that 1) councils do not sell questionable approvals to developers 2) any plans to change to the published development restrictions are made public, and made open to public discussion. Procedural fairness? FFS”


“….. Councillor Phillips has been suspended because he refused to apologise as ordered by council resolution. It’s Kafkaesque in it’s absurdity. I’d rather have the matter of the five million investigated rather than a stupid suspension because he refuses to apologise for what was essentially an act of good conscious.  The suspension isn’t even because he revealed the information, it’s because he’s not repentant enough. Absurd – stupidly absurd.”

“This is stupid and petty and akin to punishing a whistleblower. We deserve a Council that’s better than that.”

Any money offers from developers to obtain extra storeys above the planning instrument levels should be made known to the community.  The community should have a right to make submissions to the decision-makers (our Councillors) as to whether it thinks any offer is acceptable & a good bargain for the obvious loss it suffers from over development.  Many in our community are appalled & feel very unsafe that the Local Environment Plan can be overturned because of a Voluntary Planning Agreement, which is essentially money changing hands for a developer being able to go beyond the restrictions of the Local Environment Plan.

With a significant section of the community in support of their right to know what sorts of deals may be on offer to secure favourable decisions for development over and above the standards in our planning instruments, it will be interesting to see how the appeal goes.  In such climate the meetings of the new year may also make interesting viewing.

Marrickville Greens has a post on Clr Phillips’s suspension – http://bit.ly/1fiICMC  & here is an article in the Sydney Morning Herald – http://bit.ly/1iNtY5E & the Daily Telegraph –  http://bit.ly/1nxwkG4

Is this the future for Marrickville South?

Is this the future for Marrickville South?  Screenshot taken from a+ design groups’s website.  Click to enlarge.

This image of a ‘maybe one day’ [my words] development for Carrington Road Marrickville South was posted on Facebook recently.  It was a shock to see two 23-storey towers in the plan.  The site is between Carrington Road, Richardsons Crescent, the rail line & ending just past Myrtle Street.  Note:  this proposal has not been submitted to Marrickville Council as a Development Application as far as I am aware.

I thought it would be good to share, especially as we have an application for a 16-storey tower for Station Street Marrickville that has been sent to Gateway for the first step.   See – http://bit.ly/18dbumc  It’s also good to know what might be coming.

Towers seem to be de rigueur, despite the height restrictions in our Marrickville Local Environment Plan (MLEP).   The image came from a+ design group – http://www.aplusdg.com.au/project/carrington-road-marrickville/

The red shows the boundaries as far as I understand.  The two red circles indicate the two 23-storey towers.

The red shows the boundaries as far as I understand. The two red circles indicate the general location of the two 23-storey towers.

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