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Station Master's house in Sydenham has been left to decay

Re: the Development Application by Railcorp to demolish the Station Master’s house at Sydenham & remove 21 mature trees –

I have been informed that Marrickville Council has extended the period for objections from the community until this Friday 28th January 2011.

I’ve had a look at the property. The house has been left to decay, but it doesn’t look beyond repairing.  I had expected it to look in worse repair.  Many of the trees on the property are very large & there were lots of birds.

Railcorp’s DA says it will cost $450,000 to demolish everything & remediate the soil.  With that kind of money you could renovate & keep a piece of Sydenham’s history & have change left over.  Having looked at the gorgeous & very similar in design, renovated Station Master’s house at Tempe, I think it is imperative that both the Sydenham cottage & the trees are retained.  Please consider sending in a submission.  It can be a simple statement.  We cannot keep losing our historical houses & the trees that surround them at a rate of knots.

I last wrote about this DA here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/railcorp-the-removal-of-21-mature-trees-in-sydenham/

The Station Master's house in Tempe looks very similar in design to the one in Sydenham

Showing some of the trees to be removed at the Station Master's house in Sydenham

Recently we visited Leamington Avenue Newtown & as we drove there we saw something fantastic.  Either NSW Rail Corp or City of Sydney Council has erected a concrete wall between the raised section of the railway line and the nearby houses, presumably as a sound barrier for the neighbourhood.  What makes this so fantastic is, it is not just a concrete wall or a decorated concrete wall, it’s a green wall.

Green wall along the rail line behind Leamington Avenue Newtown

At regular intervals, steel mesh going up 5-6 meters high has been attached along the wall & Chinese Jasmine is growing.  Not only does this make the wall look good, but the vines are designed to cut down the Heat Island Effect created by the sun bouncing off the concrete.  When the Chinese Jasmine flowers around Christmas it will look spectacular & smell great as well.

This is such a simple & cheap intervention, which begs the question, why this isn’t done elsewhere as the norm?

On 26th August 2010 a letter written by Clr Marcri was published in the Inner West Courier.  In this letter he said he wanted “to set the record straight in regard to my role in the approvals process for the Marrickville RSL site development.”

He went on to say “I think it is a landmark development that shows confidence in the future of Marrickville.” He said the development was approved both by Marrickville Council & the JRPP. He also said “Design is subjective,” going on to say that the development was designed by an award-winning architect.

Andrew Woodhouse, President of the Australian Heritage Institute wrote a reply that was published in the Inner West Courier on 2nd September 2010.  Mr Woodhouse wrote “It’s about time Clr Macri was told. He tries to sweep away design objections to the proposed bulbous Marrickville RSL saying design is of course subjective as though anyone’s views are valid but no-one’s view counts. He is wrong.”

Mr Woodhouse then wrote about various factors of measurable design excellence & said, “On all accounts this mega-project fails.” I agree.  My impression was that all those who spoke against the project at the JRPP Meeting were against the design aspects of this building & judging by the applause after every speaker so were the large group of local residents who attended. Why would the JRPP listen to the community when the development had been endorsed by Marrickville Council?

Marrickville ex-Councilor Colin Hesse, who attended the JRPP meeting was the first to write to the Inner West Courier about this development.  The letter was titled, ‘7 Storey Disaster.” He wrote “The approval of the massive 7 storey development of the old Marrickville RSL club has set a shocking precedent for Marrickville ..” He also mentioned “..genuine community participation  & is based on sustainability.”

It’s not my aim to go on about the development on the old Marrickville RSL site because it is going to happen & there is nothing we can do to prevent this.  What I do want to discuss is the information Clr Macri’s letter gave the community.

He said Marrickville Council approved this development & that “this building under the new LEP will be an underdevelopment. …“ Add these statements to his earlier statement of “… it is a landmark development that shows confidence in the future of Marrickville.” & it tells me that Marrickville Council fully intends to give the okay to many more developments that not only look like the development for the old Marrickville RSL site, but are as high, as dense & bulky as this is.  I am worried.

Clr Marcri also gives notice that the new Draft LEP about to be released for public consultation will not be making green buildings or green design mandatory.  I think this is very important when you consider that Marrickville, Illawarra & Petersham Roads will become between 6-9 storeys high with 13 storeys recommended for the old Marrickville Hospital site.

We have known Marrickville is going to change as well as other areas around the LGA, but designs that are compatible with the old pre-climate change/ pre-global warming paradigm is not something I am happy about.  When I see green walls for a railway line wall, yet the newest residential building declared a landmark & most likely used as a benchmark for future development has 180 air-conditioned units, not counting the retail space & 4 street trees along the Illawarra Road frontage & none for Byrnes Road I feel a little …..  When I remember the dismissive attitude to solar panels & a green roof during the JRPP meeting my blood starts to boil.

Another view of the green wall along the railway line in Newtown. It has made a back lane that was probably full of graffiti tags & rubbish look lovely

I’m a realist. I know Sydney as a whole is going to change. I read last year that the NSW state government wanted the industrial area next to Marrickville Metro to hold around 9,000 plus residences. Don’t quote me on this. I didn’t save the article & I cannot find anything about it now, though I know I didn’t dream it as I have spoken to a couple of others who also knew of this plan.

I was told that a recent application to have the area rezoned residential was unsuccessful.  I’ll predict here that this area will be rezoned residential one day in the not-too-distant future & I bet AMP Capital anticipate this, like the M6 planed someday for Edgeware Road just 1 block away.

High-rise residential is coming to Marrickville LGA & it will be dense & tall. Now that the world is talking about global warming & climate change wouldn’t you think that both the Council & the architects would make the shift to the new paradigm when designing new buildings meant to last the next 60-100 years?  If not, why not?  Why has Marrickville Council said any development for the old Marrickville Hospital site has to be a 6-star sustainability rating & yet they have not required this for any other high-rise residential building across the LGA.  I’m baffled.

The signage for the development at the old Marrickville RSL is, “The Revolution Begins.” We need our Council to ensure that the ‘Revolution’ follows the climate change paradigm that insists future developers create a true revolution by designing green buildings.

Green walls are not rocket science, yet their benefits are outstanding. Heat is not reflected thereby lowering the Heat Island Effect. They lengthen the life of concrete, they look good, they improve the streetscape & make ugly areas pretty, the prevent or significantly reduce graffiti & they are almost as good as trees in the benefits they bring. Psychologically they would do much to break down the oppressive feelings tall buildings can often bring.  Lastly, they are cheap to create.

You can read Clr Marci’s letter here – Opinion page 19 – http://digitaledition-innerwest.innerwestcourier.com.au/?iid=39854

You can read Andrew Woodhouse’s letter here – page 23 – http://digitaledition-innerwest.innerwestcourier.com.au/?iid=40124

You can read Colin Hesse’s letter here – page 17 – http://digitaledition-innerwest.innerwestcourier.com.au/?iid=39608

You may have seen on the TV news last Friday that Railcorp removed 3 100-year-old heritage Fig trees on Wahroonga Railway Station.  2 more will come down in October 2010.  Railcorp says:

RailCorp will be replacing the fig trees at Wahroonga Station to resurface the platform & prevent further structural damage. The roots of the trees are threatening the structural integrity of the platform & if left in place will continue to damage the heritage-listed station building, damage sewage systems & prevent future improvements to station facilities. The Heritage Council of NSW independently came to the same conclusion, & placed upon RailCorp a number of conditions for the removal of the trees. The issue has existed for two decades & can no longer be avoided.

Not the Fig trees being discussed

The community is mighty upset about the trees removal saying there were many alternatives to removal.  Reading all the documents & news articles, it is clear the trees were removed because their surface roots made the platform surface bumpy & created a trip-hazzard. However, the trees are located at the far ends of the station & those who walked there have known about the state of the station surface for 20 years.  I was not able to find any information about complaints from the community about the tree roots & the station surface.

Railcorp argued about 2 other things which lead to the removal of these trees: the cost of pruning these trees & that in the past they caused damage to old clay sewerage pipes.  They fear the trees will invade the pipes again, but my plumber says, “This is the beauty of plastic pipes, tree roots can’t invade them.”

Railcorp intend to replace these trees with 6 Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) & jazz up the station by planting 120 flax lily (Dianella caerulea “Breeze”) as a ground cover.  It should look nice when completed, but I doubt they will look as nice as those old majestic trees.

I think most of the train stations I have seen in Sydney look shocking.  Their gardens are ugly & the emphasis is on bitumen & low hedges. I would guess this is to be able to have a clear view of the platform for commuter safety & to discourage bad behaviour. Still, I can see no reason why much of the space toward the end of railway stations cannot be planted a little more creatively.

Railcorp’s intention to plant 120 flax lilies proves they can do something which has the potential to be quite stunning. By making this station pretty, they hope to improve public relations.

Not only do I wish Railcorp would landscape the railway stations in a better way, (for example, they don’t need to stick with using the garden beds which were made 100 years ago as they are poky little plots often in odd places), I also wish they would plant along the railway line on both sides & in barren spaces between the lines.  Grevillea are perfect for the smaller areas. In other areas, taller trees can be planted.

The RTA plants trees along major highways. There is no reason why Railcorp can’t do the same on their land along railway lines. Not only would it help green ugly areas, it would help minimize noise from passing trains & prevent areas looking weedy & filled with garbage.  Just an idea.

Mackey Park Figs - the Fig trees on Wahroonga Railways Station were pruned & did not have such a wide shape

To say it can’t be done because there may be a need for pruning will not work for me as I’ve seen numerous empty sites located quite a way from the train lines.  I just think it’s always been ugly along railway lines & no-one except Wendy Whiteley has ever challenged the status quo.  Time for a change even if only to help mitigate or manage climate change.

I had not heard of this issue until last week & am sad these trees have been removed. I know the feeling of anger & frustration felt by the community where it doesn’t make sense to remove such beautiful trees.  My respect also to the woman who climbed one of the trees for a while to protest about them being chopped down.

On a positive note, I am impressed at the news coverage by both TV & newspapers about this issue. The Sydney Morning Herald had an article yesterday where they said:

Among those campaigning for the trees’ preservation was NSW Opposition Leader & state member for the area Barry O’Farrell. But NSW Premier Kristina (Keneally) supported their removal, claiming the damage caused by the roots was a hazard for people pushing prams & those in wheelchairs.

The same argument was used for Orphan Creek in Forest Lodge in 2009 to justify removing all the trees for a very wide cement path, even though those who used wheelchairs & mum’s with prams came out & said not to do it. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/unkindest-cut-for-historic-north-shore-fig-trees-20100612-y4jr.html

In another article from the North Shore Times 9th June 2010, an Arborist suggested the following to retain the trees:

To encourage the roots to grow deeper, a porous asphalt system available since the late 1990s could be used. Vertical barriers could also be installed to deflect root growth away from structural elements. “In this instance, a barrier maintained flush with the asphalt pavement could be effective in preventing surface root growth & should be trialed,” he advised. The report suggested tie rods could be used to improve the structural integrity of platform walls with minimal damage to the trees. The alternative – finding a replacement planting – would be problematic, as few species would tolerate the growing conditions. “The performance of the subject trees under these conditions for nearly 100 years is remarkable,” the report said. http://north-shore-times.whereilive.com.au/news/story/railcorp-doesn-t-give-a-fig/

All up there have been 14 articles about this issue in the main papers over the last week or so.  Does this mean the community & the media are starting to care about keeping trees?  I certainly hope so.

I must say I am impressed with how much information about this issue is provided on Railcorp’s web-site.  It is well worth a look. http://www.railcorp.info/community/wahroonga_station It was also interesting to read that Railcorp said the trees were only “part way through their growing cycle” at 100 years old.  Makes me wonder at the use of the word ‘senescent’ when  I read it in Marrickville Council documents.

So, goodbye to another group of Sydney’s beautiful old trees. Perhaps in a couple of decades there won’t be any left.

This was the monthly Council Meeting. Clrs Thanos, Iskandar & Tsardoulias were absent. Clr Tsardoulias is in hospital so I wish him well & hope he has a speedy recovery.  Apologies for the length of this post. There was a lot on the agenda & I find it hard to be both brief & fair.  The following is my take of the proceedings & any mistakes are mine.

Old Marrickville Hospital Development This debate was recorded by 2SER radio.  A representative from Climate Action Newtown (CAN) addressed the Councillors saying that 500 households in the LGA receive updates about CAN’s activities &

I found these on a tree in Enmore

they constantly hear that the community want action about climate change on a local, state & federal government level. CAN believe making the development a 6 star sustainability site & carbon neutral, making it a fabulous opportunity to show real leadership to other councils across NSW.  (contact information for Climate Action Newtown is in the blogroll located in the left-hand column).

Clr Phillips moved a notice of motion that the development of the hospital site be designed to achieve a 6 star sustainability rating & carbon neutrality saying it was important that Marrickville Council lead on environmental issues & set a good example. He cited Council House Two in Melbourne as an example saying it may cost a bit more, but will pay for itself in the long run.  While Clrs Wright & Marcri said they were concerned about upfront costs, all Councillors supported the motion.  A staff member advised Marrickville Council had at last count $4M – $5M value in unencumbered property. Clr Phillips said that the costs could be an impediment, but CO2 also has costs to society & the environment & that this kind of development should be the standard in new buildings.  Carried unanimously.

Support for the 100% Renewable: Community campaign for clean energy. A community representative associated with CAN & with the 100% Renewable Campaign (national grassroots campaign calling for Australia to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to mitigate climate change) addressed the Councillors saying this campaign was a great way to engage the community. She spoke about the campaign & asked for Council & government support saying Council’s support would send a strong signal to the community about renewable energy.

The motion by Clr Phillips was 1. Provide a link on Council’s website 2. Mention its support in the Inner West Courier 3. Co-sponsor a banner to be hung from Newtown Town Hall for 1 month 4. Give a grant of $500 for campaign materials. Clr Wright asked about costs & staff said each banner costs around $700 & if it comes out of the Contingency Fund it can only be to support incorporated organisations.  CAN is incorporated, but 100% Renewable is not.  Clr Wright supported points 1 & 2, but not points 3 & 4.  Clr Hanna supported points 1, 2 & 3, but not point 4 saying that garbage on the streets was more important & this money belonged to the ratepayers.

Clr O’Sullivan supported Clr Wright’s comments suggesting it may be more fruitful for CAN to apply to Council for a community grant. She could not support point 4.  Clrs Kontellis & Byrne supported motion in full with Clr Byrne suggesting CAN apply for a community grant anyway.  Motion carried. Clrs Phillips, Byrne, Kontellis, Peters & Olive supporting & Clrs Wright, O’Sullivan, Hanna & Macri against.

Affordable Housing. This was definitely one of the agenda items where I think it would be hard to be a Councillor.  The gallery had around 17 young people who were members of a group called Centrepiece Queer Art Collective.  One of their members addressed the Councillors & the debate was recorded by 2SER. She spoke about how the Collective are homeless & have been squatting in the old Marrickville Hospital. Council have asked them to leave so an audit can be done for fire safety issues. The Collective wanted to be allowed to use the building if it is

tree canopy

deemed safe & said they had the local fire station assess the area & do an informal inspection.  The Fire Brigade said exit signs & smoke alarms would be sufficient. She asked how come they could organise a fire check in 1 afternoon & Marrickville Council couldn’t in 15 years saying this was “bureaucracy before human needs.”

A resident in the street spoke in support for the Collective saying he bought 12 years ago & was told development was imminent, yet the building has remained empty.  He said the building could have been used for housing & Council should consider what they can do to remove fire & health hazards & support this group of responsible homeless young people. He said they created no problems for the local residents.

Clr Byrne wanted to add to the motion that Council write to the state government about providing more affordable housing. She said the old Marrickville Hospital site is in Major Projects, but there are financial aspects, fire safety audits were done 2007 & 2008 & there were key reasons why Council can’t allow the young people to live in that site. She said it would be morally corrupt to allow people to use it because of asbestos on site.  She also said Council staff have found housing for the Collective & Metro Housing Group is offering 12 months accommodation.  She said Council has just worked on the Draft LEP to provide flexibility in industrial areas to provide live/work areas for our creative residents.

It was a long debate where all Councillors acknowledged the difficulty of homelessness, the demand for housing & the availability of affordable housing. Clrs Byrne, Hanna, Macri, Phillips, Kontellis, Peters, Olive  & O’Sullivan spoke on the issue. They were concerned for the Collective, but could not agree to allow them to live in a building that was unsafe. Clr Peters asked staff to outline recent developments about affordable housing in the LGA.  The staff member said Council has applications for Boarding Houses & the Dept Housing has more houses in the area. He said the biggest growth was through St George & Metro Housing who have probably added 30-40 houses, but the reality is affordable housing has got less. The motion was for Council to explore potential use of unoccupied buildings, audit these buildings & assess the costs to make them liveable dwellings & ensure any development of Council owned property contains affordable housing.  Carried unanimously.

Protect our National Parks from privatisation. Motion by Clr Byrne for Council to write to Frank Sartor Minister for the Environment & Climate Change,  requesting he withdraw his bill to allow commercial development in National Parks & ensure any attempts to increase visitor numbers are done with the best interests of local communities & local environments.  Carried unanimously.

Third Quarter Performance Report 2009-2010 & GST Compliance Certificates. Received & noted. Carried unanimously.

Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre Plan of Management. There was some discussion regarding the café, with Clr Olive asking what happens if the café ceases to operate, does it return to the control of Council. Staff said they would seek legal advice. Clr O’Sullivan had some concerns regarding the restrictive nature of the contact citing the clause ‘no use of butter’ as an example.  Staff said there was a 1½ page nutritional statement to serve as guidelines for minimal standards of food served by the café so we don’t end up with pie & chips. Carried unanimously.

Safety around Sydenham Station. Clr O’Sullivan said that residents have started a Clean Up Sydenham campaign as they are concerned about safety walking from the station to Unwins Bridge Road past the derelict Station Masters house & another empty house & rubbish in this area.  Motion to ask Railcorp to clean up, remove weeds & overhanging vegetation & for Council to advise of options for improving amenity & safety. Carried unanimously.

Henry Tax Review & Housing Affordability. Clr Phillips spoke briefly about the report & said given that affordable housing comes up in Council debates he would like fellow Councillors to be familiar with it & said Council should be writing to all levels of government about affordable housing. Carried unanimously.

Energy Efficient Street Lighting. Clr Peters put forward a motion to request Energy Australia to replace all street-lights with energy efficient bulbs on main roads throughout the LGA & to notify residents of Council’s action.  Clr Wright moved an amendment that instead of writing to residents about this, to notify them via Council’s website, Marrickville Matters & rates notices to save money. This was accepted by Clr Peters. Clr Olive said he wasn’t against writing directly to residents as they needed to know both sides of the story & this may push the supplier into action. Carried unanimously.

Support for Refugees & 2010 World Refugee Week. Clr Peters wanted Council to promote a rally on Saturday 26th June 2010 saying many residents of Marrickville

native grass

LGA are refugees. She said we would like the federal government to lift the freeze & close Curtin & Christmas Island detention centres immediately. Clr Wright said she noticed Council displayed a banner at Petersham Town Hall & would now be doing the same at Newtown, Sydenham, St Peters & Marrickville Town Halls at the cost of $2,500. She said she would rather use the money on people rather than on banners.  Clr Peters asked for guidance from staff as to the issue of reuse of banners by Council.

Clr Phillips said it was “atrocious” what the government has done with refugees saying it is “back to the dark days of Howard.”  He was worried that sewing lips & self-harming would start again. He said it was “the regime of cruelty with people behind razor wire just because of their mode of arrival.” Clr Kontellis supported the motion saying Council should be taking supportive action & said the government’s action on refugees was appalling. Carried unanimously.

Meeting concluded.

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