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

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

The NSW Department of Planning & Environment has rejected Marrickville Council’s proposal for the ‘Victoria Road Precinct,’ which would see 36 hectares of primarily industrial zoned land in Marrickville redeveloped.

Marrickville Council sought amend the Marrickville Local Environmental Plan 2011, including re-zoning & making changes to floor space ratio & maximum building height.

“On 16 December 2014, the Department of Planning and Environment wrote to Marrickville Council, requesting Council withdraw the planning proposal. The planning proposal does not currently contain sufficient information to proceed to Gateway.

The precinct does present strategic merit and could be considered for renewal, including opportunities for future job and dwelling growth. Ideally, renewal of the precinct should be considered as part of a broader strategic planning process.”

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.

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

At the Marrickville Council Meeting of 1st May 2012 Councillors voted to allow developer Brookfield Multiplex to proceed with a planning proposal for a new development in Marrickville called the Victoria Road Precinct.

Clrs Olive, Phillips, Byrne, O’Sullivan & Wright voted against the proposal.  Mayor Hanna, Clrs Macri, Iskandar, Tsardoulias, Thanos voted for it with the Mayor using his casting vote to pass the vote.

Council’s recommendation was, “Council advise the proponent of the Victoria Road corridor development proposal that it will consider revised planning controls for the precinct along the lines of those which apply in the B5 & the B7 zoned areas under MLEP 2011. These may include bulky goods uses, showrooms, creative industries & live/work (similar to that permitted in the St Peters triangle precinct) land uses in appropriate parts of the precinct. Additionally, that these investigations be undertaken in advance of the next review of the MUS which is scheduled for 2013.”

The developer’s main selling point is that it will be a 6-star energy-rating precinct.  The area is mostly industrial zoning as far as I can tell & is under the flight path.

Brookfield Multiplex say we don’t provide enough local employment opportunities & want to create “showroom retail along Victoria Road, Intermediate zone to inland commercial uses, transitioning to industrial uses in the east, transitioning to residential uses in the west, sprinkled with cultural uses, extending green corridors through the site.”

The Inner West Courier say that, …. the precinct would push showrooms as the main type of employment, with items such as timber, tiles & all home renovation needs.”  http://bit.ly/K3vldC  I guess this will be like what is happening in Alexandra – a place to go to look for your new bathroom, taps, tiles etc.

I cannot see in the proposal or my notes how many people or how many units they intend for the precinct, but considering they are looking at around 350 units just for the Marrickville RSL development, I would guess in the thousands.  I seem to remember 5,000 people mentioned, but don’t accept this as fact.

In the papers it says that, Council which has fulfilled its commitments under the State planning framework to plan for additional dwellings & employment numbers.”  These are 4,100 extra people in Marrickville. [ August 2014 – Sorry, it is not 4,100 extra people, it is 4,100 extra residences.]   “Pivotal to any strategic assessment is the fact that Council has met its dwelling targets to 2031 & requires an additional 600 dwellings to meet its 2036 target.”  That is 24-years in the future.

Two other sites are being looked at to add further housing on top of the 4,100 residences agreed for the LEP 2011 that takes us to 2031 – Carrington Road Marrickville (1,000-1,500) & West Street Petersham.  I can’t see how the Victoria Road Precinct plan will not go ahead in some form or another now that approval has been given for developers to do more work on the idea.

Lastly, the perimeters of the precinct –

Sydenham Road from to Fitzroy Street to Edinburgh Road, then up Leicester Street, around Enmore Park via Victoria Road, Black Street & Llewellyn Street, back onto Enmore Road, then into Cowper Street, down Phillipott Street, Fahey Lane, down Perry Street, Addison Road to Illawarra Road, then along York Street, back onto Illawarra Road opposite Charles Street, down King Street, into Shepherd Street, around Marrickville Primary School at Thompson Street, incorporating all the industrial properties down Farr Street to return back onto Sydenham Road.  It’s a big place.

This is the Victoria Road frontage of the Victoria Road Precinct as part of the development proposal. Unless these are old trees already in place & to be retained, they are projections of trees that would need at least 15-years to grow to this size.

This is the frontage of Rich Street West as included in the development proposal for the Victoria Road Precinct.

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