by Asa Wahlquist, Convenor, September 2022, from Bulletin 8 of 2022
The new Sydney Fish Market, the proposed Blackwattle Bay development and Bays West 1 (the area around the old White Bay Power Station) were the main issues of the past year.
Construction of the new Sydney Fish Market
Asa Wahlquist represents The Glebe Society on the Community Consultative Committee (CCC) to the new Sydney Fish Market. The Glebe Society opposed the construction of the new Sydney Fish Market on Bridge Rd, arguing instead it should be rebuilt on the current site. It has been a noisy and disruptive project. The main area of CCC activity has been making the footpaths and Bridge Rd safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The frequent closures of the footpath on Bridge Rd on the Fish Market side have forced pedestrians to cross near Wentworth Park Rd, a situation that has been described as an accident waiting to happen. A crossing with lights is scheduled to be installed at the junction of Wentworth Park Rd and Bridge Rd, which will also be the entrance to the new Fish Market, in the last quarter of 2022. In their October 2021 meeting, the CCC passed the following resolution:
That the New Sydney Fish Market Community Consultative Committee formally records its serious concerns in relation to pedestrian, cyclist and traffic safety issues around the site of the New Sydney Fish Market, now that the various construction works on the site and along Pyrmont Bridge Road have commenced. These concerns include: inadequate & ineffective signage relating to the recently introduced 40km/h speed limit on Pyrmont Bridge Road; significantly increased pedestrian & cyclist traffic and inadequate protection for pedestrians crossing Pyrmont Bridge Road adjacent to the south western end of the site; dangerous traffic conditions at the corner of Pyrmont Bridge Road and Wentworth Park Road: and the long lead times of the temporary and permanent measures currently proposed to address these problems, such as the traffic signals at that intersection.
In the light of the Community Consultative Committee’s serious concerns about safety we request relevant agencies give these matters urgent attention, as we consider the current situation is unacceptably dangerous and likely to become worse.
Although Bridge Rd has long had a 40 km speed limit, actually improving the signage proved quite a task. The CCC requested, and received, a briefing from Transport for NSW officials, again requesting improved traffic speed signage and a study into pedestrian safety on Bridge Rd and the entrance to the Glebe Foreshore walk. Finally, earlier this year better signs were installed, though many motorists continue to ignore the 40 km speed limit.
At the same meeting the CCC was told Transport for NSW is undertaking a nine-month study, under the Movement and Place Strategy, into the area. The Strategy is part of the Transport for NSW’s move away from just looking at transport, and considering how all users, including pedestrians and cyclists, move through an area or ‘place’. This includes a pedestrian safety review, which they aimed to implement ‘sooner rather than later’. While that review will not be publicly available, the CCC will be briefed on its contents. At the time of writing, late September 2022, we are still waiting.
The Glebe Society is also concerned about future traffic problems when the new Fish Market is up and running. Every day hundreds of trucks and vans, buses and thousands of private vehicles will visit the Fish Market. When the Transport for NSW meeting was questioned, an official admitted trucks would be queuing along Bridge Rd in the morning. How many trucks and vehicles would be queuing? How long would the queue be? How long would the vehicles in the queue wait before entering the SFM? Would vehicles be queuing in both directions? How disruptive would it be? These are all unanswered questions. Vehicles accessing the Market will include semi-trailers and large trucks delivering fish – despite the SFM’s claim to authenticity, over 90 percent of the fish sold in the market are not locally caught but arrive by heavy vehicle – as well as the vans of retailers who purchase the wholesale fish for their shops. There will be other vans delivering goods for the restaurants in the new building, cars of workers and visitors, and buses and taxis. All these vehicles – except for the buses and taxis – will cross the footpath along Bridge Rd that, under current plans, will be shared by pedestrians and cyclists.
Transport for NSW will undertake four further studies: Freight and Servicing Management Plan; Traffic and Transport Management Plan; Pick Up and Drop Off Plan; and the Green Travel Plan. It is imperative that the plans take into consideration the impact on early morning traffic, on access to the new SFM, and the impact of nearby development, particularly the proposed development of the Blackwattle Bay precinct.
Blackwattle Bay State Significant Precinct Study, Revised plan
The Blackwattle Bay State Significant Precinct Study with its series of towers proposed for the current Fish Market site cast a long shadow over the year. Its sole aim was to maximise development, with no regard for place or the lives of the community. The Glebe Society objected to virtually every detail of the plan: : the fact it is (largely) on publicly-owned land; the massive overdevelopment of the site; the height of the buildings, the tallest of which was higher than the struts of the Anzac Bridge; the density; the narrowness of the foreshore walk; the percentage of public open space; the future impact of the proposed large number of residents and business people on local transport and traffic infrastructure; and the impact on the aquatic environment. Not surprisingly, the plan attracted more than 2,400 submissions.
The proponent, Infrastructure NSW, issued a revised plan in July 2022. It was forced to make a number of significant changes, including fewer, shorter towers, and a wider foreshore walk. The density was reduced by 15 per cent, and the number of residents by 29 per cent. The reduction in the height of most, but not all, buildings is welcome. The tallest building of the first plan, of 45 storeys was reduced to 35 storeys, which is still too high.
The increase in the waterfront promenade to 30 metres meets a key demand of The Glebe Society, and our desire to extend the foreshore walk along the Glebe side of Blackwattle Bay. However, the current plan shows the walk to be a shared path (shared by both pedestrians and bicycles). This has been shown not to work on the Glebe foreshore walk. Combining those walking for leisure, walking with children, the elderly and tourists stopping to gaze at the view with cyclists intent on their commute does not work, and indeed poses a risk to pedestrians. There must be separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists.
The future of the site is of great significance to Glebe, not only because it will blight Blackwattle Bay, overshadow our suburb early in the morning and bring many more people to our area and our roads. We also fear the encroachment of city-density apartment buildings to Pyrmont could creep across Wentworth Park to Glebe.
Bays West stage 1 master plan
Bays West stage 1 is the area around the White Bay Power Station. The plan is underpinned by an understanding of the Indigenous and natural heritage of the area that frankly fills me with envy. We strongly support the process and approach of connecting with country, and we just wish such principles were embedded in the planned Blackwattle Bay development. The plan includes a foreshore walk and the hope the Glebe Island Bridge will be restored for pedestrians and cyclists. From the Glebe perspective, the planned buildings are far less obtrusive than those of Blackwattle Bay.
But we do note the tallest, at 20 storeys, is higher than the power station chimney and suggest it be shortened so the chimney remains the dominant form. There are also one 18-storey and one 12-storey building; five eight-storey buildings and four of four storeys. There will be about 4.16 hectares of public space. Again, one wishes a similar plan was in place for Blackwattle Bay. Our submission on the Bays West stage 1 master plan can be found on our website: https://tinyurl.com/2f6zn6h6.
In March I lead an environment walk around foreshore. We – Jan Macindoe also contributed interesting insights – talked about the history of the foreshores from industry to public park and detailed some of the plantings and wildlife. The group took my ranting about the new Fish Market and Blackwattle Bay plan with good grace!