The Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project

The community campaign to defend the public interest in the State Government’s huge Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project was the major ongoing Bays and Foreshores issue this year. We have continued to work with other residents’ groups and both the City of Sydney and Leichhardt councils to influence this important project. Major activities and events have included:

  • Participation in the Sydney University Planning Research Centre forum on the Bays Precinct on 20 October 2014.
  • A public talk sponsored by the City of Sydney Council on the Future of the Bays Precinct including discussion of the people’s campaign on 5 November 2014.
  • A public meeting at the Glebe Town Hall prior to the  Bays Precinct Expert Summit on 16 November 2014.
  • The Government’s high profile Bays Precinct Sydney International Summit at the Australian Technology Park on 19 and 20 November 2014. This began with the Treasurer announcing the Government’s plan to build 16,000 dwellings – only to have an immediate repudiation by the Premier and the Minister for Planning who insisted the Bays Precinct was a blank canvas. This improbable assurance was received with huge scepticism and some amusement – but set a low standard of openness for the project. Overall it was a terrific summit providing excellent advice from an impressive array of local and international urban renewal experts. Much of the discussion about successful urban renewal projects affirmed the core planning principles long advocated by the community for the Bays Precinct. It remains to be seen how much of this advice is eventually translated into the Bays Precinct project by the Government.
  • Bays Precinct Sydneysiders Summit and Leadership Forums, 14-18 May. UrbanGrowth ‘borrowed’ our concept of a people’s summit and ran a marathon consultation over five days in May. The Glebe Society heavily publicised this event and a large number of locals attended and recorded their views. It was well resourced and generally informative about the history and opportunities for the Bays Precinct. It provided a useful overall timescale for the renewal of the seven ‘destinations’ starting with ‘immediate’ (foreshore access, Bays Market District, White Bay power station and White Bay and the cruise terminal). Overall, it was a soft sell with little new or tangible information about what was being considered for specific areas. Renewal for Rozelle Bay and Glebe Island are all post-2019. Selective renewal activities were flagged, eg the continuation of the foreshore ‘promenade’ from Balmain to Pyrmont (an existing Government commitment) and an attractive rejuvenation of the Fish Markets and a Bays Market District. It was, however, silent as to specific private development intentions for any of the areas (including major bids for private residential development at the Fish Markets) or any solutions to the huge traffic and transport issues – and the Glebe Island Bridge did not feature at all.
  • The Blackwattle Cove Coalition (BCC) – which includes the Glebe Society – put in a submission to UrbanGrowth in June focussed on unresolved issues in the proposed Bays Market District – including open space, protecting recreational boating and unscrambling the poor traffic planning.

Behind the scenes, UrbanGrowth has been finalising its ‘Transformation Plan’ to be given to the Government this month. Presumably it will in some way reflect the ‘Great Ideas’ the community was invited to submit post the consultation and at least some of the community’s core principles. Given the housing crisis in Sydney we can only hope that any residential development on these publicly owned foreshores will include a substantial proportion of affordable and social housing. This is surely an overriding, urgently needed, public outcome.

Signals from the Government are very mixed and it is difficult to assess how much real influence UrbanGrowth will have in any final decisions on the Bays Precinct’s future.

The most recent word from UrbanGrowth came from the CEO David Pitchford: ‘In the bays, there is nowhere near the transport infrastructure that needs to be there … We’ve got to address that really important question of mass transit and introduce a whole range of things that will be unpalatable to the government in terms of the level of investment – but without that, it will be a disaster’. (SMH 26/8/15) We hope David does carry influence with Government – so far we have heard of nothing beyond WestConnex which most people think will exacerbate local traffic problems.

Community Objections to the Sydney Superyacht Marina (SSYM) Development

The Glebe Society has intervened multiple times since the 1990s to limit the presence and impact of superyacht moorings and related on-shore activities in Rozelle Bay. Unexpectedly the SSYM emerged as a major issue again in May when the owners applied for extensive modifications for the on-shore and on-water elements. The proposals doubled the moorings, significantly increased the size/height of buildings and car parking, allowed considerably more external seating/entertainment areas and weakened some of the hard won noise limitation requirements. The proposals will mean a major increase in both building scale and the level of activity and associated noise. Moreover the large increase in superyacht moorings would pre-empt future options for the use of Glebe Island Bridge as a pedestrian, cycle and possibly light rail link.

The proposal sought the consolidation of its separate development approvals for the land and water based elements. This appears to be an attempt to sidestep the existing stringent requirements for approval of the proposed water based modifications. Whether legal or not, neither the Dept of Planning nor the Minister should approve such a manoeuvre to evade legislative reforms.

The Glebe Society, in collaboration with the Save Our Bays group, ran a successful public meeting in May explaining the proposed modifications and their implications. We urged people to put in an objection to those modifications which would have significant additional adverse effects on the residents and users of the foreshore parklands. The Glebe Society put in a substantial submission which can be read on the website1 – as did the City of Sydney and Leichhardt Councils. Because of the large number of objections the proposal will not be determined by the Department of Planning and will be referred to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC). At the very least this gives us and the community another context in which to argue against the over-development aspects of this proposal and in defence of the public interest. No date has yet been announced for the PAC meeting.
I attended the one meeting that was held by the SSYM Community Liaison Group in May 2015. At this meeting it was announced that, as the Ombudsman had determined the Chair had a conflict of interest, the Chair had resigned and the meeting agreed on a replacement.

It was announced that, as the Ombudsman had determined the Chair [of the Sydney Superyacht Marina Community Liaison Group] had a conflict of interest, the Chair had resigned and the meeting agreed on a replacement.

Wentworth Park

In May 2014 the BCC wrote to Minister Stokes about the future of Wentworth Park as from time to time it surfaces as being linked with the Bays Precinct renewal. Subsequently BCC met with the Minister’s staff in June. Assurances were given that there were no current active plans, that existing public space would be kept and the public would have access to any future uses of the space currently used by the Greyhounds. More recently, we learned of a confidential report by John Brogden to the Premier proposing the possible construction of a 10-12,000 seat indoor stadium at Wentworth Park. (DT 19/8/15). This sparked a sharp community reaction and a strong reminder to Government that the space is dedicated in perpetuity as public parkland.


(image: AngMoKio, Wikipedia)
(image: AngMoKio, Wikipedia)