The Central Sydney Planning Committee and the Council of the City of Sydney have agreed to zoning proposals for Harold Park. The outcome, confirmed at a meeting of full Council on Monday, 26 July 2010, was not all that we would have wished for, but far more favourable than might have been the case if proposals put forward by the current owner, the NSW Harness Racing Club, had been accepted. The next move will by up to the Club which can accept the City's decision or ask the Minister for Planning to intervene on its behalf.

President Lesley Lynch and Planning Convenor, Neil Macindoe, write:

Last week we sent out calls to Glebe Society members and residents to show their support for the community position on the future of Harold Park at the Council Planning Committee and the Central Sydney Planning Committee(CSPC)  meetings. The response was terrific and neither gathering was in any doubt as to the community’s views or to the strength of feeling on the matter.

We had three formal Glebe Society speakers at both meetings (Lesley, Neil and John Gray) and numerous others spoke on an individual basis. The Club had two speakers. There was consistent support from residents for the overall Glebe Society position expressed through our community resolution and Harold Park principles document.

The Wins
The effort was worth it. While we have ongoing issues with the Council’s draft controls, they did incorporate many of our core principles and as such are a major win for the community. Most significantly, they will deliver us:

  • 35% or 3.9 hectares of the site as public open space. This must be continuous and incorporate a full size sport field and a public garden
  • Recognition of the heritage status of the Tramsheds and a requirement that they be adaptively restored. 500 square metres of the restored Tramsheds is to be transferred to Council for community uses
  • Land sufficient for 50 units of public housing is to be made available at no cost,

We wanted other changes to the draft, but given all the pressures and the broad political context, it was a relief that both the Council and the CSPC endorsed these critical elements which go a considerable way towards protecting the public interest in this site and constraining the drive for maximum windfall private profit from the site. We have expressed our appreciation to Council for its efforts to date.

However, there are two very big reasons why we cannot yet relax. We need to fight for further changes and there is, as of yet, no guarantee that the decisions made by Council/CSPC last week will not be over-ridden by the Minister.

Unresolved Concerns
The draft proposals fall short of our HP principles on a number of critical points:

  • We are opposed to the height of the buildings at the perimeter of the site (up to 8 stories) and consider a better configuration is possible
  • We are concerned that the current controls will allow large scale retail/commercial activity ( a major super market/retail complex) which would be devastating for our local retail centres and for impact on traffic
  • We continue to argue that the public open space would be better located if it was not all on the Glebe side (including a 42-8 metre buffer along the cliff) and connected better with Forest Lodge and the existing parks
  • We continue to think the traffic study significantly underestimates the impact on surrounding roads.

As it seems – at this stage – unlikely that we can convince the State Government to acquire the Tramsheds in toto, we are arguing that the dedicated space for community activities needs to be increased from 500 square metres to at least 1000square metres. This is reasonable given the overall floor space of 7500 square metres.

We presented all these points at the meetings. We have a commitment that the planning controls will be amended to:

  • leave open the final configuration of the open space – as long as it meets the stated criteria;
  • prohibit large scale block retail activity;

and that:

  • further traffic impact modelling will be done to incorporate Saturday traffic flow;
  • the increase of community space in the Tramsheds to 1000 square metres will be considered

We got no movement on the heights of the buildings. Staff presented a written response to our arguments on this (and a number of other points). Essentially they argued that good design could dramatically reduce the visibility and impact of 8 stories to simulate 6 stories and that this range of heights was essential to maintain the density. The density (now 1200 units) is argued as necessary to meet state and council residential targets in the inner city.

Potential threats in the process
We have moved through an important, but preliminary and non-binding, stage of the rezoning process. The Council and the CSPC have endorsed draft planning controls for the rezoning of Harold Park. Before these can go to the Minister for approval to move to the next stage, the Pacing Club has to agree with the proposals.

At this point they have refused to do this. They continue to argue for less open space, greater  density and for the inclusion of the land required for affordable housing into the open space allocation. They refute our argument that they should not be entitled to a windfall development profit from the Tramsheds part of the site.

If they don’t accept the controls as endorsed by Council/CSPC, they have the option of going directly to the Minister and asking him to intervene. The Minister then has the option of agreeing to intervene on behalf of the Club or of declining.

We must await the outcome of  further negotiations between Council/CSPC and the Pacing Club. Hopefully, if no voluntary agreement is reached,  the current Minister will respect the Council/CSPC processes and the very strong community opposition to Ministerial intervention – as Kristina Keneally did when she was asked to take control of the process last year.

As we understand it, these are the possible outcomes:

  • the Club will come to agreement with the Council/CSPC position and the proposals will go to the Minister. He can amend them. He will approve them to go on public exhibition for 28 days during which we can comment futher. After that Council will consider feedback and peocedd to make the final controls
  • The Club does not agree. The Council will not proceed further. The Pacing Club  asks the Minister to intervene and change the controls and/or take over the rezoning a Part 3 process. The Minister may or may not act on this.

The best outcome for us is that the process proceeds under the aegis of the Council /CSPC. In that case we could expect the public exhibition stage to be in September.

If there is no agreement with the Pacing Club and the Minister does not accede to any request to intervene, the Council will not rezone the site. Nothing will happen – at least until the State election.

The worst case scenario for the community is that the Minister agrees to intervene- now or after the election. Then folks it is battle stations.

Of course once the site is rezoned, the Pacing Club has to find a buyer and then we will have a DA process to go though…..and that will almost certainly open up the design, density and building height issues … so don’t go away yet!

While we wait to see which of the above scenarios we are confronted with, the Harold Park working group will do some more intensive work to substantiate our arguments on the unresolved issues.