The Premier’s announcement on Sunday (25 June 2017) that a Danish architectural firm, 3XN (with Australian partners) has been selected from a short list of six contenders – itself a short list of the 60 parties who responded to the tender invitation – to design the new Sydney Fish Markets is important and potentially positive news. It moves the troubled Bays Precinct project on a small step.

The tender generated an impressive international response and we are assured the selection process was rigorous, so we should have an architectural team capable of designing a world class market on a spectacular but very difficult foreshore site.

Of course, as there was no community involvement in the selection process, we have to accept its rigour on faith. We can take some confidence from the fact the City of Sydney Council was involved and is reported as being satisfied with the process.

Artist’s representation of the new Fish Markets (source: UrbanGrowth NSW)

The Premier’s announcement was accompanied by a couple of artist’s representations of what the markets might look like and a broad assurance that the project would be at no cost to the public. And that transport/traffic issues would be worked out – later!

Beyond that, we don’t know any more about how this development on the narrow foreshore at Blackwattle Bay adjoining Bridge Rd and Wentworth Park is going to fit with everything else.

The two core issues are 1: how the horrendous traffic issues can be addressed; and, 2. what its connection with – and impact on – Wentworth Park (long ago quietly incorporated into the Bays Precinct boundary) will be.

Will there be a viable solution to the enormous traffic implications?
When asked about traffic and transport implications, the Premier indicated these will be looked at as part of the next design stage! It is difficult to believe that traffic management and transport provisions (and indeed the future of Bridge Rd as well as Glebe Island Bridge) have not been thought through pretty thoroughly at this stage of the planning process.

Surely the Government cannot have committed to a development at this site which aspires to attract six million visitors per annum without having thought through a viable solution to the resulting ginormous traffic implications?

When asked about traffic and transport implications, the Premier indicated these will be looked at as part of the next design stage!
Hopefully our lack of any information is just another manifestation of the pervasive secrecy which cloaks so much of the planning process in NSW and not an indicator of chaotic unpreparedness.

Transport planning and traffic management issues have been central to the troubles that have plagued the Bays Precinct project – and played a significant part in the abandonment of the plans for Google to be the major developer of the White Bay Power Station site. Community representatives have repeatedly pressed for access to the Bays transport plan and/or the relevant Department of Maritime Services (DMS) plan without success. As far as I can see UrbanGrowth (the old one that is) was never able to reach any kind of agreement with DMS about properly integrated transport plans which would support the success of the Bays Precinct Project.

Artist’s representation of the new Fish Markets (source: UrbanGrowth NSW)

Will Wentworth Park remain open space?
The other key issue is the impact on Wentworth Park from both the new Fish Markets and the planned intensive residential and commercial high rise development of the nine-plus hectares of the old Fish Markets site.

The Government has indicated that it intends to ‘better connect’ Wentworth Park to the Bays Market District and the water. That is a good thing and is applauded by the community – if it signals linkage and not loss of open space. We have been assured there will be no residential development on Wentworth Park and that there will be ‘a masterplan developed for the Park in partnership with the City of Sydney’ and that it will involve community consultation ‘on potential uses that would benefit the public – this could include recreational facilities, community facilities or other public infrastructure’.

Social infrastructure for new residents?
The proposed sale of the publicly-owned current Fish Markets site for intensive residential and commercial high rise development will also have a tremendous impact on all aspects of infrastructure. The resulting need for the full range of social infrastructure will be considerable encompassing educational, health, child care and aged care, sporting and recreational.

UrbanGrowth has been developing its social infrastructure plan for this area – and its recent community consultation has had a strong focus on the urgently needed active recreation and sporting facilities.