By Allan Hogan in Glebe Society Bulletin 10 of 2020
The Glebe Society has for many years called for the restoration and repair of the now-disused Glebe Island Bridge for use as a pedestrian walkway and cycleway. The Society organised a meeting at the Pyrmont end of the Bridge on Thursday 3 December, the 25th anniversary of the decommissioning of the Bridge and its replacement by the Anzac Bridge.
Glebe Society President, Janet Wahlquist, said that the heritage-listed bridge was identical in design to the Pyrmont Bridge which has been restored and well used by pedestrians and cyclists. ‘There have been calls for many years for the Glebe Island Bridge to be restored’, she said, ‘but now it’s slowly falling apart’. Ms Wahlquist referred to a report by a consulting company in 2013 that estimated it would cost $37.5m to restore the bridge, and $40m to demolish it. Other speakers at the meeting included Jamie Parker, the Member for Balmain, Jess Scully, Deputy Lord Mayor for the City of Sydney, and the Mayor of the Inner West Council, Darcy Byrne.
Jamie Parker paid tribute to Robyn Parker, a former heritage minister in a Liberal Government, who broke party ranks to back the heritage listing of the bridge in 2013. He said that Ms Parker’s courageous decision was a key reason why the bridge had not been demolished. ‘Now we have ground the wreckers of this bridge into an impasse’, Mr Parker said, ‘they are not strong enough to demolish it yet, (but) we haven’t managed to tip the balance in favour of re-opening and enlivening this bridge’.
Councillor Scully said that the State Government had been pursuing a policy of ‘demolition by neglect’ for the bridge. She said the City of Sydney had put forward plans for the restoration of the bridge ‘in every possible submission process to the State Government’. ‘There’s a whole generation of people who never saw this bridge swing into action’, she said, ‘they don’t know anything about the perilous journey of crossing that (Anzac) bridge to get from the inner West to the city. Our challenge is to activate and energise that next generation’.
The President of WalkSydney, Barnaby Bennett, who lives in Rozelle, said ‘we’re willing to spend billions of dollars on enormous bridges, off-ramps, on-ramps, and road projects, and yet we’ll have huge arguments about relatively small investments into walking projects which would absolutely stack up in a business case.’
With major projects planned for both the north and south ends of the bridge, including a new Metro rail station at White Bay, Jamie Parker says the proposed developments cannot be a success if a new link isn’t built between Rozelle and the inner West, and Pyrmont and the city. ‘This bridge is all about the future of our city, are we going to have a city that focuses on pedestrians and cyclists, or are we going to have a city that focuses on the car?’ he asked.
Mayor Darcy Byrne told the meeting he had toured the White Bay power station with Ministers Dominic Perottet and Rob Stokes after calls by the Treasurer to knock the building down. Mr Byrne said he told them the argument for preserving the White Bay power station is exactly the same as the argument for re-opening the Glebe Island Bridge. ‘These places are of enormous heritage significance to this city’.
Planning Minister Stokes is apparently more sympathetic to preserving the power station as part of the Government’s plans for the area, and Mayor Byrne hopes that the Government will also see the virtue of re-opening the Glebe Island Bridge to help unlock the economic potential of the Bays precinct.
Jamie Parker said that the Department of Planning is working on a master plan looking at how the bridge can work with the redevelopment of Blackwattle Bay, but also how the bridge can work with the Metro project. ‘Next year will be critical’, he said, ‘I’ll be working with all of the groups here and inviting us all to work together – councils, community, organisations, citizens – to bring together the weight of our collective persuasive tools to tell this government that the bridge should stay. It’s a campaign that we can and must win for our community.’
Sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/transport-for-nsw-glebe-island-bridge-renewal-gibr-project/.
The video of the Glebe Island Bridge meeting is now on both Facebook and YouTube. It can be found at YouTube with the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrssV-VRrU4&feature=youtu.be, or by going to YouTube and using the following search words: Glebe Island Bridge Campaign.
On 12 November, Glebe Society President Janet Wahlquist, wrote to Rodd Staples, Secretary, Transport for NSW regarding restoration of the Glebe Island Bridge as a walkway and cycleway (https://www.glebesociety.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Letter-re-Glebe-Island-Bridge-to-TfNSW-12-Nov-2020.pdf).
In the letter, the Society noted that since the Bridge was decommissioned 25 years ago, there has been a huge growth in the local population, an increase in cycling and walking and greater pressure on local walkways. These changes have increased the need for an alternative to the Anzac Bridge for cyclists and pedestrians wishing to transit from Balmain to Pyrmont or vice versa. The letter goes on to suggest that a timetable, like that used by the Spit Bridge, could be established to accommodate boats that are too tall to go under the closed bridge.
On 7 December, we received a response from Transport for NSW (https://www.glebesociety.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Response-to-OTS20-09172-Glebe-Island-Bridge-7-December-2020.pdf). James Dobinson, Active Transport Lead, Greater Sydney, stated that ‘Transport for NSW is investigating options for the long-term management of the Glebe Island Bridge. Options will aim to improve the condition of the Bridge, its heritage and reduce maritime safety concerns’. Mr Dobinson confirmed that ‘an integrated transport network with improved walking and cycling links is part of the Bays Precinct vision that includes investigating possible future uses for the State Heritage-listed Glebe Island Bridge’.
The letter also states that Transport for NSW will investigate ‘a foreshore loop in Blackwattle and Rozelle Bay and Glebe Island Bridge as a key walking and cycling link to Sydney CBD as it considers how to construct ‘a new continuous shared pathway from the Parramatta River to the Sydney Opera House’.
While the response from Transport for NSW provides us with some optimism, there is still no indication of a timeframe for halting the ‘demolition by neglect’ which the Glebe Island Bridge is currently facing.