This report on the design issues associated with the proposed Harold Park DCP was prepared by Bruce Lay, an architect/planner at Leichhardt Council for more than two decades, to inform discussion at the public meeting held at Forest Lodge Public School on 7 December 2010.

The landscape should have primacy, building form should follow topography. The primacy of the existing character of houses following the plateaux tops should remain, and buildings in the valleys subservient and sitting below the landform – not up to the highest buildings and tree canopies.

The proposed density of 1.2:1 should be achievable with much lower buildings than proposed – most of the terraced housing (net density) around the site is about 1:1. The heights appear to have been ramped up for other reasons; perhaps a hidden agenda.

Playing with height at the edges is very inefficient and will not have much impact on visual bulk and it will result in horrible congested internal spaces – and poor internal amenity for a large number of dwellings. Irrespective of the planning controls any developer will resist these controls. Seeking to replicate the Glebe grid of streets through the site, fragments the capacity and it is a bit tokenistic – the site is set well below the street patterns on the plateaux and will not be particularly legible. Extension of the grid is a fairly standard and in this case a lazy urban design approach to the site.

A perimeter block approach to the site with a more continuous but lower edge of building topping out at say 5 storeys so it sits below the escarpments and maintains the long views across the valleys between Annandale Forest Lodge and Glebe is a far better way to go. A four storey street edge with a step back of the top level, five total would produce much more congenial streets and much more marketable housing for the area. The lower level to both The Crescent and the lineal park on the northern side should be mostly non-residential and particularly an active edge to the open space including eateries etc.

The parallel street from Ross Street should be abandoned – this street should wrap the park edge and accordingly increase the width of this space – otherwise it will be a canyon and much less attractive to use. Otherwise it invites a privatised park edge. The cars, bikes, and walkers should be follow this much more attractive edge, not a canyon within the housing.

They pretend the bulk and height can be concealed within narrow streets but this development will be viewed across the valleys, from the plateaux and from long distances and will be horrible ziggurats – the sort of outcomes common in North Sydney where this approach has been used for 50 years and should not be emulated.

I see no benefit cutting heights to the edges or particularly the south end, it just increases the height elsewhere and particularly to the park edge, to its detriment.

Any developer will resist the draft controls, particularly the congested internal streets. Compare the generosity of the public domain and new streets in say the former Children’s Hospital site, and Victoria Park in Zetland! Stick with the Glebe Society‘s excellent devised principles.