The design for the new Sydney Fish Market is now on display and Urban Growth NSW is holding public information sessions to boast about its attractive features.

Along with other members of the Bays Precinct Community Reference Group (CRG), I attended an interesting preview briefing on 30 October on the design and the broader planning context of the new facility organised by Urban Growth. Barry Mann, CEO Urban Growth, gave a brief overview of developments in relation to the Bays Precinct but the main part was the presentation and discussion by the architect Fred Holt from 3XN.

The design appears to be a very smart response to the constraints (and opportunities) of the site and community priorities. We will be able to make a more informed judgment when the Development Applications are available and we have more than artists’ impressions to go by.

The design does seem to have addressed the multiple objectives that the publicity blurb highlights:

  • an authentic, working fish market
  • an exciting new public destination for Sydney
  • a cultural anchor and urban connector
  • a meeting place for community activities
  • an inspiring icon on Sydney’s world-renowned harbour.

It is quite a surprise that they claim to have incorporated all the existing Fishmarket activities into the current footprint of the cement works over four levels:

  • basement level car parking (under water)
  • ground floor auction house, wholesale tenancies, fishing vessel wharves and loading dock
  • first floor market hall restaurants, food stalls, fresh seafood sales and retail
  • mezzanine level office space, bar and the popular Sydney Seafood School

It is especially pleasing that the height of the building will be just less than that of the magnificent fig trees in Wentworth Park. Several features have been incorporated to ensure the building has a high 5 star sustainability rating.

And – based on the artists’ impressions – the structure looks terrific. The whole of the waterfront view will be opened with the removal of the old building and remnant wall currently blocking views from Wentworth Park into the Bay. This will be a welcome improvement of the current sight lines.

The building will include two sizable public plazas and will be surrounded by a new 300 metre foreshore promenade.

The Sydney Fish Market’s promenade on Blackwattle Bay (image:

The one very big caveat is, of course, the myriad of apparently insoluble problems associated with the site on Bridge Rd at the head of Blackwattle Bay which will impinge on the operation of the facility with its proposed 6 million visitors each year. And of course, the flow-on implications for the surrounding areas will be considerable.

It is very doubtful that they have been able to provide for adequate car or bus parking for patrons or tourists – or the multiple pressures on Bridge Rd and the congested junctions into the city, Pyrmont and Anzac Bridge. The increased pressures will begin with the construction phase from mid-2019 to end of 2023.

To be fair to the architects, they have clearly given considerable thought to the problems and have made such provision as they could without knowledge as to how any of the area’s traffic or transport problems will be addressed by the Government when the combined impact of WestConnex, City Metro, the new harbour tunnel – and the redevelopment of the old Fishmarket site – is finally sorted.

They have provided for some options. The wharf at the Pyrmont end of the facility could be used as a ferry stop – but they admit its main purpose is more likely to be for private boats – including smaller super yachts!

There will be improved links to the nearby light rail stations – including an underground passage from the current Fishmarket station to allow pedestrians to avoid the busy and very ugly road maze.

They have considered separate bicycle and pedestrian paths and separating meandering and commuter cyclists – but it seems doubtful that they have the space to do the latter without pushing commuter cyclists onto the very dangerous Bridge Rd.

They were not permitted to proceed with their initial idea of access by a walkway over Bridge Rd from Wentworth Park.

It is of note that they abandoned an initial plan of dredging to remove the large quantity of sludge from the Bay floor – instead they will drill through the sludge to the rock floor and build on ‘stilts’. This has changed their original design for underwater construction quite a bit and I suspect has limited the parking space.

Next steps
There will be a public consultation process in relation to the Development Application. This was scheduled to begin in November so it should be soon. Given we are running into the Christmas holidays we can only hope that the timeframe will run at least until the end of January.

There is a danger that the volatile political considerations currently in play and the proximity of the State elections could tempt the Government to insist on a short consultation period. We should be ready to resist a very short timeframe.

The Glebe Society will of course put in a submission. This is an important issue for our community – and for the wider Sydney community. We will need to consult with our Glebe and Forest Lodge community and to work in close consultation with other resident groups around the Bays.

As soon as the DA is made public and we know the timeframe we will activate an appropriate local consultation process.


Urban Growth NSW is holding two information sessions where the project team will be available to answer questions:

  • Tuesday 4 December, 5.30-8.30pm, St Barnabas Church, 57-61 Mountain St, Ultimo
  • Saturday 8 December, 9am-12pm, St Barnabas Church, 57-61 Mountain St, Ultimo
  • They will also have stalls at Glebe Markets on Saturday 1 December and Broadway Shopping Centre Saturday 15 December.