This report will be briefer than last year's, as some of the issues have been resolved. As predicted, the year was dominated by the CityPlan, the Review of Planning Legislation and the Stage 1 Development Application for Harold Park. Concerning the fourth major issue, the Glebe Affordable Housing Project, there has been no news and nothing has happened apart from clearing the site, so although our concerns remain I will not refer to it again.
Our greatest success was the CityPlan, which was approved in March by Council with almost all the amendments we requested. We now await the decision of the Department of Planning.
The situation with regard to Harold Park remains basically unaltered. This was expected. We have made many attempts to reduce the height of the buildings so they do not come above the cliff line, and also attempted to have the site configuration adjusted to improve access from Annandale and Forest Lodge. Despite a great deal of pressure from residents, including two and a half hours of persuasive argument to the Central Sydney Planning Committee on 26 July, the Committee members remained resistant to any substantial change (it is worth noting they also resisted proposed changes from the developer).
We should continue to press for the best possible result, but in the absence of any unexpected seismic shift we should assume the proposal will continue pretty much as approved, so far as the configuration, density and road system are concerned. We will have further opportunity to comment when the architectural plans are advertised. I do not expect resident concerns will go away. They would have continued even if we had managed to obtain a reduction. The greatest continuing concern will be traffic, because the road system on the Crescent (as everywhere in Sydney) is already congested at peaks. The microsimulation traffic study predicts only minor increases in travel times, and suggests some improvements, but this is unlikely to satisfy a lot of people. Construction of the new intersection at Minogue Crescent has been brought forward, but not as much as we requested.
The change that would make the most difference is not connected with Harold Park at all. The extension of the Light Rail through the CBD would make public transport a viable option for most new occupants, and it is in the interest of everyone that we support this vigorously. The results of the feasibility study should be released shortly.
The green Paper for the Review of Planning Legislation is up for comment until 14 September. It proposes a major rewrite, not only of the Act but of all the planning instruments as well. This would be a lengthy and costly process. The most controversial aspect of the Paper is its attempt to satisfy the claims of developers. This is seen in the reliance on extensive consultation with the community at the strategic planning stage, and the curtailment, or possibly elimination, of objections at the development application stage. It requires a huge leap of faith to see how it would ever be possible to interest the community in strategic planning, no matter what techniques were used. Most people only become interested in development when there is a concrete proposal that affects them. Also, it is difficult to see how such strategic plans differ from instruments such as the CityPlan, which is concerned precisely with the task of mapping what kind and extent of development will be permitted where.
However well intended the Paper might be, it does not really reflect the input or recommendations of the review, and is likely to be seen as unworkable by those with experience, and undesirable by resident groups.
Neil Macindoe