Artist's impression of new scaly-roofed fish market Credit: NSW Government

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By JOAN HENSON

City of Sydney councillors have rejected Deputy Lord Mayor Linda Scott’s call to propose an alternate plan for the Sydney Fish Market’s redevelopment, but will lobby instead to release the overdue Bays Precinct master plan.

A Monday June 24 motion affirmed that principles developed over the last 20 years as guidelines for the precinct’s planning be considered in the plan – which was commissioned two years ago.

Councillor Scott urged that Council’s opposition to the alienation of public land and foreshore serve as its policy, to ensure “any forthcoming development application is assessed by the city with clear views on the record.”

The NSW Government proposes to relocate the fish market to Blackwattle Bay, with 2760 new apartments earmarked for the current Pyrmont site.

Scott had suggested Council provide an alternative proposal, as it did for the redevelopment of Waterloo public housing estate earlier this year. She said that Tokyo, San Francisco and Melbourne fish market redevelopments provide inspiration.

Architect and councillor, Philip Thalis, told City Hub that “as was the case at Waterloo,” the City should see the master plan, “before commissioning work that may duplicate what the state government has already spent money on.”

Lesley Lynch convenes the Glebe Society’s (GS) Bays and Foreshore Committee, and has, since 2009, participated in multiple consultation rounds with government representatives.

Her group was consulted by Scott in forming her proposal to Council.

For over a year, UrbanGrowth NSW told GS that the release of the new market’s development application was imminent. With the corporation’s recent dissolution, the future of an integrated planning approach seems uncertain to community groups.

“Given that the proponent of the development is Infrastructure NSW and the consent authority is the Minister, the community could be forgiven for feeling any objections or concerns it puts forward are not likely to have much impact,” Lynch said.

Affordable housing is the next battle

“Our next battle will be to argue that if there is to be major residential development on the current site, it should include a significant proportion of affordable and social housing.” Designating 30 to 50 per cent as affordable housing would put NSW “on par with other parts of the developed world”.

Hands Off Glebe want to see evidence of amenities to service potential Pyrmont residents in upcoming plans.

“There’s no sign that new schools will be built”, said representative, Hannah Middleton, who noted that a pop-up school was already being convened at Wentworth Park.

Further concerns include: environmental risks associated with disturbing toxic sediments during Blackwattle Bay excavations; new tidal flows impacting mangrove populations; and traffic congestion contributing to pollution.

Spokesperson Denis Doherty said that Hands Off Glebe were not consulted about Councillor Scott’s motion, but that it was a costly and rare request.

Although Council put considerable effort and funding into the Waterloo plan it looks “destined for failure” because of its state significant designation.

“It becomes a question of: should we bash our head up against a brick wall, or have the D.A. modified?”, he said.

Elizabeth Elenius from Pyrmont Action Group (PAG) said she advised Scott that in a January Community Reference Group (CRG) meeting, members were briefed that a “master plan was being developed. The CRG were briefed on the planners’ thinking on “what to do with the current fish markets site”.

Elenius said the group was advised that at this stage the information remain confidential.

The CRG have not met since, and PAG has not considered an alternate plan, as “so far we have not seen even a draft master plan from the Government”.

Past master plans were scrapped 

Community reference groups have developed planning principles in the Master Plans for Rozelle and Blackwattle Bay, which were, according to Elenius, “generally agreed on by the community”.

But she said that these approved plans were “thrown out when the Coalition came to power”, although “the community has tried to resurrect them in later CRGs”.

Lynch says that community groups support the need for an upgraded fish market but reject the proposed site.

“Every taskforce or reference group I’ve been on, including one convened by the Cabinet Office has taken as a given, that the head of Blackwattle Bay was not suitable for any future building or development as there is no actual foreshore.”

She said it was understood that the Bay “should be opened up to provide a public view and direct link with Wentworth Park”.

Responding to community concerns that state significant status would prevent an appeal of the government’s proposal, Councillor Thalis said, “we can challenge decisions through community and political actions. The campaign for Sirius being a case in point”.

In Council, Councillor Christine Forster said the community could provide comment in consultation sessions for the new market, expected later this year.