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An increasingly loud voice, comprised of local politicians, community action groups and residents, is demanding the two and-a-half hectares around the Rozelle Tram Sheds be excluded from the development proposal for Harold Park Paceway.

On April 12, about 100 residents met in response to City of Sydney Council’s draft plans, with concerns quickly emerging about aspects including public space, parking, traffic, heritage and aesthetics.

The meeting was chaired by Leichhardt Mayor Jamie Parker, Greens City of Sydney Councillor Chris Harris, and representatives of the Glebe Society and the Glebe Chamber of Commerce.

Speakers said the current owners of Harold Park, the NSW Harness Racing Club, should not be allowed to profit from selling the sheds because they were acquired with public money.

The club purchased the sheds with $2.2 million from a NSW Government fund of TAB profits when it was a statutory authority, but has since been privatised.

Chief Executive of the NSW Harness Racing Club, John Dumesny, said the deal was a fair one.

“It’s not public money; it’s money that we earned, that’s set aside and put in a fund and we utilise that fund for worthwhile purchases, in this case, or developments,” he said.

But Executive Member of the Glebe Chamber of Commerce, Chris Newton, said ownership of the sheds should go to the NSW Government. She expressed a desire for the sheds to be restored and opened up for community use and heritage purposes.

“The Harness Racing club has done absolutely nothing with the tram sheds,” she said.

The Club says it sought approval for a gymnasium conversion and later for office accommodation, but was rejected by successive councils despite its inclusion of heritage retention clauses.

The meeting also argued for reductions to the height and density of the proposed eight-storey buildings, attractive and usable public open space, environmental sustainability, and improved connections between surrounding areas.

Cr Parker said there were compelling reasons to have more housing closer to the city, but that City of Sydney Council’s proposal was out of balance.

“It’s about servicing the requirements that the state government is putting on local government in terms of pressure to hit housing numbers,” he said.

“We will work to make sure that it’s a development that serves the local community well and doesn’t just serve the leasing industry and the development industry.”

Mr Dumesny approved of Council’s approach.

“They’ve certainly called ample community consultation meetings,” he said.

Andrew Thomas, a senior member of the Council Planning Committee, attended the meeting but declined to comment on proceedings.

Cr Harris urged residents to lobby the Committee.

by Lawrence Bull