Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

The City of Sydney’s consultation process for Harold Park Paceway descended into disunity at the secondary presentation of a draft urban design study in February, where numerous residents expressed their unhappiness with the level of housing development planned for the area.

The sale of Harold Park has resulted in a large open space being made available on the border of Glebe and Annandale. Assistant Government Architect from the Government Architect’s Office, Helen Lochhead, said five options had been considered for the overall layout of the site. These included the creation of a major new open space in the historical location of the paceway; enhancing the existing valley floor green space along Minogue Crescent; or a green corridor through the centre of the site.

The preferred option, however, is to preserve and extend the existing vegetation corridor along the cliff face “into a major new green space”. This alternative allows the sandstone cliff presently behind the grandstands to be revealed, as well as allowing a biodiversity corridor, tramshed park, and extension of parkland. Total green space is anticipated to range between 25 and 30 per cent of the overall site.

But when talk turned to the level of housing on the site, residents’ concerns quickly came to the fore. The plan projects an average, taken across the entire site, of 90-110 dwellings per hectare, with building heights to be between three and eight storeys. Although it is a draft proposal at this stage, not endorsed by City of Sydney Council or the Central Sydney Planning Committee, this was sufficiently concerning to some. “I have to say I’m shocked at the amount of housing development on the site,” a female attendee said, to applause from the crowd.

Andrew Thomas, Executive Manager City Plan for the City of Sydney, defended the draft proposal. “The level of housing shown in the concept plans, both the height and storeys, is put forward as an option,” he said. “And what we’ve shown there is the upper range of what we’d consider a reasonable response, trying to balance broader state planning objectives as well as local planning objectives.”

“The [Planning] Minister has chosen to give Council and the Central Sydney Planning Committee the responsibility to develop these planning controls, and we are trying to do that in a responsible way.”

Local resident Chris Newton said a number of people had walked out or simply not bothered to attend as they recognised the “futility” of the process. “We do not have a choice – everything is overdeveloped,” she said. “This community does not owe Harold Park a cent – Harold Park has been supported for years from the State Government and the TAB. They’ve already got their facility at Menangle – the money that they get from this is just going to prizemoney, that’s what they state in their report that they gave Council.”

Further community consultation sessions will take place over coming months.