BY ALEC SMART
There is growing concern among residents in the inner west that the NSW Government’s Sydenham to Bankstown ‘Urban Renewal Corridor’ will swamp the area with high-rise developments, attracting thousands of new residents, leading to traffic gridlocks and public transport unable to cope with the increase in numbers.
The planning department of the Inner West Council (IWC) has been inundated with 15 rezoning proposals that aim to develop industrial sites – former factories now used by light industry and arts projects – and commercial land into apartments, many of them high-rise. At least 5864 dwellings are currently proposed, with the fears of many more in the works.
Although the IWC is responsible for assessing the plans and demanding alterations or reductions to the proposals, the final say for their go-ahead remains with the NSW State Government’s planning department, which retains the right to veto IWC’s objections.
Plans include a multi-storey development on Parramatta Road, Ashfield; five new residential buildings with over 320 apartments and a redeveloped gaming venue on three blocks of land owned by Petersham RSL Club south of Petersham Station; and a massive development of 20 buildings containing 2616 apartments on Carrington Road, Marrickville with buildings up to 100 metres tall.
IWC Mayor Darcy Byrne has branded the latter ‘monstrous in scale’. Posters have appeared in protest across the inner-west declaring, ‘Marrickville, not Mirvacville’,
IWC Councillor Pauline Lockie told City Hub, “The original impetus for those posters, and the growing concern about development in Marrickville, was the announcement of the Berejiklian Government’s Sydenham to Bankstown ‘Urban Renewal Corridor’. From memory, these plans would see Marrickville go from around 4,000 dwellings (houses or apartments) today to around 10,000 over the next 15-20 years.
“It’s not clear whether that 10,000 projection includes existing developments, such as Marrickville Hospital – even our staff couldn’t get clarity around this. It definitely doesn’t include the scale of what Mirvac are proposing for Carrington Rd, which is far higher than the rezoning proposed in the Sydenham to Bankstown strategy. In fact the Carrington Rd proposal is so high that it doesn’t meet height restrictions for Sydney Airport.”
IWC Councillor John Stamolis told City Hub, “For the last 3 years the number of building approvals in NSW has been above 70,000 dwellings on an annual basis. Absorbing this very sharp increase over such a short period is impacting heavily on many communities and there is no doubt that fatigue and major pressure is affecting many suburbs. People are asking questions about how this sort of increase is being planned for and the answer is simple, it isn’t.
“It’s very hard to properly plan for this sort of increase and clearly NSW government is falling short in this vital area. Look at the recent surveys which show how people are feeling about this scale of development and how it is impacting on communities throughout Sydney. Planning is woeful but the huge developments keep coming at us.”
Cr Lockie added, “I think the problem is more that these plans appear to have been pushed through by developers, with little genuine consultation with communities that will be affected. As a result, we’re seeing areas marked for large-scale rezonings with seemingly scant regard for preserving what people love about their neighbourhoods (which presumably will be what would attract people to want to live in apartments being built here).
“Of even more concern, we’re seeing these plans pushed through with no planning or funding for all the other infrastructure communities need to cope with massive increases in density – including new parks and open spaces, healthcare services, schools, improvements to local roads and storm-water services, etc.”
“Developers have got the message that they only have to pretend to engage with council and the community before pursuing approval through a gateway process at the earliest opportunity,” IWC Mayor Darcy Byrne told Fairfax Media.
“At the same time the Sydenham to Bankstown and Parramatta Road strategies — even before they are adopted into law — are being used as justification for developers to submit massive proposals that would never have been considered before. That tactic is being carried out across the local government area and my concern is that the council and residents have been removed from the process.”
The Inner West Council has stated that it is virtually ‘powerless’ to take on the Berejiklian Government’s housing agenda juggernaut. Revised planning laws allow the NSW Government’s Planning Department to take control of rezoning proposals if they consider them to be of ‘clear strategic merit’, which effectively bypasses local interests and gives a green light to developers to run roughshod over community concerns.