BY JESSICA DE VERA
In June this year, the Inner West Council approved the plans for the rezoning of Victoria Road Precinct in Marrickville, despite community criticism and the decision being made while the council was still in transition.
The plans are now set for forwarding to the Minister for Planning, and if approved, they will become official, clearing the path for a 15-20 year construction project.
An Inner West Council spokesperson confirmed, “The Department and Minister for Planning are considering the matter and are in discussions with Roads and Maritime Services regarding Traffic issues.”
According to the planning proposals available on the Inner West Council website, the new Precinct is anticipated to have approximately 1100 new high-and medium-density dwellings with an increased height in buildings to anywhere between three and 14 storeys high, with only 3% of the housing for affordable housing.
The Marrickville Community Planning Collective (MCPC) has criticised lack of parking and high-rise buildings looming over the public school ground.
“The Precinct is in a flood zone, [with] soil not suitable for major development, under the flight path, a security risk to planes, [plus] loss of employment, lands [and] not much mention of affordable housing.”
There are serious concerns over whether the surrounding infrastructure will be able to support the influx of traffic if the Precinct is to begin construction.
The Inner West Council, which approved the plans in June while under the management of an administrator, prior to the Sept 9 Local Council Elections, stated, “the Administrator resolved that Council forward the Planning Proposal to the Minister of Planning indicting its support of the proposal, subject to numerous changes, including resolving objections of Roads and Maritime Services in relation to traffic and road infrastructure upgrades.”
Philip Hardy, local resident, said, “For the residents, it will be more pressure on our already overwhelmed services and infrastructure. We see no investment in these areas, so there is no balance,” he said.
Councillor Pauline Lockie, Independent Member for Inner West Council, said, “I’m deeply concerned that developments such as the Victoria Road Precinct and the Sydenham to Bankstown corridor will result in huge numbers of extra dwellings in our area, without the extra schools, health services, public and active transport upgrades, green spaces and so on that we’d need to cope.”
Areas like Marrickville are attractive for redevelopment because of their proximity to railway lines and employment hubs. But Colin Hesse, Greens Councillor, said, “This redevelopment won’t decrease, but increase the housing prices.
“If you want to live in a 2-bedroom home, there’ll be less of them so it’s more expensive to buy those. So the choice is to live in a unit and those units themselves will be expensive if they’re near railway lines and jobs.
“The people who are marginal are further marginalised because they are forced to live away from public transport and accessible jobs. In fact, what we’re doing is setting up a city that is more divided between those who have some kind of stake in the system and those that don’t.”
Residents aren’t the only demographic affected by the rezoning plan. Existing businesses, including many local manufacturers, creative businesses and artists, may be forced to pay increased rents in a mixed residential/industrial model, or leave.
“The rezoning proposal is set to push out a number of local businesses,” said Mr. Hardy, “with the loss of local employment. I am all for urban renewal, but the development proposal is for excessive residential overdevelopment. This is not what I want to see in our local community and it offers no value, just a healthier return for the landowner and developer.
“We have already seen the outcome of Wolli Creek and Mascot: soulless wind tunnels.
A spokesperson for the MCPC said, “The precinct should form part of the Sydenham creative precinct. We don’t want Marrickville ending up like Wolli Creek.”
“I know businesses that are struggling to find new local industrial sites for their expanding businesses,” said Mr. Hardy. “This and other proposed developments, like that of the Carrington Road redevelopment, would see industry pushed out from our area. We will see the loss of our diverse community and further sterilization.”
Councillor Hesse added, “The truth of it is, without any hindrance from the Council, creative industries already exist and work there.
“The areas that are around Victoria Road and Carrington Road are places which are full of creative people. They [Council] consistently force these industries out through re-zonings that benefit the big guys and not the little guys.”
“Their proposal of retail outlets is not what we need,” said Mr. Hardy. “We need the continuation and protection of our thriving local industry. There is a claim that industry is reducing. But what I have seen locally is nothing but growth in our area.”
The plans have been rejected by the Department of Planning once before and now that the Council has elected their members, a few Greens Councillors and Independent members are hoping to resurface discussion about the rezoning.
“The Victoria Road Precinct proposal was approved by the unelected Administrator,” said Councillor Lockie, “subject to a number of conditions. This was done against the recommendation of Council staff, which raised a number of very serious concerns about the proposal.
“But I’ll be speaking to Council staff about this over the next week to find out what our options are in this regard,” she added.
Councillor Hesse added, “It’s clearly, in my view, a project that which has been supported by the Labor party with the Liberals and the conservative Independent on the former Marrickville Council, above the interests of the community. It’s my intention to see what we can do. I think it’s a really poor bit of process.”
Jo Haylen MP, State Member for Summer Hill and former Mayor of Marrickville Council, also has reservations about the Precinct project.
On her website she states, “The proposed developments – known as the Victoria Road Precinct – go too far and asks too much of the surrounding community.
“The precinct is a massive 18 hectares in the heart of Marrickville, making it the largest redevelopment proposal in our area. The proposal would completely change the shape and character of Marrickville. It is critical that it is change for the better, not just for the betterment of developers.
“While the community appreciates that some change to density and use on the site is forseeable, there are serious concerns about the scale of the proposed development and the significant impacts on community amenity.
“I share the community’s concerns at the proposed development.”
For more information, visit the Inner West Council’s website: http://www.yoursayinnerwest.com.au/have-your-say-on-a-planning-proposal-for-the-victoria-road-precinct-in-marrickville