Site of the new Sydney Fish Market at Blackwattle Bay. Photo: Michael Hitch

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By Michael Hitch

A design for the new Sydney Fish Markets (SFM) has been revealed amidst concerns of increased parking and traffic pressure in Pyrmont and a loss of limited public land.

The largest fish market in the southern hemisphere will be relocated to the eastern end of the Blackwattle Bay foreshore, opposite Wentworth Park and will undergo a complete makeover featuring a fish scale inspired roof, ferry stops and a waterfront promenade.

Despite praise for the market’s exceptional design and long-needed revitalisation, Pyrmont residents have expressed concerns that already existing issues such as lack of accessible parking and congested traffic will worsen, with the annual number of visitors to the markets expected to double to 6 million annually.

Convenor of the Pyrmont Action Group, Elizabeth Elenius said that while she and other residents were thrilled with the market’s revitalisation, there are still concerns about the impact on Pyrmont’s liveability.

“The biggest concern of course has been all along the impact on traffic and the lack of public transport and parking the area,” she said.

“I certainly like it and a number of others who’ve been involved in this for years and years like it as well but traffic and parking is tricky.

“They could double the number of trains that go along the light rail but they’re reluctant to buy any more trains for that line because it’s got a different gauge from George Street to Kensington.

“Overall, it’s been a very favourable reception to the thing, but the traffic and parking remain a serious issue that I don’t think anyone’s resolved. I just don’t see how it’s going to play out well, the tour buses now are already a terrible nuisance in Pyrmont.”

“We did propose that they construct a multi-level carpark on the council owned Fig and Wattle Street depot site, but Council have been adamant that they’re selling it commercially. Pyrmont’s not going to see that money either way.”

The current markets site is 50 per cent owned by a number of retail and wholesale tenants onsite and 50 per cent owned by the Catchers Trust, which is made up of approximately 700 unit holding fishermen in NSW.

The revitalised market is expected to open in 2023 and cost roughly $250 million, though it is expected costs will increase.

The SFM board and the boards of both SFM shareholder groups have all signed a letter to government reaffirming their commitment to the project.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the new markets would be positioned over the water as the centrepiece of a harbour-side precinct, including community spaces and an expanded seafood cooking school.

The fish scale roof will use harbour winds to remove heat from the building in order to minimize need for air-conditioning and will also harvest rainwater, which will be treated and recycled.

The design was commissioned last year and is being led by Danish architects 3XN, in partnership with Sydney firms BVN and Aspect Studios.

Domestic architects Allen Jack + Cottier (AJ+C) were originally chosen however the firm’s design was controversially put aside. This decision raised criticism that Australian architects are losing their input into iconic Australian architecture and that the new markets will be dubbed a ‘cultural cringe’.

Other issues potentially stemming from the relocation include a loss of public land with the MP for Balmain, Jamie Parker saying in a press release that the proposal is specifically designed to turn a profit through property development, rather than benefit the public.

“The details of the new fish market development released today are designed to deliver public waterfront land to property developers at the expense of our local community,” he said.

“By relocating the fish markets, the government will free up space on that site and surrounds for up to 2760 new apartments – a development three times the size of the Harold Park.

“There are no plans for facilities or infrastructure to support the growing number of apartments in the area.

“The much-needed renewal of Sydney’s waterfront must not come at the price of community access to publicly owned waterfront land or the liveability of our city.

“Considering Urban Growth NSW is little more than a government-run property development agency, it’s not surprising that they plan to pay for this massive redevelopment by selling-off the current fish markets site to developers,” said Mr Parker.

Marketing Executive of the Sydney Fish Markets, Kelly Seagrave said that the public will benefit greatly from the development, and says SFM board expects to be kept in the loop about the future of the existing site.

“When we move to the new site we will surrender the lease for our existing site, so its future use will be determined by government as the landowner. We are comfortable that we will be consulted in the normal manner about future uses of adjacent land and about the plan,” she said.

“Given that the government has announced plans for a boardwalk to connect Blackwattle Bay to the rest of the harbour, we are confident that public access to the waterfront will be enhanced and retained at the original site.”