16/SF579: Submission on the Victoria Road Precinct by Jo Haylen MP
As the Inner West experiences an unprecedented rate of growth, uncertainty also grows about how much of our suburbs we surrender to developers.
Sydney is growing and we need to find space to account for that growth. But it’s clear the inner west is being asked to absorb more than its fair share of density.
The State Government is set to shortly announce its plans for the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor, which will account for 100,000 people alone along the existing T3 Train Line, with nine storey buildings planned up to 400 metres from Marrickville and Dulwich Hill stations.
Last week, the Government released its final plans for the Parramatta Road strategy, bringing 27,000 new dwellings to the corridor and over 60,000 new people.
On top of that, the Greater Sydney Commission’s draft plans released today slate an extra 5,900 dwellings for the Inner West Council area.
The scale and aesthetics of the development we’re asked to accept is increasingly at odds with community expectations. Intensive development like that in Lewisham and Summer Hill place increased demands on community infrastructure including schools, child care centres and hospitals. Pressure on our already scarce open and recreational spaces is intensifying.
At the same time, developments fail to fit in with the heritage character of our neighbourhoods.
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.
As Mayor of the former Marrickville Council, I opposed the initial plans for the site and Council’s decision to approve the preliminary proposal for the Victoria Road precinct proceed through the Gateway planning process.
On 2 September 2014, I moved a Mayoral Minute to ensure community consultation occur before the proposal was submitted to the Gateway process. At the time, I said, “To not have so much as a conversation with our residents is irresponsible and goes against everything we stand for at Marrickville Council.”
The proposal was withdrawn after advice from the Department of Planning and Environment, amended before being resubmitted by Council to the Gateway process. I also opposed Council forwarding the proposal at this time.
I have a number of objections to the current proposal for the site:
Scale and Density
The proposal includes 1,100 apartment dwellings in buildings of between three and 14 storeys. This will be a dramatic increase in the population of this area. I hold concerns about the resultant impacts of such an increase in population, including significant stress on the road network and a reduction in the visual amenity afforded to existing residents and businesses in this location.
While the provision of three-storey interfaces on a number of precinct borders goes some in way in alleviating the impacts on the neighbouring sites, there remains some highly incompatible built forms proposed across the precinct.
The provision in the DCP for two 14-storey tower forms is entirely incompatible with the surrounding suburb, including the proposal of a tower sitting adjacent to Wicks Park. The site is in close proximity to Sydney Airport.
This will likely have significant overshadowing impacts which are not addressed adequately in the Planning Proposal documents or the DCP.
There remain residential interfaces which will expose existing low density dwelling houses to buildings of five or seven storeys in height, including at Edinburgh Road and Sydenham Road borders. This will be an incompatible scale of development to adjoin low density residential.
The precinct would place significant pressure on Marrickville Public School, which is already anticipating growth as population increases at the site. Nearby Wilkins Public School is approaching capacity. I share community concerns about the impacts of the proposal on the school, including:
- Density and height of the proposal;
- Physical impacts on the school, including overshadowing;
- Additional traffic congestion around the school, which is already a significant concern;
- Impacts on student learning during the many years of construction, as well as the removal of unsafe materials such as asbestos from adjoining industrial properties;
- Additional pressure on underfunded school infrastructure from an increased school population.
While the area is close to Sydenham Station and bus routes, there is not enough provision in the current proposal to improve connectivity to Sydenham Station. This will mean residents will drive to the station or to work, increasing traffic on already congested local streets.
Any proposal for the area must address the interface between the precinct and Sydenham Station to improve walkability and reduce traffic impacts.
Employment Character & Industrial Heritage
This proposal will include a significant loss of industrial lands in the Inner West Council Local Government Area. The B5 Business Development zone, which is the primary employment lands zoning proposed, will facilitate a different employment character including an emphasis on bulky goods retailing and the like.
According to the NSW Planning & Environment Employment Lands Development Program 2015 Report, only 21% of Metropolitan Sydney’s employment lands are located in the Central, North and South subregions, with the remainder located in Sydney’s Western subregions. Offering a diversity of employment opportunities, including vibrant industrial uses, in the Central subregion is crucial to ensuring that the inner city remains a socioeconomically equitable area.
The retention of some industrially zoned land would facilitate a greater diversity of employment opportunities, as the B5 Business Development zone will facilitate a different employment character to the existing development in this area.
Additionally, the precinct boasts a growing and vibrant arts and culture scene, including the Factory Theatre and Red Rattler and the Marrickville Bowling Club, which is a popular site for live music and local events.
The area has increasingly provided studio space for artists and musicians and with occupancy in the adjacent Sydenham Station Creative Hub at a premium, many of these creative artists and industries will be forced to leave the area.
Creative businesses including the Grifter Brewing Company, Factory Theatre and others will be adversely affected and I am concerned that pushing innovative businesses from the precinct will be to the detriment of Marrickville and the Inner West more broadly.
The precinct has a rich and significant industrial heritage and we should support those working to keep small-scale manufacturing alive in the inner west. The provisions for mixed-use in the current proposals do not go far enough to protect this important aspect of Marrickville’s character.
The proposal includes a requirement for 3% of the residential floor space to be used as affordable housing. This falls far below community expectation. The minimal amount of affordable housing provided will only serve to create a larger socioeconomic disparity in this region.
Unless further affordable housing is provided on this site, it is likely this development will represent nothing more than another phase of the ongoing gentrification of our community.
By way of comparison, the Baird Government has set a target of 5% for the Parramatta Road strategy. In Vancouver, Canada, the target is 20%; in San Francisco it is 15-20%; 30% in Amsterdam; and the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has indicated a target of 40-50% for affordable housing.
The precinct lies directly beneath the flight path and I share community concern about the safety risks and noise impacts. It should be noted that hundreds of homes were acquired and demolished in Sydenham for the opening of the Third Runway – a mere kilometre away.
Furthermore, thousands more homes were included in the Sydney Noise Insulation Program. It is clear this is not an area where we should be depositing thousands of extra dwellings.
The proposed height of the proposals raises important questions about safety and also the amenity of residents living at the site. This proposal puts thousands of extra residents back into one of the noisiest precincts in the country.
Residential development is generally unacceptable in the ANEF 25-30 area and the proposed development in this area represents an exemption from the traditional standards. As such, it must be ensured that the Aircraft Noise Strategy proposed is adhered to and strict conditions written into any consent issued for development within this precinct.
As noted throughout the Planning Proposal documents, the area comprises flood liable land and as such areas of the site are constrained. While some consideration is given to the impacts of flooding, some issues remain unresolved, including the evacuation routes for sensitive residential development on Faversham Street. It is recommended that all flooding issues be resolved prior to finalisation of the Planning Proposal and written into the DCP to afford the community certainty on these issues.
I propose a number of recommendations to ensure this proposal proceeds in line with community expectations:
- Significant revision of the height and FSR afforded to developments on the site, particularly the removal of any high density developments of between eight and 14 storeys;
- Reconsideration of the residential density proposed to ensure that there are no unacceptable pressures placed on community infrastructure, such as schools, or the surrounding road network;
- Further consideration of the residential interfaces of the precinct to ensure that existing low density housing is not exposed to any significant densities;
- A requirement for more green space and a rejection of height that will cause overshadowing of Wicks Park;
- A requirement that the proposal must improve the interface along Sydenham Road to Sydenham Station, improving walkability in the precinct;
- Increase the provision of affordable housing well above 3% of residential floor space to be in keeping with international best practice;
- Retention of some industrially-zoned land to ensure that elements of the existing character will be retained in the precinct;
- Finalisation of flooding issues to provide certainty to surrounding properties and future residents of the area;
- Commitment to enforce strict acoustic measures in light of the significant aircraft noise which is to be experienced by future residents on the site.