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Waterloo Plan Changes - REDWatch Update

Below you will find REDWatch's analysis of the material released by Council and LAHC about the rezoning proposal for Waterloo South LAHC have submitted to the City of Sydney Council. This material was sent out as a REDWatch Email Update to Members, Supporters and Agencies

 You can use the links below to go directly to the information of interest:

LAHC submits plan for half of Waterloo Estate

LAHC divides Waterloo Estate into three precincts

Waterloo South Precinct Plan

What does the Southern proposal tell us about the final development

What happens Next?

Council will handle Community Engagement

How did we find out about the Waterloo South proposal?

Human Service Plan

Update 16 June - Plan for Waterloo South still not released


LAHC submits plan for half of Waterloo Estate

Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) in mid-May submitted their planning proposal for half the Waterloo Estate to City of Sydney Council. In this update, I have dissected what we know and don’t know from the information that has so far seeped out. If you just want the links to the primary sources, they are below.

Government Sources:

City of Sydney Sources:

Media Sources

LAHC divides Waterloo Estate into three precincts

For planning purposes, Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) has divided Waterloo Estate into three precincts:

  • Waterloo North – this area includes Marton, Turanga, Matavi and Solander
  • Waterloo Central – this area includes Banks, Cook and shops
  • Waterloo South – all the walk-ups and the midrise within the redevelopment area.

You can see a map of the new precincts on the Waterloo page of the Communities Plus website

Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) has just lodged a rezoning plan for Waterloo South with the City of Sydney. Nothing has been lodged for the North and Central Waterloo precincts which are listed on LAHC’s earlier indicative staging plan as not being developed for another 13-18 years.

Like the splitting of the Waterloo Metro from the Waterloo Estate, putting in an application for one part of the site will make it difficult for the community to assess how the bits may interact with other bits. For example, what happens on the Central and Northern precinct may adversely affect sunlight the central park in the southern precinct, but assessment of the park will have to be done against what is there now, not knowing what might be built there in the future.

Waterloo South Precinct Plan

The lodged proposal, called “Waterloo South”, covers 12.32 hectares or 65 percent of the total master planned site. This area includes 749 existing public housing units, consisting of all the walk-ups and the mid-rises within the Estate. The area covered by the rezoning application also covers all 125 privately owned dwellings and the commercial property as shown on the map mentioned above.

The key feature of “Waterloo South” is the delivery of the two promised parks, including a central park adjacent to the new Metro station similar to that requested by Council. Open space has increased by 4,000m2 over the earlier plan, to 2.57ha. The amended proposal also includes wider tree-lined streets and expanded bike paths.

The lodged plan delivers 3,000 dwellings in Waterloo South plus the park, space for businesses, shops and community facilities. Social housing will make up 30 per cent (900 units). The balance 70 per cent is private and affordable housing, but no information about how many affordable housing units might be provided is revealed.

The Waterloo Communities Plus website provides artist impressions of what might be built. Remember the application that has been submitted is about land uses, heights and the amount of floor space and not the design of buildings. The artist impressions just give some idea of the heights and layout, but there is no indicative map showing of layout of the proposed southern precinct.

From a media release, we know there are two parks but nothing in the artist impressions show us where the extra park is or what it might be like.

The community requested the release of all information equivalent to that supplied for LAHC’s earlier preferred plan if the proposal changed, but this has not happened.

You can see a fly-through of parts of the Waterloo South proposal here on the Telegraph website. Still artist impressions can be found in this large PDF (15MB) here and three others artist impressions on the Communities Plus Waterloo site.

What does the Southern proposal tell us about the final development

LAHC says it has cut the maximum building heights from 40 to 32 storeys. This compares with Council’s suggested 13 storeys. Where the earlier preferred master plan plan aimed for 6,800 dwellings across the entire estate, according to the Sunday Telegraph the new plan is for 6,200.

In the media release Minister Pavey said, “…the proposal will include an additional 100 new social housing dwellings in the area”. It is not clear if this refers to only the southern area where there will be an increase of 151 social housing units or if this sets an estate-wide target increase to 2,112.

Artist impression of the new park shows the existing high-rises in the background. Before any redevelopment of the towers, there would be 2,163 social housing units – 900 in Waterloo South and 1,263 in the existing high-rises. Thirty per cent of the proposed 6,200 would only deliver 1,860 social housing units.

In the 2011 redevelopment proposal, the towers were not included for redevelopment as they were said to be in sound condition, but infill development was proposed around them. Council in its alternative plan proposed retaining and renovating some of the towers as a way to deliver more social housing. LAHC’s early options kept open the possibility of some retention, although LAHC preferred demolition and rebuild.

The Council website says “The NSW Land and Housing Corporation has indicated further requests will follow for other parts of the Waterloo estate”.

What happens with the towers is still to be determined, so we really don’t know where the final number of social, affordable or private units that the estate might deliver or when we might have all the Waterloo jigsaw pieces to see the whole picture.

What happens Next?

Council posted some high level details on its website late on Friday May 29 that outlined that it had received the Waterloo South proposal and what Council’s role was.

In summary, the LAHC Waterloo South application is being assessed by Council to determine if it has planning merit or if any changes are needed. Following assessment, the City staff will prepare a planning proposal for consideration by Council and the Central Sydney Planning Committee.

The community see the detail of the proposal, with its rumoured 10,000 pages of reports, when the Council staff proposal is presented to a Council committee in several months’ time. If supported, Council will seek a gateway determination from the NSW Government for public consultation, which is when the community can have its say.

On the REDWatch website Waterloo Estate Planning Proposal Process you will find the presentation slides from the CoS presentation which sets out each step in the process.

Council will handle Community Engagement

The City of Sydney will lead community engagement during the public consultation period for the Waterloo South planning proposal and will continue to work collaboratively with the Department of Communities and Justice to support social housing tenants according to material posted on its website on Friday.

Council currently fund Redfern Legal Centre to provide advice to Waterloo tenants. LAHC has been funding capacity building until December 2019 as well as an Aboriginal Liaison position and a Community Development position that services the Neighbourhood Advisory Board’s Waterloo Redevelopment Group.

With LAHC not yet committing to continuing the funding of the existing Waterloo positions past the end of June 2020, Council’s commitments of support to the community may be crucial to ensuring that the local community is in a position to understand the proposals and engage in the consultation.

Discussions between the local services that manage the support workers, Council and LAHC are urgently needed to ensure that the Waterloo community is in a position to understand the proposal and to make informed input into decisions about their future.

REDWatch and local agencies have argued there is a role throughout the life of the development for community support and community development roles, but these were only funded by LAHC for the master planning phase, which is ending.

How did we find out about the Waterloo South proposal?

While LAHC lodged with Council sometime mid-May and the Waterloo Redevelopment Group heard about the lodgement in confidence, the first details became public only when Council posted some high level details on its website on Friday. The Sunday Telegraph carried the Government information drop on Sunday May 31.

Gone are the days when Government calls a media conference to let everyone know information at the same time. The current approach is to give the story to one media outlet exclusively in the expectation that at least they will run it. This means that other media outlets either run the story from the initial publication or ignore it because it is now old news.

The consequence of such a media drop to announce changes to a public housing community about decisions for their homes and neighbourhood is that all do not easily access it. Only those who normally get that printed newspaper see it and an online version, generally with additional information not in the paper, appears behind a paywall only visible to subscribers. This is not a good mechanism.

The drop also included a video “fly through” of the revised project. While the video was not behind the paywall, when you pause it to understand what it tells you the video is obscured.

You will find a scan of the newspaper article Megacity reaching for the sky in a smaller way - Sunday Telegraph  on the REDWatch website with some notes about what was in the online version. Probably best hidden from Waterloo tenants was a line in the online version that said, “Public housing blocks in the area still have security guards on site, dubbed “concierges”.”

The Ministers’ Media release was only generally released to stakeholders Monday 1 June afternoon along with an update on the Communities Plus Waterloo page. It is of great concern that after successive governments have deliberately concentrated disadvantage in public housing without the necessary supports for tenants, that the Minister for Housing talks about the redevelopment t of public housing as “deconcentrating disadvantage” as if those who have been given priority allocations will somehow disappear with their problems as a result of the redevelopment.

Also on Monday, Clover Moore also made some Facebook comments about Council receiving the LAHC proposal and late in the afternoon, The Lord Mayor issued a more formal letter to residents about the Waterloo Estate.

Human Service Plan

It was pleasing to see in the Lord Mayor’s letter to residents her undertaking that “I will continue to advocate for the essential wrap-around services that our current and future Waterloo communities need. It is critical that the Government develop a Human Services Plan alongside the planning framework, to address the issues that social housing tenants face”.

The community is still waiting for a public commitment from LAHC and DCJ that the Human Services Plan they promised for Waterloo will be delivered alongside the planning framework.

Source: Based on REDWatch email to members and supporters 2 June 2020

Update 16 June - Plan for Waterloo South still not released


The plan for Waterloo South has significantly changed from the Waterloo Preferred Masterplan - January 2019, which has now disappeared from the LAHC website but is on the REDWatch website. The community requested if the plan was to change was that LAHC should release equivalent information for its new plan. The information released did not meet the preferred masterplan test. A key missing element is that there is no site plan with building and park locations and building heights. There is even less information that LAHC released for the Redfern Build to Rent site.

While the Council has told the Waterloo Redevelopment Group that it is up to LAHC if it wants to release information, LAHC staff have told community representatives that the Council has asked it not to release the information. LAHC, not wanting to upset Council (the consent authority) did not release the information that residents thought they should receive under the engagement principles agreed with LAHC.

REDWatch is calling on Council to withdraw its request for LAHC not to release such information. The local community was promised transparency and involvement in their planning process by LAHC and LAHC should be allowed to honour its undertakings to the community or be held unambiguously accountable for not doing so.