Log in

Forgot your password?

REDWatch on Council's Draft Waterloo South Submission

REDWatch wrote to Councillors of the City of Sydney regarding the draft submission being considered by Council Committee on 4 April 2022. Prior to this being considered by the Council meeting of 11 April 2022, council officers responded to the issues raised. REDWatch responded again to Councillors on 11 April. As a result of this correspondence and discussions between Councillors, Council passed an improved Waterloo South motion moved by the Lord Mayor and seconded by Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore. Below is the text of the original email posted on 4 April, with council officer’s response (in italics) and REDWatch’s reply now inserted (bold italics) as well as the Council Resolution outcome. Hopefully this information will help inform people’s submissions on this project. We have broken the correspondence up by issues for ease of reference.

Increase in Floor Space above Council proposal and Planning Proposal misrepresentation

REDWatch welcomes Council’s draft submission especially in that it highlights the increase in floor space and number of units above the Council proposal.

In REDWatch’s view the planning proposal has been constructed in such a way to make it almost impossible for non-planners to understand the proposal and its implications.

In particular all the key maps and information are not contained in the planning proposal document meaning that to understand the proposal tenants need to work out what is and is not relevant from studies.

This is very difficult, and as the Council submission points out, the information in the studies is contradictory or does not directly relate to the modified proposal on exhibition. On top of this the information headlined by DPE does not reflect the likely outcome of the planning proposal.

REDWatch is particularly concerned that the proposal shows no solar analysis of the planning proposal’s impact on parks, streets and courtyards as the only material supplied is for assessing the Council’s proposal and not the exhibited proposal.

REDWatch does however have concerns about the Council submission.


Floor Space should be 30% of Residential Gross Floor Spacer not dwellings

These relate to the Council submission not separately dealing with the need for floor space to be allocated on the basis of Residential Gross Floor Area (as done for 600 Elizabeth Street) rather than by unit / front door numbers in the DPE PPA proposal.

REDWatch feels that this point gets lost alongside the restatement of Council’s original tenure ask. Clearly if floor space were allocated on the basis of a percentage of GFA rather than of front doors, the proposal will deliver more social and affordable units than would be the case if the same percentage is applied to the number of units. This is because the unit sizes proposed for social and affordable housing are smaller.

Council Officers Response: The exhibited planning proposal, in Section 4 – Explanation of Provisions, explains what will be required in the local environmental plan (LEP). It says that 26.5% of residential gross floor area be for social housing and 7% of residential gross floor area be for affordable housing.

While the development outcomes express this as dwellings, it is the LEP requirement that ensures that the final social and affordable housing outcome is based on residential gross floor area.

At Section 2.1 of the City’s submission a recommendation is included to ensure in the Explanation of Provisions, for absolute certainty, that the minimum % requirement for social and affordable housing applies to all residential floor space in Waterloo Estate (South), including any design excellence floor space.

REDWatch Response: Noted re GFA being the proposal basis for the planning controls as opposed to the higher dwelling numbers being used by DPE in the exhibition.

OUTCOME - COUNCIL RESOLVED TO RECOMMENDED IN ITS SUBMISSION (IN PART): At a minimum, restore the requirement in the publicly exhibited planning proposal that at least 30% of gross residential floor space on LAHC owned land be for social housing and at least 20% be for affordable housing.

Separate Social and Affordable Housing arguments

It should be clear that the minimum social housing ask is for 30% of GFA. The restatement of Council’s request for a higher percentage of social housing should be a separate point.

Council Officers Response: The City’s submission, at Section 2.1, includes a recommendation that 30% of gross residential floor space on LAHC owned land be for social housing.

REDWatch Response: We did not say it was not there. We recommended that it be separated from Council’s affordable housing ask of 20%. Our concern is that by bundling the two, as is done in the submission, there is a risk that the argument for a 30% minimum for social housing gets subsumed by the affordable housing ask. There are different arguments for each. 30% is in line with Communities Plus Policy of 30:70 and should not even be an issue in this development. The 20% affordable housing ask is twice what the IAG suggested and needs to be argued separately. Two fights we thing are best separated because the arguments are different hence the suggestion.

OUTCOME – Council is restating the importance of both Social and Affordable housing to the Minister and in their submission.

Response to misleading exhibition

Given the Council submission’s repeated argument that the proposal misrepresents the proposal to the community REDWatch proposes that the Council submission should request that given this representation the proposal should be withdrawn, modified and re-exhibited. Further Council should insist that if the 10% on top of the Council original proposal is pursued, such a change is substantially different to that which has been exhibited or described (explained) to the community and that the proposal should be re-exhibited before being submitted back to Gateway for approval and legislative drafting.

Council Officers Response: The City’s submission, at Section 1.2, includes recommendations that the density be reduced to maximum proposed by the City’s planning proposal.

Irrespective of whether the City’s recommendation is accepted by the Department or not, the submission recommends an addendum to the Urban Design Review (Hassell, 2022) be published by the Department to reconcile errors and inconsistencies in the various publicly exhibited materials to ensure planning proposal is clearly described to the community and amenity is not reduced.

REDWatch response: The Council submission does highlight errors and inconsistencies. The Council submission also raises the question of it the community has been misled during the exhibition. This is specifically in relation to McEvoy Street (p8 & p38), the impact of the 4th building on Waterloo Park (p9) and in relation to floor area where the submission says on p12 “it is the City’s view the publicly exhibited planning proposal and draft design guide misleads the community in what will be built at Waterloo Estate (South).”

From the community side there are concerns about the Planning Proposal document not having all necessary information in one spot for easy access for those trying to understand the proposal. Also the lack of any solar assessment of the exhibited proposal on parks, street and courtyards is a major oversight. The community has had great difficulty in understanding the proposal and the likely density. The DPE presentations and distributed material have not painted an accurate picture of the likely outcome from the proposal. One month into the DPE exhibition it is still not volunteering that the density was higher than Council’s in presentations.

All of this goes to the quality and truthfulness of the exhibition and the community’s ability to understand what is being proposed and to make an informed response. REDWatch is arguing that if the PPA recommends a final proposal is 10% larger than the council’s proposal, then it should be regarded as substantially different to what the community has been lead to believe and therefore should be fixed up and re-exhibited so that the community can respond to the final proposal rather than the proposal going directly to gateway.

Council officers are asking for the proposal to be fixed up and made public, REDWatch is asking what should happen about the misleading of the people that live in Waterloo South.

OUTCOME - COUNCIL RESOLVED TO ADVOCATE (IN PART): that the City write to the Department of Planning and Environment seeking an extension of time for community to respond to the Waterloo Estate (South) Planning Proposal & Design Guide and to make available a clear visual representation of the proposal, noting that this is not readily available or easily accessible to the community in current documents.


Lack of design Excellence tenure spread clarity

It is not clear to REDWatch, nor mentioned in the Council submission, how a design excellence provision that maintains the proportion of social and affordable housing will work in a LAHC proposal where there will be different buildings for different tenures. REDWatch is of the view this needs to be clarified at this stage given that some DAs are likely to assessed by DPE and others by Council.

For example a private tower development block might undergo a design excellence process and get 10% floor increase, but under the proposal only 66.5% of that increase is likely to go into that building and 7% into an affordable housing building and 26.5% into a social housing building elsewhere which may not have gone through a design excellence process. If a social housing building has achieved design excellence that 66.5% of its uplift will go into a private building elsewhere. How this process works in a staged block by block development seems to be unstated and is not covered in the Council submission. REDWatch recommends this issue be considered in the Council submission.

Council Officers Response: This matter can be managed in the current design guide provisions that require a Stage 1 development application.

The location of the social and affordable housing is not known at this stage of the planning process. However, the Stage 1 application is required to set out how floor space for social and affordable housing is allocated across the site.

None of this derogates from the requirement in the planning proposal (future LEP) about the minimum proportions of floor space that must be social or affordable housing.

REDWatch response: As long as this is clear at this stage rather than a grey area with wriggle room between DPE and Council potentially assessing different sites at DA stage. REDWatch has requested further clarification from Council Officers on how a stage one DA will interact with design excellence provisions for different tenure buildings in potentially different DAs.

Human Services

REDWatch welcomes the inclusion of the Human Services plan work in the Council submission. This work however is currently only focused on addressing current human service delivery issues in Waterloo Public Housing. Phases of the plan dealing relocations and with increased human service need arising from relocations, as well as how the human service system will work post development with a mix of NGO, DCJ and CHSP service provision, is yet to be agreed or undertaken.

REDWatch urges Council to include in its submission the need for a robust human services plan covering current, relocation and post development human service delivery to be created and delivered to meet the needs of the social housing tenants it will house.

Council Officers Response: The City continues to support the community in its advocacy for a robust human services plan.

Staff from the City are participating in the development of the human services plan, which has six priority areas: safety, health and wellbeing, communication and consultation and community participation, customer service, service integration and service accessibility for all service users, and responses to systemic issues (and accountability) on an ongoing basis.

The Department of Communities and Justice is responsible for the endorsement, publication and delivery of the plan. The City may have a lead or supporting role in carrying out actions under the plan.

A recommendation has been added at Section 2.1 of the City’s submission to ensure the Department of Communities and Justice develops and implements the Human Services Plan including the delivery of services to existing residents, during the relocation of residents and all future residents.

REDWatch Response: REDWatch’s Co-spokesperson Geoff Turnbull is a co-chair of one of the two coordination Groups implementing the current draft human services plan. The areas of the human services plan outlined above only deal with the issues facing current tenants. There is no human service plan yet dealing with relocations or what the human services might look like after the redevelopment. REDWatch welcome the Council involvement in the human service Collaborative and we also welcome Council pushing for a Waterloo Human Services Plan that deals with relocations and the redevelopment.

There is currently no firm plan for a broader plan, hence our request for Council to join with REDWatch to push for a human services plan that will also cover the redevelopment.

OUTCOME - COUNCIL RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND IN ITS SUBMISSION TO: Ensure the Department of Communities and Justice develops and implements the Human Services Plan including the delivery of services to existing residents, during the relocation of residents and all future residents of the site


No study on if the density will work for the future social housing cohort

REDWatch keep being told that people issues, such as if the density is too high for those coming into inner city public housing, is not something that the planning proposal can deal with. REDWatch is of the view that Council needs to push back on this aspect being excluded from the strategic planning discussion.

A planning proposal is all about if a particular land use and its controls are appropriate for the land being rezoned. The assessment cannot take a tenure blind approach to acceptable density at the same time as saying the planning proposal will specify around 30% social housing. To specify social housing as a significant use requires assessment of the suitability for that use.

Nowhere in the studies has LAHC or Council asked the question whether the density proposed will be suitable for the approximately 30% proposed social housing tenants who will live there. This question must be addressed.

If the current or higher density is delivered under the planning proposal, Council also needs to at least name what will be needed to make this density work for the social housing tenants who will live in the development in 10 – 30 years’ time.

Currently in Waterloo almost all allocations are from the priority list. By the time the redevelopment happens the make-up of social housing will be very different to what it is at moment, in the same way that it is different now from when in 2005 the government changed length of leases and made public housing the option of last resort.

Public housing tenants already complain about the way in which allocations impact on longer term public housing tenants. The human services plan proposes to look at wicked problems around anti-social behaviour, people who are in contact with the justice system and people whose tenancies are at risk. Other work is being undertaken to try and improve work with people suffering drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues and trauma. With continued priority allocations the size of the problems the human service plan is seeking to address are expected to increase. The human service plan aims to improve supports but it will not address many of the issues that will arise from the governments allocations into public and social housing.

REDWatch is of the view that Council and DPE must ask the question, at planning proposal stage, if the proposed density is suitable for the 30% of people who will include a much higher proportion of people who have higher and more complex needs than in the incoming community in the private units within the same development.

Council Officers Response: The City and the Independent Advisory Group both recognise the very high densities proposed in such a large project at the Waterloo Estate (South) and acknowledge the heightened importance of providing high quality public space, and access to community facilities and services for all people living in the precinct. This is provided in the proposal.

With regards to the needs of people living in the precinct with high and complex needs, the importance of the Human Services Plan is paramount, as advocated in the added recommendation described above.

REDWatch Response: REDWatch does not accept that a human services plan, that does not currently exist, will increase services sufficiently for allocations with high and complex needs to have successful tenancies in a redevelopment at the density proposed. There is no indication that either the Social Sustainability Report or the IAG had access to the information necessary to assess if the densities were appropriate for those with high and complex needs. As an example many people are currently housed in low rise or lower levels of buildings due to concerns about the risk of suicide. The suitability of the proposal needs to be assessed for the cohorts being given priority allocations and REDWatch is proposing this should be done preferably in a Social Impact Assessment independent of LAHC.

OUTCOME: See as part of below section


Need for an independent Social Impact Assessment

The existence of the Social Sustainability report in the studies highlights the fact that the impact on people should be taken into account. It is a concern that there is no further reference in these reports except other than to use them as a basis for determining the need for community facilities. Even in assessing community facilities the report assumes the needs of social housing tenants is already met and that facilities are needed for the new community. This does not recognise the shift in public / social housing allocations.

REDWatch has major concerns about the Social Sustainability report and is aware of rumours that the report was watered down at the request of LAHC. Early requests both for a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and for a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) were rebuffed by UrbanGrowth and LAHC and the Social Sustainability report was in their place.

The Social Sustainability report does not assess the impact of the changing social housing make up other than in terms of unit size requirements.

The report does say that certain activities such as place making and community development will be crucial to the success of the development but does not seek to condition them but merely notes that this will be up to LAHC to do when it lets contracts. Planning experts like Tim Williams have told REDWatch that without a commitment to ongoing investment in making this level of density work the project is likely to fail. There is no suggestion that such ongoing investment will be required for this project to work at the proposed densities and while conditionality is applied to physical infrastructure there is no conditionality for social infrastructure.

In the same way that Council has referenced the human service plan work which would be crucial to the success or otherwise of the development for public and social housing tenants, Council also needs to take up the issue of the suitability of the development for social housing tenants.

At DA stage there will be a requirement for Social Impact Assessments (SIA) and hopefully Social Impact Management Plans (SIMP). We would also like Sydney Local Health District to undertake a full Health Impact Assessment (HIA). The problem is that many of the impacts are already happening and relocation issues and developer contracts will predate the DA SIAs.

Given the inadequacies in the Social Sustainability Study to assess if the density level was appropriate for the future social housing land use given government allocation policies, REDWatch wants DPE to commission an independent Social Impact Assessment to assess if the density proposed is appropriate for this land use.

REDWatch also requests that that SIA look at what should be included in a SIMP to ensure that everything necessary to deliver a successful project at the density determined is independently established.

REDWatch propose that the SIA recommend a draft SIMP that could form the basis for what will be required at DA stage and also with the recommendation that LAHC should implement the SIMP with immediate effect. Such a document would probably have no official standing but would provide an independent SIA and SIMP recommendation that were in the public domain rather than left to the proponent behind closed doors with their preferred developer.

REDWatch recommends Council consider including such a recommendation, or a proposal similarly addressing these areas in its Waterloo South submission.

Council Officers Response: The planning proposal material includes a Social Baseline Study and Social Sustainability Study. While this is not the Social Impact Management Plan described by REDWatch, together these documents make recommendations about the delivery of infrastructure and services, and about working with the community throughout the redevelopment process (beyond this planning process).

The Human Services Plan that is being developed in consultation with the community and the City, is to ensure the delivery of the necessary services to support all future residents of Waterloo Estate (South).

The City is working directly with the Land and Housing Corporation to ensure the delivery of other public infrastructure, including the parks, roads and a community facility. There is also requirement in the planning proposal for other community facilities floor space, including medical facilities and childcare.

REDWatch Response: LAHC resisted the inclusion of a Social Impact Assessment and a Health Impact Assessment in the Study documents. The Social Sustainability study does not do what an SIA would do. It leaves responses to issues raised totally to LAHC at the contract stage. Council, when it became the planning authority, decided to accept the Social Sustainability report that had already been done rather than request a new study.

A Social Impact Assessment and a resultant Social impact Management Plan covers much more that what a human services plan might contribute, even if it was to deal with the redevelopment and much more than the delivery of public infrastructure. It deals with identifying the impacts from the redevelopment and then putting in place ways to mitigate that impact.

Given the inadequacies in the Social Sustainability Report REDWatch would like a Social Impact Assessment undertaken by DPE as part of their assessment of the planning proposal. REDWatch would like Council to support that request. Council should have an interest in ensuring that the Waterloo South redevelopment has a special focus on the most vulnerable and that their interests are protected as far as possible. A SIA independent of LAHC is one way to do that.

OUTCOME - COUNCIL RESOLVED TO RECOMMEND IN ITS SUBMISSION: Prioritise development of an independent Social Impact Assessment and Social Impact Management Plan to identify and mitigate impacts on communities from the redevelopment of the Waterloo Estate (South).


Thank you 

REDWatch thanks Councillors and Council staff for their work on the Waterloo South and on this submission. REDWatch thanks Council for making their analysis and submission available to assist the community understand and respond to the proposal on exhibition. We also thank Council for funding support of Counterpoint to undertake capacity building and community development around the exhibition and subsequent processes.

Papers for 4th April Council Committee:

Papers for the 11 April Council Meeting:

The full Council resolution on the Waterloo South exhibition can be found with the Council meeting papers. 

As both Council Committee and full Council meetings are streamed the discussion by both Council meetings can be viewed through the webcast link on the above links.


Geoffrey Turnbull REDWatch Co-Spokesperson 12 April 2022