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You are here: Home / UrbanGrowth, SMDA & RWA Plans & Activities / Rail Corridor Expansion / REDWatch Comment on Government’s “Central to Eveleigh Global Precinct Opportunity” Anouncement

REDWatch Comment on Government’s “Central to Eveleigh Global Precinct Opportunity” Anouncement

The NSW Government has called for expressions of interest to revitalise and expand Sydney’s CBD by redeveloping land and airspace in the Central to Eveleigh rail corridor on Friday 12 July 2013. This is REDWatch's initial comment on the anouncement and its implications.

You can find the documents from the announcement from the page Central to Eveleigh on the UrganGrowth NSW website. Some media reports and other information can be found on the REDWatch website under the Central to Eveleigh tab. Below we have tried to unpack the announcement and set it in the context of the controls and decisions of the RWA. 

The corridor covered by the announcement extends for approximately three kilometres from the Goulburn Street car park in the Sydney CBD to Macdonaldtown station. It includes Central and Redfern stations, Australian Technology Park (ATP), Railcorp’s Air-conditioned Depot Carriage Sheds (ACDEP) and Macdonaldtown Stabling Yards, North Eveleigh and airspace above railway lines in proximity to Central and Redfern Stations and maybe Macdonaldtown.

The Central to Eveleigh Corridor is one of the elements in the Global Sydney City Shapers of the Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031 which set a priority to “investigate the regeneration potential of areas such as Town Hall, Central to City Road and Central to Eveleigh”. The Metro Strategy has just gone off exhibition and the Planning Department’s last community information session on the Strategy was held the day after the announcement.

REDWatch argued in the REDWatch Submission on Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney to 2031  that the exhibition should not be rushed through and should be re-exhibited under the improved community participation promised in the New Planning System for such a plan. Seven hundred people supported REDWatch’s online petition to this effect. Never the less the Minister continued with the exhibition and has now used the Metro Strategy as the basis for this announcement before submissions have been considered.

The City of Sydney in its Sustainable Sydney 2030 Vision said “Central Station will be re-cast as an important southern arrival gateway to the City and a place for significant redevelopment over the rail lines and around a series of redesigned public squares.” Much of the Minister’s announcement seems to refer primarily to the large scale development that will be necessary to justify the cost of building over the area between Cleveland Street and Central.

Central Map of Central to Eveleigh Proposal


Central End of Proposed Central to Eveleigh Strategy

The SMH property editor has suggested towers of 50 storeys just to make it viable so you can see why the Urban Taskforce is concerned that “local action groups will almost certainly want to reduce the impact”. Chippendale residents in the mixed use area between Abercrombie and Regent Streets will feel especially venerable with the Frazer’s site to the North, a growing bar district and now very high rise proposed to their east. The proposal increases the likelihood of a push to also allow high density in adjoining Chippendale which will be harder to resist with the changes proposed in the New Planning System and with the powers of UrbanGrowth to compulsorily acquire properties to facilitate block consolidation for development if the area is target by the government.

Eveleigh Map of Central to Eveleigh Proposal

Eveleigh End of Proposed Central to Eveleigh Strategy

Thrown in with the Central development is the option of building over Redfern Station and a “Development Opportunity over Rail” to the south connecting to the station that could also provide a pedestrian and bicycle link from ATP to North Eveleigh. The argument is that “High density development above and adjacent to the rail corridor will provide for the conservation and renewal of Central and Redfern railway stations as world class facilities”.

The option of building over Redfern Station option was rejected several years ago because it was not believed to be financially viable at that time. Instead the Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA)’s Built Environment Plan (BEP1) proposed buildings up to 14 storeys opposite the newly completed 18 storey DeiCota Tower. An over station development is more likely to deliver a station accessible from many directions where the low rise options discussed to date cut off access from some directions.

There is no guarantee in the proposal about a new Redfern Station. The proposal uses wording like “it could also lead to the upgrade of Central and Redfern stations into world class transport facilities” and “there will … be opportunities to upgrade … Redfern station”. We might have a long wait still before we see an accessible station as building over railway lines is a very expensive business and needs tall buildings to pay for it. Redfern property prices may need to go up much further before it becomes financially viable without a significant government contribution. In the meantime Redfern Station languishes without lifts.

The former Eveleigh Railyards that have been the subject of community consultation for planning controls, Master plans and Concept plans over the last 7 years are also covered by the announcement. “The future of the existing North Eveleigh Concept Plan and Redfern Waterloo Master plan (sic) will also be determined as part of this process” says the announcement. That’s a nice way of saying that if someone makes an offer but wants to put up bigger buildings they will consider it and no longer be bound by what has been earlier been negotiated with the community and already been put into planning law.

The planning controls for some of the sites in the Redfern - Eveleigh sites can be found in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Development) Redfern–Waterloo Authority Sites. The links to the key maps are:

UrbanGrowth NSW who is handling the process for the NSW Government “will look at all feasible development delivery options for bringing land packages or sub precincts to market.” Encouragingly the announcement text sees “medium density mixed use and residential development within the Eveleigh precinct” even though the diagrams show the Eveleigh developments as high density neighbourhoods – so who knows what to expect!

One such high density neighbourhood is shown for the areas zoned for development at the ATP that is currently zoned as a Business Park. It is not clear if the intention is to now include residential as is inferred within the term neighbourhood or if the Government thinks it can get offers for high density commercial. Frasers on the CUB site recently scrapped one of their commercial buildings and are trying to turn it into student accommodation as there was not sufficient market demand. It is certain that Alexandria residents, still smarting from the Channel 7 building, will not be happy about the Minister’s announcement.

Key Eveleigh heritage buildings like Carriageworks, ATP’s Locomotive buildings and the large Erecting Shop are untouched by the proposed redevelopment areas although the area occupied by the Paint Shop is shown as high density. The Frequently Asked Questions sheet released with the announcement provides some assurance on Heritage. It states: “The corridor vision recognises the heritage significance of the precinct which is included in both State and City of Sydney Heritage registers. Any future development will need to demonstrate how existing heritage is to be retained”. Elsewhere the proposal states “Heritage assets within the precinct will be conserved, with adaptive re-use which preserves heritage values into the 21st Century.” Maybe there will now just be a much taller building up through the Paint Shop!

In contrast to Frank Sartor’s assertion that the RWA Act needed to be able to over-ride the Heritage Act because the state’s oldest public toilet was standing in the way of redeveloping Redfern Station the announcement recognises the need for the “Preservation and renewal of prized heritage assets, including Central and Redfern stations”.

The proposal shows North Eveleigh with high density neighbourhoods to the east and west of Carriageworks but we have to wait for the developer interest and negotiations to see how that might eventuate and compare with the approved concept plan and existing controls. Worryingly only the new City West Affordable housing development and the access road on the Newtown end of North Eveleigh are locked in. The two sites along Wilson Street, the Clothing Store and the proposed new park at the Western end of North Eveleigh are likely to be early tests of what might change under the new approach. There are a number of challenging traffic issues that will also need to tackled in any density increase on the site.

BEP1 also included a long term provision for redevelopment on the non-ATP part of South Eveleigh however controls were not put into the SEPP over the ACDEP Carriage Sheds. Most of the initial focus here was on the campaign to save the Large Erecting Shop which was successfully removed from the re-development controls last year. The Minister’s announcement also includes a high density neighbourhood over the RailCorp operating sites of the ACDEP Carriage Sheds as well as the low density portion of the Eveleigh public housing estate. The redevelopment of the public housing was also flagged RWA’s BEP2 which covered the redevelopment of the area’s public housing.

One area not covered by BEP1 and down for another high density neighbourhood is the recently completed Macdonaldtown stabling yards. From the diagram this development looks like it potentially includes Macdonaldtown station but this is not mentioned in the text and the colour code does not have it as an “Over Rail” development. The residents of Leamington Avenue having fought RailCorp over the uncertainty and possible resumption of their homes a couple of years ago now face a similar battle with this unexpected new high density proposal impacting on their homes.

By putting Central to Macdonaldtown developments in one internationally promoted expression of interest the Government hopes it will also get interest in the Redfern and Eveleigh sites as well as the more attractive sites around Central. The proposal says “The precinct is most likely too large to be delivered by a single development. The … strategy will look at all feasible development delivery options for bringing land packages or sub precincts to market”.

Interestingly only a couple of weeks ago news broke of a failed bid for a much larger unsolicited proposal to the NSW Government from Chinese contractors who offered to underground the rail corridor and the M4 East in exchange for being able to build 150 pre-fabricated skyscrapers from Central Station to Strathfield. You can see the details under A Corridor Re-Development Offer: Swap you: Chinese skyscrapers for a motorway. This prompts the question: What other interesting offers will come from the expressions of interest process.

One of the areas that is welcomed in the proposal is the stated desire to use the redevelopments to provide greater permeability across the railway line. Near Central the whole area gets built over where three crossings are proposed across the railway lines from North Eveleigh. No mention is made of the area’s other great barriers like the Regent Street / Gibbons Street twin pair and how this impacts on rail bus interchanges or Cleveland Street. Work by the Redfern Waterloo Partnership Project explored a number of tunnel options back in 2004. The new proposal does include a green link between Redfern and Central using Railway land between Cleveland and Lawson Street bridges to link the two ends of the proposal. Unless someone offers to build over this part of the corridor covering it for a long park would be too expensive so the illustration shows this as a path alongside the railway line.

It is very disappointing that after all these years of community engagement with the RWA about the future of these sites and their planning controls that the Government has now decided to disregard that outcome. This is from a Government that came to power promising to return planning power back to the community and in the New Planning System for NSW promising ground breaking community participation in making strategic plans!

With the winding up of the RWA and SMDA and the move to UrbanGrowth NSW, Redfern Waterloo has lost any ongoing community participation mechanisms in these decisions. There is no longer a local government authority, no update emails, letterboxed updates, no CEO to ring up and discuss your concerns and no Ministerial Advisory Committees ensuring at least a quarterly update on some of what was happening.

The Minister has said in his announcement that they “will be working with the City of Sydney and all local residents in developing the plans for the corridor.” More likely is the statement on the UrbanGrowth Statement which says “UrbanGrowth NSW will be reporting regularly to Government, and any updates will be available on the website www.urbangrowthnsw.com.au. Any formal community engagement will be subject to future announcements.”

The new Central to Eveleigh Corridor information also sits on the Planning Department’s website under strategic planning. It is the first strategic planning announcement after the White Paper and Metro Strategy exhibitions. The New Planning System talks about the need for early community involvement in strategic planning and the Minister needs to start the new process with the communities around this announcement.

The introduction to the Community Participation section of the White Paper (p44) says: Community participation in the preparation of plans and a vision for their local areas represents a key change in the new planning system. This means that the opportunity for the community to participate at the start of the planning process and on an ongoing basis will be prioritised and integral to setting the vision and ground rules for local areas.

If the community is to have faith in the promised new ground breaking community participation in making strategic plans then it needs to started here and it needs to start now!

REDWatch is looking to organise a public meeting in the near future where Government Representatives can explain the proposal in more details and deal with questions from the community. Keep an eye on www.redwatch.org.au for details. In July 2013 REDWatch held a roundtable on NIMBYs. A proposal like the Central to Eveleigh Global Precinct Opportunity will bring out reactions that might be considered NIMBY so have a look at REDWatch’s NIMBY Discussion Points!  At our next meeting on August 1st REDWatch will be looking at another topical issue related to this announcement : Density – Must it be high-rise?

For more information contact:

Geoffrey Turnbull



Ph Wk: (02) 8004 1490  Mob: 0418 457 392

email: mail@redwatch.org.au