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REDWatch Submission on Sydney City Draft Subregional Strategy Sept 2008

Below is the text of the REDWatch submission on the Draft Sydney City Draft Subregional Strategy which was on exhibition until 5th September 2008.

REDWatch Submission on Sydney City Draft Subregional Strategy

REDWatch, the residents group that covers the Redfern Waterloo area wishes to make some brief comments on the Sydney City Draft Sub Regional Strategy (SRS).

We note that “Redfern Centre” is one of the five precincts referred to in the Sub Regional Strategy. We also note that the strategy for Redfern Waterloo is almost entirely based on the work done by the Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA) in their Built Environment Plan (BEP).

REDWatch is of the view that while the RWA’s work is important to the SRS, the SRS should consider a broader focus than just that put up by the RWA for our area. We hence ask the Department to take the following points into consideration in finalizing the SRS.

While the strategy references management of traffic to and from the airport as one of the key transport issues there is no proposal for how this problem will be addressed. The Redfern Waterloo area is one of the areas directly impacted adversely by this city / airport / port traffic and yet the SRS does not address how the impact of this traffic on Redfern Waterloo can be mitigated.

We are aware that the RWA recognizes the importance of addressing the impact of the arterial road on the areas development. The RWA has explored a number of options but it has not been possible to arrive at an acceptable solution with the RTA. Hence there are no solutions proposed in the RWA Plans for the area. Just because two government instrumentalities can not agree on a solution does not justify it being left out of a long term planning document like the SRS. The SRS must recognize and address the challenge not just of facilitating the traffic movements but also of mitigating the social and economic disruption that that traffic causes through a proposed growth area such as Redfern.

The redefinition in Figure 31 of Redfern as an area to west of Regent Street so that the “Access from to and from the airport” does not dissect the precinct totally misrepresents the ‘on the ground’ reality which needs to be addressed.

In fact Redfern Waterloo has two major divisions which any long term planning strategy should address. The first is the twin pair roads that separate Redfern Station from Redfern to the east of the main roads. These main roads also impact on businesses on Regent Street and will also do so to new businesses on Gibbons Street when the Redfern Station development and town centre are built. The town centre will be sandwiched between the arterial road twin pair which is bound to impact adversely on the town centre redevelopment.

The second major division in Redfern Waterloo is the rail corridor. The SRS does not address the lack of permeability across the railway corridor which is necessary to link the precinct together. The Minister and the RWA initially proposed a connection between the CarriageWorks and the ATP which would have at least created a crossing near the mid point of the Eveleigh site. Due to the problems of crossing the main rail corridor the cost blew out and it was decided to instead go with a cheaper proposal of a crossing near Redfern Station which does little to address the permeability across the railway line.

When Eveleigh rail workshops were operating there were three crossings between North and South Eveleigh to provide good permeability. A similar number is probably needed to address the needs of the proposed increase in residential and commercial use of the area.  If there is only to be one crossing it should be made in the middle. The SRS needs to address this issue if there is going to be a workable Redfern Precinct. The SRS notes (Page 42) the investment in the area however we are concerned that without the linkage infrastructure issues being addressed that the investment will not bring the benefits it could to the area. We would suggest that the area needs a movement economics study similar to that undertaken in Parramatta by Space Syntax.

It is of considerable concern given its pivotal role in Redfern’s redevelopment that plans for Redfern Station have not yet seen the light of day. We have seen plans for the areas around the station released separately but not for the key linking development. The station proposal must address the rail bus interchange issue and it must address connectivity between the station and the surrounding areas that it will serve. To date we do not know if it will do this or if it will be another compromise driven by what can be negotiated between the RWA and the large infrastructure departments. A robust SRS must recognize these issues and ensure they are on the region’s planning agenda.

With the developments happening in the area the SRS must ensure that high priority is given to an upgrade of Redfern Stations that addresses these issues. Redfern will grow to be an important commercial hub and it is crucial that the infrastructure is put in place as early as possible to facilitate this development.

We wish also to point out to the Department that Sydney University is interested in acquiring the North Eveleigh site when it goes to market and that if this happens it will impact upon aspects of the SRS. As a result the finalisation of the SRS probably should be left until after the North Eveleigh sale in early 2009.

We support the SRS proposal for the retention of employment lands in the City Council area. We are particularly concerned about the need to ensure that the employment lands are not just used for white collar office positions. Historically trades people and service industries operated in the area but most of those sites are being redeveloped for housing and other uses, pushing them to the fringes of the greater metropolitan area. The SRS needs to ensure that adequate employment lands are available so that new businesses can establish in the area and that a full range of trades and services are accessible to businesses and residents living in the city. We were particularly concerned that the RWA did not make provision for any of this kind of employment lands in their proposals for the Redfern Waterloo area. There needs to be trade and blue collar employment options to provide trade and unskilled employment options for people, especially those living public housing in the area.

If the SRS is serious about a creative hub and cultural guidelines then it needs also to think about what space it plans for the arts. Artists have to be well established to be able to afford to live or work in the area. Already with gentrification we have seen artists pushed out. Some affordable studio / incubation space should be built into forward planning to maintain a flow of up and coming artists in the area. Already in the performing arts we are being told that cost recovery policy at CarriageWorks is putting significant strain on some contemporary groups who by their nature are not well placed to pay market rates. Unless provision is made to maintain diversity all that will be left in the city will be the well established mainstream artistic businesses that can pay high inner city rents.

We welcome the RWA’s initiatives for leveraging employment and training off the redevelopment of government assets, but we are of the view that these opportunities are not structured to be able to accommodate those most impacted by inter generational unemployment and social disadvantage.

Any regional planning involves tradeoffs between local and regional priorities. REDWatch is concerned however that the SRS process has not sought to have any prior consultation with local resident, business and community groups so that their perspectives could have been better considered in the preparation of the SRS. The process used by the RWA to formulated plans has limited input from local business and residents to responses during exhibition period to pre formulated plans and hence there is little community input to the SRS through the RWA Plans. As a result community concerns do not appear to have been adequately assessed in the SRS preparation and hence were probably not properly considered weighed against regional and metropolitan imperatives in producing the SRS.

REDWatch is concerned about the lack of planning for affordable housing in the SRS. In Redfern the RWA has a policy for raising funds but still the promised Affordable Housing Programme has not been developed. The production of a Ministerial Media Release covering a cabinet decision to put some affordable housing into North Eveleigh does not replace the need for a well worked policy as to how the challenges facing the city or Redfern Waterloo are to be handled. In spite of early indications from Premier Iemma that affordable housing was going to be one of his government’s priorities no strategy has materialised. Agreements that raise $58m for affordable housing will not make a significant dent in the problem over the life of the SRS. A robust SRS should have addressed this challenge and set out planning requirements to ensure specific long term affordable housing goals could have been met in more than a tokenistic manner.

REDWatch notes that the SRS picks up the RWA BEP2 proposals for revitalisation of public housing stock. The failure of governments over several decades to adequately fund public housing has meant that the affordable housing that was once provided via public housing has effectively disappeared and has been replaced by housing only for people with increasingly high needs. The SRS should take the implications of this long term shift into account rather than assuming, as the RWA has, that urban renewal alone will address the social issues associated with high concentrations of public housing.

REDWatch wishes to point out that there is a danger of even greater social conflict under this policy unless it is accompanied by commitments by government to deliver the services required to meet the increasing needs of those being placed into public housing under the stricter allocations policy.

REDWatch welcomes proposals for better east west bus connections but there is also a need to address the difficulties faced by those who seek to join inner city bus routes who often find that they are already full and do not stop. With the growth in population proposed such problems need to be addressed in the SRS so that residents have accessible public transport.

REDWatch supports the introduction of non-car transport options which link communities to the areas they need to access. We welcome the introduction by South Sydney Community Transport of the trial of a free “Village to Village” bus linkage. This allows public housing estates for residents to access hospitals, shopping centres and other facilities that under the all links lead to the centre system were very difficult to reach. An adequate local transport system removes many of the needs for local car traffic and hence decreases traffic impacts. We would encourage the Department to consider the introduction of a community transport system like the CAT system in Perth as part of their proposals to improve local access for residents (page 90)

We support the Councils 2030 strategy proposals for major development sites to play a key role in helping the City meet greenhouse and sustainability targets. REDWatch has been concerned at the failure of the RWA to insist these standards in their North Eveleigh Concept Plan. The SRS exclusion of North Eveleigh and RWA sites for example for environment provisions such as water recycling (p117) is therefore of concern. Given the RWA North Eveleigh Concept Plan the SRS should be requiring such developments to meet City of Sydney’s 2030 targets rather than merely meeting existing ESD principles and leaving decisions on the greenness of the site up to whoever purchases the site. As can be seen in the case of the CUB site this becomes an invitation for the buyer to push the development envelope in a trade off for meeting environmental outcomes that should have been included in the initial development consent.

In terms of heritage we note that Figure 34 does not include all the items recognized as of historical importance under the Redfern Waterloo SEPP. We also note that the Rail Car Collection is currently facing dispersal to inappropriate locations outside the area as a result of the RWA sale of North Eveleigh. In fact one of the campaigns currently being waged by residents and heritage people is for aspects of the former rail yards, which may be impacted by the RWA plans, to be preserved. We fully support Council, State and Federal review and updating of heritage studies and registers pertaining to this area. We are especially concerned that because Heritage, Planning and Redfern Waterloo have been under the control of the same minister arm’s length assessment of heritage value vs. development potential is not possible. This problem is further heightened by the provisions in the RWA Act that allow heritage provisions to be over ridden if they stand in the way of redevelopment in the area.

REDWatch supports proposals for creation of greater open space in Redfern Waterloo. We note however, that contrary to what the SRS says the RWA should be doing, the RWA has already attempted to remove from public use Marian Park in the Draft BEP and in their North Eveleigh proposals the RWA was strongly criticised for the lack of proposed usable public space. We understand this decision is now being revisited since public exhibition. It is our view that the SRS should set down requirements that should be provided in major developments to ensure good quality open space is provided rather than just space around buildings as was the case with much of that proposed by the RWA for North Eveleigh.

It is difficult to create adequate open and civic space if the government imperative is to maximize its return from the redevelopment of the area so that treasury minimizes the amount of money it puts into Redfern station and other facilities in the area.

Finally in the absence of a Government and Department of Planning commitment to community participation in the State planning process REDWatch does not support areas being taken out of the planning control of City of Sydney Council and the CSPC.

As evidenced by the no longer “owned” section of the Department’s website on Community Engagement in the NSW Planning System (, the Department seems to have lost interest in the kind of community engagement that won that plan an award in 2004. Until the Department recovers a commitment to community engagement rather than simply to consultation through exhibition we can not even consider support for the continued handling of projects within Sydney Council area under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Major Projects) as proposed in the SRS.

REDWatch requests the Department to seriously consider the issues we have raised in this submission as it finalizes the Sydney SRS.

Geoffrey Turnbull

REDWatch Spokesperson