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Uni ‘tsunami’ a concern, says Council

DARLINGTON: On Monday August 1 the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, and City of Sydney Councillors, Meredith Burgmann, Irene Doutney and John McInerney, visited Darlington at the invitation of local community group, RAIDD (Residents Acting In Darlington’s Defence). They came to see and hear the local residents’ concerns about the proposed developments by the University of Sydney which threaten to overwhelm this small community in the City of Villages reports the September 2011 issues of the South Sydney Herald.

A group of more than 30 local residents turned out to welcome the councillors. They met in the small patch of green open space on the corner of Abercrombie and Codrington streets which was to be, and may still be, obliterated by the University’s proposed Abercrombie Precinct development. They were then shown the site of the University’s proposed Sports Centre extension on Abercrombie Street.

The councillors were shown the open space and trees which will be lost if the Sports Centre extension goes ahead in its current form. They were also told about the increased traffic that the development would bring into the area.

The tour continued along Abercrombie Street where the councillors were shown buildings that would be demolished to make way for the Abercrombie Precinct. These buildings included Mandelbaum House, the Shepherd Centre, and Boundary Lane Child Care Centre. They were all built within the last 20 years, are set back from the street, and harmonise well with the Victorian terraces opposite.

They also showed the councillors artists’ impressions of the Abercrombie Precinct development so that they could get a feeling of how these massive buildings would overwhelm the street and overshadow the adjacent Darlington Public School.

This development will also bring 7,000 international students on to one street in a small residential area every day. This huge increase in population will bring with it more traffic congestion and increased parking problems along with much noise and pollution.

The final part of the tour took the councillors around past the existing Business School and into Rose Street, which along with Boundary Lane will be wiped off the map forever when the Abercrombie Precinct is built over the top of them. These two streets are currently used by cyclists and families as safe transit routes through to City Road.

Rose Street is also home to the historic Joinery building, one of the last remaining links to the origins of the area, which will be demolished to make way for the new development. The University bulldozed most of the historical buildings of Darlington throughout the 1970s as it expanded ever outward. The Lord Mayor commented on how the loss of this fine old building would be unfortunate and how sad it would be to see it go.

The councillors were given a small bundle of reference material to take away with them. The bundle included an analysis of the University’s own Environmental Policy by one of the members of RAIDD which points out how the proposed developments run counter to this policy.

The Council Committee meeting to consider the Sports Centre extension took place in Council Chambers at Sydney Town Hall at 6pm on August 15. After a short presentation by a Council planner, which included artists’ impressions of what the development would look like, four members of RAIDD had the opportunity to address Council directly: Colin Sharp, Mary Ellen McCue, Jennifer Sams, and Robyn Fortescue (speaking on behalf of John Berry).

The residents raised a number of issues including that Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence himself had admitted on April 20, 2010: “One of the things that has come back again and again is that the University, quite frankly, is ashamed of not being very good neighbours … And if we are going to talk about being an institution that has community roots then those community roots ought to begin with those communities around the campus.”

The residents were critical that the plans for the Sports Centre extension show a glass fronted building housing a pool directly opposite the Greek Orthodox Church on Abercrombie Street. The University has not considered the fact that the almost naked bodies of those using the pool will be on display to the elderly people going to worship at the Church and to those people attending funerals. Also a glass fronted building will not fit in to the existing streetscape.

Other issues included the noise and pollution that would be generated by the Sports Centre extension; the lack of consultation with the community in regard to this development; that the University should be building these developments on the vast open spaces well within their own grounds and not abutting residential streets; that the University gave the address of the development as City Road instead of Abercrombie Street in the DA; that there would be increased pressure on resident parking; and especially that the University is in breach of its own Environmental Policy.

The Councillors were very sympathetic to the residents. In particular, Meredith Burgmann, Irene Doutney and the Deputy Mayor, Marcel Hoff, were critical of the way the University had gone about the DA process with a complete lack of community consultation.

The Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, was sympathetic, too, saying that even though Council could not refuse the DA (as it is on Crown Land), she hoped the University would now listen to what the community had said and find some way to scale back both of these developments in order to lessen the impact on the local community.

Image: Cox Richardson - Artist impression of proposed Aquatic Centre on Abercrombie Street 

Source: September 2011 South Sydney Herald