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Sydney Uni expands on plans

Sydney University is seeking approval for a 68 per-cent increase to its Camperdown-Darlington campus floor space by the end of 2020. This will accommodate a 21 per-cent increase in students on the campus as well as 4,000 units of “affordable” student accommodation, reports Geoff Turnbull in the March 2014 edition of the South Sydney Herald.
Proposed developments to the Camperdown-Darlington campus (Graphic: University of Sydney)
Proposed developments to the Camperdown-Darlington campus (Graphic: University of Sydney)


The bulk of the growth is proposed for the Darlington campus where buildings over 14 storeys will replace Merewether (16), Maze Car Park (14), Wentworth (14), Wilkinson Building and International House (up to 17-19 on a 3-5 podium), and a new multidisciplinary building (14) opposite the sports centre next to the boardwalk.

The exhibited documents show elevation in metres. For ease of explanation in this article, heights have been calculated from the plans and converted to industry standard storeys of 3.3m (University teaching floor heights will range from 3.6m to 4.3m).

Four already approved “transformational projects” (Charles Perkins Centre, Australian Institute for Nanoscience and Queen Mary Building in Camperdown, and Abercrombie Precinct Business School in Darlington) account for 21 per cent of the increased floor area.

The balance (47 per cent of the increase between 2013-2020) is covered in a Campus Improvement Program (CIP) placed on exhibition during February as a State Significant Development to be approved by NSW Planning and Infrastructure; not City of Sydney Council.

The University is seeking approval for the heights, locations and envelopes for the buildings (with the actual designs to be exhibited at a later date) as well as approval of other campus design elements and parking levels. The locations for some land uses are not specified in the CIP, with the University seeking approval for a range of land uses broadly within the University.

The CIP states the University only expects to build to 85 per cent of the building envelopes proposed. Development experience indicates developers try to increase height and floor space at the building design stage. To have credibility the under-utilisation must be covered in the approval conditions.

The Queen Mary Building, the former nursing accommodation at RPA, is expected to provide 801 of the 4,000 student beds proposed. The CIP does not clearly state the distribution of the balance of the student housing. The text identifies Darlington Terraces, Merewether, Maze Crescent car park and International House as buildings in which student housing is expected to be located with other possible uses. Under the broad use provisions requested, approval conditions need to state exact locations to avoid student housing moving without community consultation.

The CIP replaces an earlier draft 2020 Masterplan which looked at expanding the University by using other sites in the inner city. The CIP takes the opposite approach by looking at what can be built on the existing main campus. As a consequence, building heights go up from a current maximum of 8-9 storeys and some heritage buildings come down.

Heritage buildings impacted by the CIP include International House and the Chemical Engineering Building which are ranked by the University as being of high significance, the Blackburn Building and R.M.C Gunn Building ranked as having moderate significance, and the Regiment and Merewether Buildings which are ranked as having low significance.

Other elements of the earlier Masterplan transfer across to the CIP, including the aim of making most of the campus car free and moving car parking to the periphery of the campus. Shepherd Street car park is retained and the new car parks under high-rise buildings on Merewether and the Maze car park will accommodate cars currently on campus, and a proportion of the 19 per-cent increase in campus parking proposed (the report does not say how many car spaces will be in each parking station). The CIP acknowledges a shift in traffic flows to Butlin Ave and argues these changes are minimal in the context of surrounding flows, but no detailed traffic study examining the impact on surrounding roads has been exhibited.

Overshadowing opposite the University Regiment site, which will be up to 9 storeys, has been identified as an issue by locals, as has increased shadowing of the Darlington Primary School playground. Also raising concern is the proposal to build 3-storey student housing in the backyards of the Darlington Road terraces. Two terraces not owned by the Uni face the prospect of their backyards having 3-storey buildings on both sides built to the fence-line providing an added pressure on the owners to sell to the University. If this goes ahead, terrace owners in the inner city may want to use the precedent to build 3-storey granny flats in their backyards!

This is just a brief overview of the proposals which can be viewed on the Major Projects website as SSD 13_6123 Campus Improvement Program 2014-2020 for Camperdown-Darlington Campus. The main overview document is the Environmental Impact Statement with the balance documents being over 1,000 pages of appendices.

Any concerns about the concepts proposed in the CIP need to be raised now, otherwise the proposed building envelopes and concepts will be locked in and not challengeable at a later date when development applications are lodged for particular sites. While the exhibition has formally ended, late submissions can be sent to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure but please also send to the University of Sydney which has undertaken to consider comments received until March 31.

Geoff Turnbull has been a community representative on built environment issues since 2005 and is also REDWatch spokesperson.

See also: Sydney Uni – consultation disaster

Source: South Sydney Herald March 2014 - Sydney Uni expands on plans