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A fixation that improvement means tall buildings

SMH Letters February 14, 2006

Plans to redevelop Redfern is welcome news to residents. Hopefully, recent announcements will not be a signal to turn our suburb into a concrete jungle ("New plan on the Block unwelcome to owners", February 10).

Unfortunately, some recent history of redeveloping inner-city suburbs is not good. For example, Green Square, promoted 10 to 15 years ago as an oasis on the edge of the CBD, has not lived up to the hype. A failure to plan for shops, restaurants and transport means Green Square residents must travel to surrounding suburbs. In contrast, the rejuvenation of Paddington 30 to 40 years ago offers a good example of a balanced approach.

A number of matters need to be addressed for any development of Redfern. Excessive zoning changes to give developers an incentive to invest in Redfern are not a panacea for the area's issues. Many European cities seem to cope without high-rise, so why is there a fixation that improvement must mean tall buildings?

Claims that development will improve employment opportunities for residents provide an interesting argument. As a suburb only 10 minutes from the CBD, there is already no shortage of local employment. The issue is more one of skills, education and training, which will not be improved exclusively by having investment banks and tall buildings in the suburb.

Also, Redfern already has one of the lowest proportions of open spaces per resident in the city. Plans for another 2000 new dwellings must be accompanied by improvements in park areas and facilities. Plans must also address transport issues. With an additional 18,000 jobs planned for the area, the overworked Cleveland Street and surrounding streets must be improved. During peak hour, I can walk to the CBD from my home in Redfern in the same time it takes to travel by bus.

Heritage and community values must also be respected. Redfern offers architectural history and a community spirit. For example, Redfern train station dates from 1876 and is a fine example of early Sydney architecture.

Redfern residents desperately want a plan for the area, we want changes, we want improvements, and we want business. But we also want a community, a place to raise a family, a vibrant residential village with open space. We don't want our community traded off for a short-sighted plan that doesn't address all the issues.


Paul Dorron Redfern