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Residents sceptical of redevelopment

Ben Spies- Butcher in the April 2006 edition of the South Sydney Herald reports on recent community meetings concerning the RWA's Draft Built Environment Plan.

Residents of Redfern, Eveleigh, Darlington and Waterloo are clearly skeptical about plans to redevelop their area. They recently railed against the loss of park lands, the forcing of Aboriginal housing off The Block, increased traffic and disruptions to bike lanes and plans to turn Redfern into part of the CBD. The concerns were expressed at a public forum called by the Redfern-Waterloo Authority (RWA) to discuss its plans for the area.

The RWA’s draft Built Environment Plan is just one of three plans for the area that have been released so far - with many more elements to come. All of these plans form part of a grand vision for the redevelopment of the Redfern-Waterloo area to be overseen by a specially created government body, complete with its own Minister - Frank Sartor. It is an experiment in planning that hopes to incorporate employment, service delivery and social mix into the usual plans for the physical space.

This process has been going for several years under a number of different names, of which the most recent is the RWA.

The draft Built Environment Plan includes a radical vision for transforming the area around the station into a central business district - with six 18 story office blocks next to the old TNT towers (which are 12 stories), a thousand new residents and up to 18,000 new workers.

The plan also includes the development of significant government land, including the North Eveleigh railyards, Redfern Public School and Rachel Forster Hospital. The RWA claims that this will be an important part of revitalising the area, providing space for Sydney’s growing residential and business needs and that the sale of government land in the area will help finance much needed investment.

But the 70 residents attending the public forum expressed a range of concerns. Those in the

Watertower, the apartment building on the eastern side of Redfern station, were anxious about the future of the Marian Street Park, which appears to become office space under the plan.

Residents expressed their outrage at moves to lower the allowance for residential housing on The Block, potentially making it impossible to proceed with the Aboriginal Housing Company’s award-winning Pemulwuy Project, and thus forcing Aboriginal housing off the Block.

Bike riders were critical of a planned road tunnel under the railway lines from the Australian Technology Park to Wilson St, near Codrington St. The tunnel would potentially bring thousands of cars onto the area’s main bike highway.

Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, argued that it was impossible to properly respond to the plan without seeing details of how the extra traffic would be managed or what new open space would be provided for the significant increase in population, plans that the RWA is still developing.

Following on from the forum, residents group REDWatch held their own community meeting to allow residents to hear each other’s concerns. The meeting, of about 50 people, resolved to work together to ensure residents are fully aware of the implications of the development and have a real say in how, and if, it proceeds.

Submissions on the Built Environment Plan can be made until April 14 via the RWA website

- and more information can be found at the REDWatch website