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Slum city fears as Sartor grabs massive project - 9 June 2006

THE Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, is set to take control of the city's biggest residential project, igniting fears he will allow enormous apartment blocks that will become Sydney's future slums reports Sherrill Nixon Urban Affairs Editor in the Sydney Morning Herald June 9, 2006.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, and Chippendale residents say Mr Sartor's last-minute intervention in the $800 million Carlton and United Breweries site is a blatant grab for more cash from the eventual developers.

They fear he will approve much larger apartment blocks on the Broadway site than the City of Sydney Council was prepared to accept, in exchange for higher developer levies which would be used to fund affordable housing in the Redfern-Waterloo area.

"The Government is looking for money here … you are just looking at the slums of the future," Cr Moore said.

The 5.7-hectare development, approximately the size of four city blocks, is expected to house about 3000 people in 1800 apartments - tripling the population of Chippendale.

It has been the subject of two years of difficult negotiations between the council and the site's owner, Foster's.

The huge blow to Cr Moore and her council came on Wednesday night at an extraordinary meeting of the Central Sydney Planning Committee.

The committee, comprising four government and three council appointees, considers city developments worth more than $50 million.

The meeting was called to respond to a letter from Mr Sartor, expressing concern at how long it had taken the council and Foster's to agree on a range of planning issues. In the letter, Mr Sartor also directed the council and Foster's to negotiate the affordable housing levy - a matter both parties, and the Central Sydney Planning Committee, had believed would be negotiated separately.

Cr Moore described the letter, which arrived just days before the council and the company were due to sign an agreement, as a "bolt from the blue".

At Wednesday's meeting, the government appointees used their majority vote to ask Mr Sartor to "call in" the development and assume planning control. Neil Bird, the deputy chairman of Landcom, told the meeting he did not believe the council and Foster's could come to an agreement following Mr Sartor's intervention.

"I think it's better to act professionally and request the minister use his powers," Mr Bird said.

Cr Moore, the Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard and the Moore-aligned councillor John McInerney opposed the motion, in a rare split vote.

"The fact is that the minister's intervention is nothing but political bastardry in my mind. It is designed to harm you [Cr Moore], it is designed to harm the council," Cr Mallard said.

But the committee passed a unanimous motion affirming its support for planning controls approved in December that restrict the highest buildings on the site to 100 metres, or approximately 33 storeys, and provide for a 5000-square metre park, child-care centre and community centre on the site.

Chippendale resident groups fear Mr Sartor's takeover would jeopardise those community facilities, destroy the heritage values of the site and lead to higher-density development.

Lindsay Charles, from the Friends of the Carlton United Site group, said that local residents believed the development allowed by the council was already too large.

"We have got the CBD on one side of us. If we have got this [development] directly behind us … we are just simply never going to see the sun again," Ms Charles said.

A Foster's spokesman, Troy Hey, said the company believed it was possible to have a higher-density development while retaining the community facilities.

He welcomed the likely takeover by Mr Sartor as a way of providing more certainty for Foster's, but conceded it meant going over a lot of ground that had already been the subject of negotiations with the council.

A spokeswoman for Mr Sartor, Zoe Allebone, said the minister would seek advice about whether to assume control of the development, but believed doing so could cut six to 12 months off the approval process.