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A sorry site

THE Carlton & United Breweries site on Broadway is one of Sydney's prime development sites, six hectares of opportunity on the southern edge of the city centre. Trains, buses and major roads are at its door, leading universities are its near neighbours. The regeneration of this historic site should be a model of how Sydney can build for its future, without forgetting its past. So far, however, it exemplifies only the chaotic state of planning in the heart of Australia's biggest city. [SMH Editorial August 19, 2006]

The history of the CUB site was largely uneventful until after the last keg had rolled out the door. Three years ago, the developer Australand optioned the vacant site from Foster's. The City of Sydney council began creating a new planning regime for the site, determined to tighten up the amount of development allowed. Last December the council produced draft planning controls which the government-controlled Central Sydney Planning Committee approved for public exhibition. By then, however, Australand had decided not to proceed, blaming the tighter development controls.

The council pressed on. By June it thought it was close to an agreement with Foster's, when the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, took over the site at the request of the Central Sydney Planning Committee. Mr Sartor established an expert panel to advise on the CUB site. This week the panel met residents, who gasped at high-rise proposals for the site. However, the panel's chairman, Professor Chris Johnson, told residents not to be too alarmed because the panel had yet to decide just what the density of development should be.

So, after three years, what the council claims was almost a done deal is back on the drawing board - literally. The minister is rewriting the rules, and Foster's is redrawing its plans. This hardly qualifies as progress. The most contentious issue - density of development - is back under discussion, while the overall planning framework is also being renegotiated, along with commitments to community facilities and heritage conservation. The council's previous work may be disregarded despite competitions, community forums and expert consultations yielding a multitude of reports, studies, plans and guidelines. Nor is it clear what influence, if any, the public will have over the final planning regime. Mr Sartor's arbitrary intervention, presumably supposed to move the project forward, looks more like taking it back to square one.

SMH Editorial August 19, 2006