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Incinerator makes way for civic centre

Demolition work has begun on the disused Waterloo incinerator at Zetland, Green Square – a building that has been at the heart of over 30 years of public planning controversy. The demolition, which is expected to take up to six months, brings to an end debates over how the controversial site could be used reports Sarah Malik in the South Sydney Herald of February 2008.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the demolition is part of a $1.7 billion development which will replace the industrial buildings and car yards around Green Square station to create a civic centre as big as Martin Place, with apartments, supermarkets and shops.

The incinerator, formerly a waste plant, was closed down in 1996 after 30 years of community campaigning. Since its closure, it had become the subject of intense real-estate haggling as developers, councils and residents debated over how the vacant inner-city property could be used.

Colin James, a Sydney University lecturer and architect, who has long campaigned against the demolition, is disappointed at the loss of the building. “It’s a great tragedy. It’s one of the best things that Green Square has going for it,” he said.

Mr James has long argued that the incinerator could be used to provide cheap accommodation for artists and students in a city with sky-rocketing rents. “I would still argue that it could have been used for accommodation. Buildings should be recycled not destroyed. What a shame!” he said.

In 2002 the owners of the building, Waverley and Woollahra Council, had allowed a development application for use of the site by CRASH – the Construction Industry’s relief and assistance fund for Sydney’s homeless.

The move was initially welcomed by the then Mayor of Waverley, Paul Pierce, who was quoted as advocating short-term squatting on unutilised properties, given the “obvious homelessness problems in the inner city”. He later recanted, arguing that the CRASH application had no merit as the “applicant wasn’t the owner” and the building had no “architectural merit”.

The CRASH application was also met with censure from the Mayor of Woollahra at the time, Andrew Petrie, who argued it was capricious for the councils to retain a disused incinerator which adversely affected the value of their land.

Residents’ concerns have also been cited as having an impact. Local resident, Col Charlton, a Waterloo businessman, who campaigned for the incinerator’s 1996 closure is pleased to see the building demolished.

“I’m glad to see it go,” he said. “It’s an ugly thing anyhow. It should have never been there in the first place – certainly it should not have been in the middle of the city.”

As for the building’s accommodation potential, Charlton is ambivalent. “I think there would be some residual stuff. When it was running it was giving out poisonous gases,” he said. “It wasn’t designed as a building for accommodation. It doesn’t sound good for accommodation in my view.”

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2008 -