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REDWatch Letter Regarding Sydney University & North Eveleigh

The letter below was sent on 24 May 2010 by REDWatch individually to local politicians urging "the state government and Sydney University enter into negotiations to overcome whatever non-financial obstacles exist to the sale of the North Eveleigh site to the University." The letter was sent to Kristina Keneally, Carmel Tebbutt, Ferity Firth, Tanya Plibersek and Clover Moore.

Dear [Member]

At two recent meetings between Sydney University and the local community it was clear that there is considerable support for the purchase of the North Eveleigh site by the University in preference to other possible buyers.

The first meeting was organised by REDWatch to begin discussions with Darlington, Redfern and Waterloo residents about how the community and the University can work together for mutual benefit. It was held at The Settlement Neighbourhood Centre on the 20th, April and attended by approximately forty people. The second meeting was hosted by the University at Carriageworks on 28th April and attended by about 200 people. At this meeting the University outlined possibilities for the future of North Eveleigh should it be the successful buyer. The Vice Chancellor gave a commitment that these meetings will start a dialogue with the community, building on this initially promising start.

The Lord Mayor addressed the second meeting in support of Sydney University. Subsequently via a Lord Mayoral Minute, the Council of the City of Sydney on 10th May 2010 unanimously resolved to support the principles of Sydney University’s proposal for North Eveleigh.

REDWatch agrees that the publicly owned site should continue to be used for a public purpose. Education is the third most important export industry for Australia and Sydney University is in great need of student housing in the area.

The University already has many heritage buildings and better placed than a commercial developer to maintain the heritage buildings and interpret the social history of the site in a meaningful way.

As has already been clear from REDWatch’s and other submissions during the exhibition period for the Concept Plan for the North Eveleigh site, there are major concerns from the surrounding community about the traffic and other impacts that would be generated by what the Vice Chancellor described at the CarriageWorks meeting as ‘the tangle of high rise’ implicit in the North Eveleigh Concept Plan, with a threat of the worst possible development outcome likely with a developer such as ‘Meriton’ or the like.

North Eveleigh is well served by public transport, is on the most important cycle route between the City and the inner west, and has very constrained access to the arterial road system. The high volume of pedestrian movements between Redfern Station and the existing University campus, as well as the cycle movements along Wilson Street, already create major conflicts with the existing levels of vehicular traffic. REDWatch also has concerns around the capacity of the existing Public Transport infrastructure to handle/absorb any increase in demand. Of particular concern is the current lack of a functional Rail/Bus interchange and both the capacity and accessibility of the Redfern Railway station in its present format. It is therefore essential that traffic generation from the site is tightly controlled. The University’s plans for affordable housing for staff and students and recreational space that would also available to local residents as public space, is likely to generate a much higher use of public transport and minimize the number of residents or workers at the site commuting in or out of the area to work.

While the Darlington community voiced concerns at the recent meetings about operational problems with the University interface (such as noisy events at night and parking conflicts) there was a clear preference for the lower key proposals proffered by the University.

At its last monthly meeting REDWatch voiced in principal support for the purchase of the ‘surplus’ eastern and western ends of North Eveleigh site by Sydney University as a good fit both to the arts complex, and the Darlington community. Apart from the evident social value, there is also the promise of lower rise, much more compatible development, with good synergy with this community and the arts infrastructure. It would seem to be a win-win situation.

REDWatch like residents had assumed that the only serious obstacle to this outcome was money; that the University would not be willing to pay the ‘market value’ for the ramped up potential given by the adopted Concept Plan. The Vice Chancellor put this firmly to rest by saying that the University would pay the market price, and match any other offer.

REDWatch asks the state government and Sydney University enter into negotiations to overcome whatever non-financial obstacles exist to the sale of the North Eveleigh site to the University. REDWatch is of the view is that it would be premature to market the site to other parties until this process has concluded.

Yours sincerely,  

Trevor Davies,