Planning ‘green paper’ set to make North Eveleigh a rules free zone

Greens MP David Shoebridge, Heffron by-election candidate Mehreen Faruqi and I talking to residents in Eveleigh about the proposed new zoning

One of the many concerning aspects of the NSW Government’s ‘green paper’ on the future of the NSW planning system (which I’ve previously discussed here) is the introduction of a new type of land zoning called the ‘Enterprise Zone’.  In the government’s own words these zones will have “little, if any, development controls”, effectively throwing the door wide open to developers and declaring that anything goes.

The green paper goes on to suggest a few sites where the government thinks developers should get free rein with an Enterprise Zoning, one of them being North Eveleigh, a site that has been something of a development football since the then Redfern Waterloo Authority (the RWA, now part of the Sydney Metropolitan Development Authority – SMDA) declared in 2008 that the site would be included as part of the redevelopment of Redfern.

The original concept plans that were exhibited for North Eveleigh in 2008, like them or not, at least had some controls. On the western end the RWA proposed a predominantly residential development with mixed business and residential closer to Redfern station. Floor space ratio (a measure of building density) for the eastern and western ends was to be 2:1 with the central section having a ratio of 1:1. Heights were to be from 4 to 10 storeys with a 16 storey iconic building towards Redfern Station. Similar height frontages to existing buildings along Wilson St were planned and made possible by using the existing cutting on railway land.

A Major Project Application was lodged by the RWA in January 2008 with the Department of Planning for the Redevelopment with residential, commercial, retail and cultural uses of North Eveleigh. On March 13 2008 the Minister for Planning declared the proposal to be a major project under Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and authorised a Concept Plan to be submitted. On May 1 2008 the Concept Plan went on Public Exhibition until June 12 2008. On 7th October 2008 the Department of Planning posted the RWA’s response to the exhibition comments and the resulting proposed modifications in their Preferred Project Report. The Preferred Project Report was then to be assessed by the Department who would make a determination on the project and it would go to market.

And that’s where the story ends.

For various reasons, particularly the possible need for an express rail feeder line, nothing much happened since then until the recent announcement by the SMDA of the affordable housing project and some road works in the southern end of the site. However, getting information or any sense of direction from the SMDA is hopeless, as it’s always been, and it’s disappointing that everything they do is secretive and wrapped in confidentiality.

What we do know however is that the entity that started out as the RWA. which morphed into the SMDA and will soon become Urbangrowth NSW, is all about development and that the aim of redeveloping North Eveleigh will be to maximise economic yield. In the planning environment foreshadowed in the green paper, where community participation ends at the hypothetical stage of regional planning (as discussed in my previous article), the local community will have little or no say in what is built in a North Eveleigh enterprise zone.

I well remember standing and looking at the models of the concept plan for North Eveleigh back in 2008 and listening to the disquiet of residents as they realised the impact that the development would have on their neighbourhood. That was a development that had some controls – we knew the proposed heights and the floor space ratios.  There were approximate figures for the thousands of people that would live and work in the development and there were some limits to what residents could expect.

If the government decides to designate North Eveleigh as an Enterprise Zone there will be no controls or limits on what will be built here. It will meet the community’s worst expectations. We have the race for 18 storeys on the other side of Redfern station and it is realistic to assume that the height and density will be similar if not more extreme in a North Eveleigh Enterprise Zone.

This Liberal State government is planning to totally betray its promise to put the community back into planning and when it comes to a development like North Eveleigh everyone but the developers will be left out of the decision making.

If you care about what is going to happen in your suburb I would urge you to put in a submission to the New Planning Directions Green Paper here, letting the government know that as citizens of NSW you are not going to be cut out of any meaningful say in what happens in your neighbourhoods.

North Eveleigh needs to be developed but it needs to done sustainably, with input from local residents, sensible development controls and good design.

An Enterprise Zone will be a free for all with no concern for the local amenity of existing residents or appropriate planning, it will be an uncontrolled developers delight. Join the Greens in opposing drastic cuts to community participation in the planning process and let the government know your opinion on unfettered Enterprise Zoning in North Eveleigh.

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