Minutes of the ARAG Meeting of 14.3.2012

Minutes of the Meeting of A.R.A.G as held at Alexandria Town Hall, 14.3.2012

Approximately 25 to 28 people in attendance.


  1. Presentation of City of Villages Workshops by City of Sydney Staff.
  2.  Wish List for Alexandria
  3. Community Workshop – Parking – 31.3.2012
  4.  Lift Redfern
  5.  Ashmore and the LEP
  6.  General Business

Spokesperson for the meeting, Vanessa Knight opened the meeting at 7:10pm.

1. Presentation of City of Villages Workshops by City of Sydney Staff

Kate Reid and Anne Roach informed the meeting about the City of Villages Plan and 2030 in your village. They are aware that we are concerned about parking and over-development; their authority is limited to small community building projects and events.

2. Wish List for Alexandria

Suggestions raised at the meeting included: parking policy,transport plan issues with buses and trains, community noticeboards, pedestrian access and signage, issues with Dibbs St Park beautification, local economy and shops, community building, Belmont St and Lawrence St heritage, rat-runs and through-ways, a library-book pick-up, a local bus service, public seating, leaky bus shelter, the regularity of the 308 bus, the particular parking challenges faced by families with babies and the frail, a visitor parking scheme, open space requirements in developments and greenery in new new developments and laneways, the adequacy of bike paths, especially the one in Buckland St, footpath repairs in Renwick, Alexander, and Belmont Streets, train services to Erskineville and the lack of cover there for commuters.

They are collecting ideas till April. Any information by an individual can be made directly to Kate Reid and Anne Roach or by emailing info@arag.com.au.

3. Community Workshop – Parking – 31.3.2012

There is to be a community workshop on parking and parking policy. ARAG has asked for an agenda, so far unsuccessfully. ARAG have asked for an independent chair and offered to provide questions on notice, particularly a request for an explanation of the methodology used to interpret parking surveys – specifically, what defines a ‘majority’.
Suggested questions can be emailed to info@arag.com.au.

4. Lift Redfern

Laura discussed Lift Redfern – the campaign for lifts at Redfern station – and the associated Petition which is underway and which will be officially launched on Monday the 19/3. The aim is for 10,000 signatures which will mean a debate in Parliament. There is a website, facebook page, and a twitter account – see http://www.facebook.com/LiftRedfern.

5. Ashmore and the LEP

The State Government has agreed with Council’s proposal that Ashmore should be 9 stories high.
The Council have passed the draft LEP (Local Environment Plan) that allows Floor Space Ratios (FSRs) to of 1.25:1, an increase of over 25% on the current limit. In addition, council have largely removed the requirement for soft (landscaped) surfaces, allowing whole blocks to be built on despite concerns about runoff and increased flood risk. (Clover Moore Independent Party and Liberals voted for the LEP, Greens and Labor voted and spoke against it. See https://arag.org.au/2012/03/14/irene-doutney-on-the-lep)

6. General Business

Concerns were raised about the impact on residents of traffic associated with the new Bunnings development on Euston Road, (opposite Victoria’s Basement). The new Bunnings will be 20,000m2 (two and a half times the size of the Bunning’s at Gardeners Road). It was suggested that road closures might be needed to control traffic, also suggested that if road closures are mishandled they could make the situation worse, not better.

Meeting closed at 8:20pm. Next meeting, 11.4.2012.

Irene Doutney: I find myself in opposition to the LEP

The following notes are from Greens Councillor Irene Doutney’s response to the LEP (Local Environment Plan) as given to the Council meeting of Monday 12/3/2012

This is what an FSR of 1.3:1 looks like.

Before I make my comments I would like to acknowledge all the work that has been done by staff and councillors to get the City Plan to where it is today. I also attended some of the City Plan meetings and it is with regret that I find myself in opposition to the LEP as it comes before us tonight.

I have grave concerns about parts of the LEP, in particular those to do with our heritage and conservation villages. I believe that the number of large developments including Harold Park, the Ashmore Estate, Green Square, the City and the renewal of Redfern and Waterloo should absorb the mass of development and meet the Metropolitan Strategy target numbers without having to upzone the villages that surround them.

We need to protect our villages as they are the soul of the City and with a balanced approach we can let new development happen in these renewal sites while protecting the conservation and residential villages.

I note that at last week’s Committee meeting the majority of submitters from the Resident Action Groups had their concerns diminished while the developer submissions were all given extra attention with 13 sites now being considered for future amendment. Not so for the villages however.

There has been significant media attention over the gross overdevelopment of the Ashmore estate, where the City’s plans for an already large development were ordered to become even larger by the Labor govt, who’d received thousands of dollars in donations from the site’s owners.

It is politically cowardly to have this section of the plan deferred to a point in the future that will almost certainly be after the next Council elections. The City should submit the plan with its proposed controls for sign off by the Minister along with the rest of the LEP.

This would allow the City to own its plans and have the people decide on them democratically, as well as forcing the Liberal government to show their hand – will they stand up for residents or follow the developer friendly line of Labor?

The controls for Ashmore Estate currently advocated by the City are around double what was permitted under the 2006 Ashmore DCP and if these were the only up-zonings adopted in the area we would still be asking Erskineville and surrounds to bear a significant burden.

However while Ashmore Estate gets the attention it is not the only part of Erskineville that is destined for overdevelopment under this plan.

The vast majority of the suburb, as well as surrounding areas of Newtown and Alexandria, looks set for major increases in density.

Under the South Sydney DCP almost the entirety of Erskineville had a maximum allowed floor space ratio of 1:1. It is noted that these controls have been routinely exceeded and it is for this reason that we are told that the permissible FSR should be increased.

Changing planning controls to meet these past exceedances is not a visionary way forward.

Higher FSR developments got through because developers were allowed to “slightly” exceed the controls. There’s no reason to think the new controls won’t also be exceeded – plans 10% in excess of controls are routinely allowed under SEPP 1. This means that for areas where FSR is increased to 1.25:1 we will see numerous developments pop up with an FSR of 1.37:1. When we next come to review the LEP, will we then up the allowed FSR to 1.37:1 to accommodate these?

You can see how this is a very poor precedent to set, and 1.25:1 is the lower end of new FSRs under the plan. The situation will be patently much worse in the areas where FSRs will jump from 1:1 to 2:1.

It’s also worth noting that the new LEP will be using a new definition of FSR, where internal wall cavities and communal stairways no longer count towards total floor area, meaning developers will be able to get between 5-17% more floorspace into their developments, depending on total size, even without an official increase in FSR.

Having made these points about trying to change development controls to match existing development I would also like to draw attention to the fact that the area is not uniformly high density as various reports imply.

The 2009 Urban Design Study into the area, used to justify the bulk of the density increases, has a map of existing conditions in the area which shows it to be anything but uniformly high density. Large areas of the suburb are predominantly less dense than the planning controls allow, calling into question the need to boost the density, when the residents are opposed to upscaling their village.

Examples include:

  • Newman St between Whitehorse and Angel Streets – only two out of 27 blocks are currently over 1.1:1 and none of these are over 1.25:1, yet all but one block is to be up-zoned to 1.25:1.
  • Block between Burren and Charles Streets – only 7 blocks are currently over 1.1:1, yet 86 out of 87 blocks are to be zoned 1.25:1 with the remaining block becoming 1.75:1.
  • Union St on both sides, between Erskineville Rd and Munni St – only 24 of 91 blocks are currently over 1.1:1 and none are over 1.25:1, yet 65 blocks are to be rezoned 1.25:1.

I would also like to briefly mention the residents of Chippendale who are concerned about the loss of Clause 37 which gave them some protection against certain types of development and I call on Council to put some heart into the LEP where people’s homes and futures are at stake.

Monday’s Committee Meeting

Some notes from Monday’s Committee Meeting:

The format was:

  •  everyone who was registered to speak was given 3 minutes
  •  council staff responded to the concerns raised
  •  councillors had the opportunity to challenge the response from the staff

This meant that unless an issue was supported by at least one councillor, council staff had the last word with no right of reply. And it was only the minority councillors (Meredith Burgmann, Shayne Mallard, Irene Doutney and Chris Harris) who raised issues. Clover’s  ‘independent’ councillors barely spoke all night.

The most common issue raised was floor space ratio (FSR) and building height – usually couched in terms of the application vs the buildings surrounding the site.  At least one speaker invoked a threat of legal action if they didn’t get the FSR they wanted (over a site in Zetland).

The city is trying to standardise its rules – and is upsetting people in South Sydney in doing so. The old South Sydney City used to allow mixed industrial – bulky goods, office space, light industrial, even limited residential in certain circumstances. This is all being rezoned (dezoned, one speaker said) so that many current uses will no longer be allowed.  There was the claim made that it is being selective in doing so – favouring Green Square over other nearby sites. Impacted sites include South Sydney Corporate Park and the Bunnings on Gardners Road.  Council said that there is a need for areas for “noisy and dirty work”, and it seems that these are to be it.

Michael from FOE spoke, pointing out that other councils are lowering their FSR ratios (at least in part in response to a change in the FSR formula which makes the calculation more generous to developers), pointed out that the studies being relied on are out of date, and called for new studies and a delay.  He also pointed out that 9+ stories is not fitting in with the surrounding area. Council’s response to the last point was to say that they only try to find fit with the surrounding area in heritage areas, not with ‘brownfield’ developments (replacing existing buildings, instead of building in empty (green) fields).

David Aitken and Anne Aitken both spoke, saying that there is no grounds for the increase in the FSR (floor space ratio), drawing attention to the well attended Ashmore meeting, commenting that the community is concerned but not informed, and calling for a delay: “council should be about informing … give us more time and we will make sure people are informed”.  Council’s response was that the 1.25:1 ratio is a maximum, not an entitlement, and that the current limit of 1:1 is regularly breached anyway. (!)

Irene expressed concern that we are facing the “Slow erosion of villages. Precedents get set and slowly the whole village changes”. Clover responded that council is committed to the ‘Village Character’ statements.

Meredith raised the concern that Council have been adding the words “including interiors” to heritage listing statements. The official response was that this doesn’t change anything.  There was discussion, but I didn’t feel that there was a clear resolution either way.

There is another meeting tomorrow night (Thursday), this time of the CSPC (Central Sydney Planning Committee), which will cover a lot of the same material, as will a full meeting of Council on Monday.

Who is the CSPC?

Contributed by Mike Hatton
The Central Sydney Planning Committee (CSPC) is a joint City of Sydney/State Government controlled Committee that has responsibility for major developments ($50+ million).

Its members and stated purpose are as below

City of Sydney Council representation:

The Lord Mayor Councillor Clover Moore MP (Chair)
City of Sydney
Town Hall House

Councillor John McInerney
City of Sydney
Town Hall House

Councillor Di Tornai
City of Sydney
Town Hall House

State Appointed Members

Mr Richard Pearson
Deputy Director-General – Development Assessment and Systems Performance
NSW Department of Planning

NSW Government Architect

The Hon Craig Knowles
(Non-government representative)

The Hon Robert Webster
(Non-government representative)

Background and role of the Central Sydney Planning Committee

The Central Sydney Planning Committee (CSPC) was established by the State Government in September 1988 under the provisions of the City of Sydney Act 1988.

That Act provides:-

“Sec 34. Members of the Planning Committee

(1) The Planning Committee is to consist of the following 7 members:

(a) the Lord Mayor of Sydney

(b) 2 councillors of the City of Sydney elected by the City Council

(c) 4 persons (2 of whom are senior State government employees and 2 of whom are not State or local government employees) appointed by the Minister administering Part 4 of the Planning Act, each having expertise in at lease one of architecture, building, civic design, construction, engineering, transport, tourism, the arts, planning or heritage.

(2) The Minister administering Part 4 of the Planning Act is to obtain the concurrence of the Minister administering the Public Works Act 1912 before appointing a senior State government employee under subsection (1) (c) if the employee is appointed because of his or her expertise in architecture or civic design.

(3) At least one of the senior State government employees appointed under subsection (1) (c) must be either the Director-General of the Department of Planning or a senior executive officer of the Department of Planning.

The Committee has the exclusive right to exercise the functions of City of Sydney Council in relation to the determination of applications for major developments (the estimated cost of which exceeds $50 million) and development applications seeking to vary a development standard under State Environmental Planning Policy No. 1 (unless delegated to Council to determine)

Sydney City Council to spike floor space ratios by 25%

Sydney City Council are meeting tonight. On the agenda is a proposal to raise floor space ratios in many areas from 1:1 to 1.25:1, a 25% increase above the current maximum.

The argument is that because there are already existing dwellings above the current limit, the limit should be raised for all new dwellings, to “provide flexibility”.

Anyone who’s concerned by this proposal may want to be at Sydney Town Hall tonight.

What we want is for the meeting to defer this decision for 4 weeks so that the community can assess and respond before the draft is finalised.

We’re not sure what time the proposal will be heard, only that it will not be before 6:00. We’ve been asked to be there by 5:45 to have time to register and so on.

Entry is from George Street and up the Grand Staircase located to the right-hand-side of the entry foyer, or take the birdcage lift, to Level 1. An accessible entry is available from Druitt Street with lift access to Level 1.

The full agenda is here: http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/Council/MeetingsAndCommittees/2012/Committiees/050312/planning.aspx

Likely to be of particular concern to us are attachments G10, G7 and B5. Possibly others.