Harold Park planning agreement leaves much to be desired

The draft voluntary planning agreement for Harold Park, to be negotiated by City of Sydney Council shortly, looks set to be far too generous to the site’s owners, the Harness Racing Club (HRC) at the expense of the community.




I have repeatedly spoken out against the size of the planned development, which would see over a dozen 6-8 story apartments that rise two storeys above the adjacent cliff face as well as many 3-5 storey blocks built on the Glebe site. It is clear that this would represent a massive overdevelopment of the site, yet still council pushes ahead.

For an indication of what the layout of the site would look like if the development would proceed, look at the image below, where the numbers represent the proposed height in stories of each building.


harold park development

With that many large dwellings as well as the proposed commercial space in the tramsheds it looks like the site could be home to over 1500 cars, which would put the already crowded surrounding roads into gridlock during the busier parts of the day. The development would be ideal for student housing to service nearby universities as this kind of use would require few private cars, with any demand being met by car share. However sadly the paucity of affordable housing on the site means that it will not likely be in the price range of the average student.

The planning proposal also contains no meaningful provisions for Environmentally Sustainable Development, only a request for the developers to slightly exceed the weak targets set out in the BASIX program, for which they will be rewarded with permission for even larger buildings.

There is no requirement for onsite low carbon power generation, water recycling or any other concrete sustainability measures. A ‘from scratch’ development like this has so much potential to be built in an environmentally friendly manner – carbon neutral, water positive and zero waste. However this planning proposal will see it become just another carbon intense project that has no place in the 21st century.

I am also opposed the huge discount in developer contributions allowed by the plan. Under the normal planning controls a developer would have to contribute a little over $17 million to fund facilities like parks, cycleways & community centres when undertaking a development of this size. The draft plan approved by the City of Sydney will see them pay only $8 million, with the shortfall having to be made up from ratepayer’s pockets.

The plan justifies this on the basis that the some of the land on the site will be freely given over to Council for use as public open space. However the HRC initially obtained part of the site, now valued at over $11 million, from the state government for free (for information on how this happened, see this article, by City of Sydney Greens Councillor Chris Harris).

That’s $11 million that the state now doesn’t have that could have been used to build affordable housing, parks or any number of other facilities for the public good and that hasn’t been accounted for in this massive fee discount.

The affordable housing contribution outlined in the project is facilitated by reducing open public space and is accommodated by an increase in floor space granted to the developer. The exercise is a pea and thimble trick at no cost to the developer.

City of Sydney Council is letting itself be bullied over the development. The report presented to Councillors on the draft planning proposal warned that if Council didn't endorse it then the City could have its planning powers taken away by the state government. I don’t think Councils should let themselves be intimidated in this way. After all, what’s the point of hanging on to planning powers if you’re just going to use them to approve things you don’t agree with?

They shouldn’t be bending over backwards to please the developers just because that’s what the state Labor government does.

I would encourage anyone concerned about the issue to contact the Councillors of City of Sydney Council who, with the exception of Greens Chris Harris and Irene Doutney, all gave their endorsement to the proposal.

Click here for the record how all those Councillors, including the Labors Councillor, voted. Contact details of Councillors can be found here.

I would also suggest writing to the local state MP, Labor's Verity Firth. Firth has said that she supports the communities' goal of an environmentally and socially sustainable development for Harold Park, however we have yet to see her take any action contrary to the push towards massive towers that her government supports.

Perhaps a subtle reminder that this is a vote-swaying issue may help in the lead up to the state election - she can be contacted on balmain@parliament.nsw.gov.au.


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