Reforming planning — we’re all for it!

Problem is… it’s not so easy, and when governments say the planning system will be “quick and simple” they may be avoiding the core issues.

Historians have failed to explain to us that NSW’s only coup was when Governor Bligh was arrested because he insisted on adherence to a town plan! Ever since, the arm-wrestle between government and landowners has followed a predictable course.

The latest installment is to make approvals “quick and simple”. Despite (or because of?) the recent reforms, we are told that approvals are still slow, and nimbys still have too much influence. So, if investors still lack certainty, let’s make approvals quick and simple.

You’ve seen the announcements. Here is a brief paper on what it is about. And here is an even briefer version to fit into a confined space in the SMH.

Busting congestion? Try planning

Spot rezoning, deals, fast tracking, OVERdevelopment… Is congestion and loss of urban quality inevitable? Yes, on present indications. But not if transparency, probity and expertise is restored to the planning system.

Developers wake from dreams in St Leonards

The residents said OVERdevelopment – we’re OVER it!
The Independent Planning Commission agreed!
Is this the turning point?
Read about the details of this important decision here.

Have you heard about ‘value capture’?

It must sound good — Sydney Metro and Ministers are beginning to talk about ‘value capture’ a lot — but is it good for the North Sydney city centre? The answer to that question is here.

So nothing has changed

In February the Mayor wrote to the Committee for North Sydney. To ask us to contribute to important discussions? To invite us to meet with the planners or Councillors? No. The letter accused the Committee of ‘constant negative dialogue and distribution of misinformation’ and, in effect, demanded that we prove we are not a ‘political activist group’. In short, ‘Go away!’ The Committee issued a statement in response: see the next item.

     It is time for the Mayor to genuinely welcome informed and considered contributions to the long term planning and development of the city centre.

The Committee for North Sydney responds to recent comments by the Mayor of North Sydney.
Read the Committee’s STATEMENT of 20 February 2019

The Committee for North Sydney has written
to the Premier
and to the Sydney Morning Herald

The Committee for North Sydney has analysed two planning reports from the North Sydney Council.
They had clear objectives — and proved exactly the opposite.
They avoided key topics — only to draw attention to them.
Read our analysis here.

On behalf of the “OVERdevelopment — we’re OVER it!” organisers:

On 10 November 2018
800 people told the NSW Government:

OVERdevelopment- we’re OVER it!

SAY IT AGAIN! – ON 23 FebruaryDownload the flyer here

WARNING:  Tsunami headed for North Sydney and Crows Nest!

Download the flyer here

What is behind the tsunami?  Sydney Metro!

Read the truth about this seemingly benign rail agency.

Download the Sydney Metro information sheet here.

The North Sydney city centre is at a turning point

The North Sydney city centre is  growing rapidly – but at what cost?

It’s a convenient location for accommodating regional jobs and denser housing – but is this at the expense of being a good local city centre?

All of the challenges facing the city centre – leading to windy, sunless, congested streets and footpaths – are becoming greater.

All of the recognised deficiencies – lack of public spaces, lack of civic functions, lack of things to do and places to be in – seem to be more pronounced.

The Committee for North Sydney has produced a summary of the challenges and possibilities:

Strategic directions for North Sydney city centre.

The Committee for North Sydney’s most recent submission to Sydney Metro exposes drastic flaws in planning and consultation for the Metro stations at North Sydney city centre and Crows Nest:

The agencies of Transport for NSW, including Sydney Metro, have responsibilities to create value, not just to capture value.

“Nobody has ever cared much about the North Sydney CBD and it’s always been a very deficient CBD in terms of public amenities and open space, public facilities, out-of-hours activities… What you’re hearing about improving the North Sydney CBD is basically just spin, and it’s minor, fiddly little improvements to what is basically a pretty appalling CBD… “

That’s not the Committee for North Sydney!

And it wasn’t said yesterday.

Jeremy Bingham, lawyer and one-time Lord Mayor of Sydney, made that statement in 2000, in an interview for the Council’s published history of North Sydney planning, marking 35 years after the adoption of the 1963 planning scheme. He went on:

“It has no heart. It has no central point. It has no civic spaces. It has no style. It’s a mish-mash. It’s a conglomerate of all sorts of things… You’ve got a whole series of half-baked things. And the flow of morning and evening peak hour traffic through there makes it a very difficult area… It just hasn’t had anything remotely like the level of planning and care and attention over the decades that it should have had…

“I don’t see the concern for the proper growth of a city, commercially, as being contrary to a concern for the residents as well. I think they go hand in hand.”

The full interview – ‘Jeremy Bingham’ in Margaret Park (Editor). Voices of a landscape: planning North Sydney. North Sydney Council, 2001, pages 14-17 – is available here (and in the North Sydney Council’s Stanton Library).

We are doing something about this

The Committee for North Sydney has been launched (see below).

Members are working on planning documents, and meeting with many of the key decision makers.

Subscribe to email news and updates from the Committee for North Sydney.

You are very welcome to join us in the Association for the Committee for North Sydney, to support the Committee for North Sydney.

Find out about joining the Association.

Please use the menu above to find out what’s happening and what is being planned.

The Sydney Morning Herald covered the launch of the Committee for North Sydney

Senior journalist Jacob Saulwick reported on the launch of the Committee for North Sydney on 11 July 2018.

His insightful article was published online on Thursday 12 July 2018, and on pages 1 and 4 of the next day’s edition of the paper.

Here’s the link to the online story.


North Sydney Council called for alternative design options and community engagement

In a major move, the North Sydney Council has written to the Minister for Transport, calling for alternative design options for the over station development at Victoria Cross station, and further community engagement. The resolution adopted all-but-unanimously by the Council can be seen here.

How the Committee for North Sydney sees the future city centre

Thanks, Greg Hyde

The image at the top of the page — used in various forms on our publications — is a modified detail from ‘Sydney’, a large work by onetime-North-Sydney artist Greg Hyde. Thanks Greg for your support.

Thanks Friendlyware

Ralf Alpert, Waverton Precinct member and Founder and MD of  Waverton’s well-named Friendlyware, has been instrumental in getting us online. Friendlyware is a top-rated IT support company for Sydney’s small and medium businesses. Thanks Ralf!

Strategic directions for North Sydney city centre

The Committee for North Sydney recognised the urgent need to state clear strategic principles that should help investors, landowners, businesses, people who work in and visit North Sydney, residents and governments — and their planners — make choices about the future of the city centre.

It’s easy to come up with motherhood statements that might be wishful goals for all city centres — attractive, vibrant, sustainable — but much harder to translate these into specific choices and policies for actual places. Committee members worked on a ‘principles’ document to express aspirations for the North Sydney city centre that are based on its particular qualities (good and bad) and target concrete changes that might be feasible.

We were able to condense this into a single summary page that:

  • identifies the city’s potential strengths
  • lists its well-recognised weaknesses
  • proposes a set of principles to guide all development into the future (this is the section headed YET in the attached statement)
  • presents a vision of the city centre after transformative development over some decades
  • And ends with a ‘call to action‘ — it takes an engaged community AND a determined local government AND a responsible state government to achieve sustained positive change.

At its meeting on 9 July 2018, the Committee for North Sydney discussed the document in detail, refined it, and endorsed its publication to coincide with the launch of the Committee.

Here it is:

Strategic directions for North Sydney city centre

Media statement 11 July 2018


11 July 2018

‘Failed planning risks turning great civic opportunities into urban blight.’

So said leading city and regional planner, Jeremy Dawkins, at the launch of a new expert group, the Committee for North Sydney, today.

‘The North Sydney city centre has been getting steadily more bleak and congested. The building of a Metro station is the latest opportunity to kick-start its transformation into a great place. Instead, everything that’s been going wrong has been accelerated.’

Jeremy Dawkins, the Convenor of the Committee, said that many of Australia’s leading urban designers, architects, engineers and urban planners live in North Sydney, and together with community leaders they have formed the Committee for North Sydney to draw attention to a stark choice facing the North Sydney city centre.

‘The decision that the NSW Government must make is this – whether North Sydney remains an underperforming “office park with through traffic” or, over time, North Sydney becomes a great cultural, business and community asset for the state,’ he said.

The Committee for North Sydney strongly supports the call by the North Sydney Council for a pause in the rush to approve a massive private commercial building over the Victoria Cross station.

Last month the Council wrote to the Minister for Transport seeking further community consultation in relation to revised design options for development at the station site.

Former long-time North Sydney Mayor Genia McCaffery said, ‘Everyone welcomes a Metro station in the North Sydney city centre. But instead of this leading to much-needed public space and civic functions, the Government wants a commercial building occupying nearly the entire site.’

Prominent senior environment lawyer Bruce Donald AM of Waverton called on the NSW Government ‘to capture public value from this public transport project in a once in history chance to create a civic space for what has been a blighted North Sydney.’

The aims of the Committee for North Sydney are to facilitate public and expert contributions to the progressive improvement of North Sydney, through visionary strategic planning, good public policy and imaginative urban design.

It is supported by an Association that anyone can join. The Association and the Committee can be found at committeefornorthsydney.org.au and contacted at info@committeefornorthsydney.org.au.