Crows Nest

Crows Nest: the agenda

The NSW government has decided that the private buildings above the Crows Nest metro station will not, after all, be ‘integrated’ with the station — see the next item below.

The planning department will draft a rezoning prposal for the sites, ostensibly in response to sustained, clearly-expressed and near-unanimous opposition to Sydney Metro’s original Concept DA.

The above image shows (left) what the Metro Delivery Office originally thought a metro station would look like — an asset to the village — and what the new Sydney Metro wanted, to meet Treasury demands (right).

Strangely, the local member, Gladys Berejiklian, wrote to many of us to say that a 27-storey building was not so bad. Apparently, some of the bureaucrats proposed 50 storeys like the gross OVERdevelopment just down the street, and we should see half that height as a win.

Maximum building heights and densities will be included in an amendment of the North Sydney LEP. Sydney Metro will lodge a new DA.

The DA will be assessed by the planning department, because this private commercial development will still be arbitrarily determined by the Minister as State Significant Development. We have been warned!

Victory in a battle, but there’s still a just war to win

In an innocuous note on its website, on 12 December 2019, Sydney Metro said that AW Edwards, CPB Contractors and Laing O’Rourke had been invited to submit tenders for the actual metro station at Crows Nest. Here’s Sydney Metro’s announcement.

A significant change in tactics was obscured by their bland words:

Sydney Metro is seeking a construction-only contractor to deliver Crows Nest Station… A delivery partner for the over station development will be selected via a separate procurement process.

Consistent with the NSW Government’s commitment to the community, the station and over station development packages have been separated… while the NSW Government further considers community feedback regarding the development above the station.

Matt O’Sullivan in the SMH on 30 December 2019 understood the significance of this announcement.

The NSW government has split plans to construct a new metro train station on Sydney’s north shore from the development of towers above it, in the wake of widespread opposition from locals.

The government ditched a tender for an “integrated station development” at Crows Nest last year… The rationale for “integrated developments” is that offices, shops and apartments help to subsidise the cost of the train station below, which can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The change of tack at Crows Nest comes as a recent report by the NSW Audit Office shows that the state’s lead transport agency suffered a $258 million loss on integrated station development agreements for metro lines in Sydney in the year to June [see ‘Other losses’ on page 21 of the Auditor General’s report].

This is a big victory for Crows Nest and the residents from North Sydney to Wollstonecraft to Greenwich, who ran a sustained campaign under the banner OVER development we’re over it!

It also seems to confirm our analysis: planning in the public interest has been subordinated to the kinds of financial games that merchant bankers love to play.

  • The business model that Treasury imposed on Sydney Metro was unrealistic, even amateurish.
  • Treasury was awash with easy revenue from a Sydney property boom driven directly by population growth and foreign investment.
  • Lazily, Treasury chose to ignore sensible and equitable opportunities for value capture and instead allowed property owners near metro stations to reap big windfall gains. After all, merchant bankers love the unearned increment.
  • There were much better alternatives: see our article explaining real value capture.

The lack of transparency also confirms that there’s plenty of trouble ahead.

In return for two office floors (for an “arts centre” we didn’t know we needed) the North Sydney Council used obscure and technical devices to award this site in St Leonards a permissible density that is off the chart — the highest density in NSW.
How did this happen?
We lift the veil here.
  • The political mindset about residential development has not changed. The bigger the better. The higher the happier the pollies are.
  • The planning system has not changed. Executive action by the Minister can ignore the community, disregard strategies and discard council plans – as we explain here.
  • Instead of clear, binding rules for what can be built on an urban site, local and state politicians want to decide everything on the basis of personal and political preferences.
  • And unfortunately when they do change the rules – as North Sydney did last year to give a small site in St Leonards the highest density in NSW, twice what’s normal in the Sydney CBD – see image to right –they do so using the least transparent, most obscure processes.
  • Would that be to avoid scrutiny? Read all about it in these three short articles:

The facts about spot rezoning

The nonsense of ‘shop top housing’

Every which way at St Leonards

Who thought that planning for a ‘priority precinct’ would lead to a high-rise shadow spreading across Wollstonecraft?

Who thought that developers would be anticipating a green light for 60-storey buildings in the heart of the Crows Nest village?*

Who thought that when Sydney Metro came to town with sketches of low buildings, and talk of maintaining the local character of the village, that they would now propose a row of big buildings, two of them 27 storeys high?**

Certainly not members of the community — they unanimously are up in arms.

Read the submission to Sydney Metro from the Committee for North Sydney.

Read the submissions to Sydney Metro from the Wollstonecraft Precinct Committee and the Waverton Precinct Committee.

The submission of the Greenwich Community Association is concise, lucid and compelling.

Understand the origins of Sydney Metro: see What, exactly, is Sydney Metro?

*  60-storey buildings are those buildings that disappear into the sky seemingly with no end point. They approach the scale of the MLC Centre and Chifley Tower, successively Sydney’s tallest buildings. Overwhelming. Belittling everything around them. Big traffic generators. Big shadows!

** The Crows Nest station G_R_E_W_W_W_W….

Perfectly capturing the deceit of the entire commercial project of Sydney Metro, the hoarding in place around the Crows Nest Metro site actually still shows the building on the left — a pleasant, open, sunny entrance to a local Metro station.

In reality, Sydney Metro has already determined that, no matter what, they will build an ugly and irresponsible above-ground car-park on their site. At five levels, this alone is about as high as their pretty drawing. Then they will stick twenty-two floors of apartments above it, far taller than any building in the area. Lucrative!

Sydney Metro has been given instructions by the Premier, the Minster for Transport and the Minster for Planning to get this done and committed regardless. There’s no genuine planning process: this private commercial apartment building has been deemed to be of ‘state significance’. The Minster for Planning will sign what they want into law.

Barbara DeGraff ‘s statement offers ideas for others in responding to Sydney Metro’s proposals. Barbara says it’s important to increase the number of objections to the over station development of the Crows Nest Metro. She encourages people to cut and paste from the statement, changing the order and maybe putting it in your own words.

Barbara’s statement can be read, copied and downloaded here.

Who to email? There’s a list here.

Write a few spontaneous words now to:

Premier Ms Gladys Berejiklian

Minister for Planning Mr Anthony Roberts

Minister for Transport Mr Andrew Constance

Member for North Shore Ms Felicity Wilson

Member for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman MP

It really makes a difference!