News in October

From strength to strength

The Association for the Committee for North Sydney held an open AGM on Wednesday night 31 October in the Crows Nest Centre, attended by 92 members and friends, and characterised by lively discussions supporting the role of the Committee. We thank all those who made donations at the door, amounting to $650.

Denis Moore demonstrated how the Pacific Highway in Crows Nest can be progressively transformed into a grander, much denser boulevard consistent with the great urban qualities of Crows Nest — before we lose the lot from unplanned spot-zoned skyscrapers.

Elizabeth Farrelly gave an insightful, witty and thought-provoking address on ‘the value of city planning’. Quote: ‘So what is planning actually for?…It seems to me that planning has one job: to defend the public interest (and so to value and create the public spaces).’

A new Board

Geoff Hanmer

Our foundation President, Ian Grey, did a fantastic job in establishing the Association as a permanent, positive, grass-roots player in shaping the future of North Sydney, but explained to the AGM that he now needed to pass on the baton. Elected to the Board were:
President: Geoff Hanmer
Vice President: Margaret Petrykowski
Secretary: Bernard Smith
Treasurer: John Hancox
Board members: Jeremy Dawkins, Genia McCaffery and Jan McCredie.

Joining is easy

It is easy to renew your membership of the Association, and just as easy to become a fully paid-up and active member. Simply click the ‘Pay with Card’ button at the bottom of the Join page.

Unregulated residential construction

In the face of widespread construction failures, Committee member Geoff Hanmer, in an op-ed in the SMH, explains how to ensure that residential buildings are well built, from the outset.

What does intelligent mobility add to sustainablilty?

Committee member Professor David Hensher hosts an important meeting exploring how to ensure that travel in the city region – urban mobility – is intelligent, user-focused, integrated, efficient and sustainable.

We finally know what Lendlease wants to build for their $200M site

Lendlease’s planning application for the Victoria Cross metro station site takes the form of an environmental impact statement. The document, prepared by Urbis consultants, has 159 pages and 35 appendices. The EIS is on exhibition during November and the Committee for North Sydney will be examining it closely during that time.

Plan with the community

Will the tsunami of massive buildings in Crows Nest and St Leonards facilitated through spot rezonings — and accelerated by the exploitation of metro station sites by Sydney Metro — inevitably lead to our familiar streets becoming windy, overshadowed, congested canyons?

In a recent article, Elizabeth Farrelly disagrees that height, density and population are the key problems in our congested cities, pointing out that there are much bigger, denser and more populous cities than ours that are exhilarating places to be.

To many members of the Committee for North Sydney this means that, if decision makers are not blinded by private wealth and seduced by monstrous structures, big populations, high densities and tall buildings can generate exciting, attractive urban environments – but only under conditions of openness, involvement, continuous debate about long term options, integrity in the planning system, and a highly skilled and respected bureaucracy (these are what the Committee was formed to support).

Equally, high densities and tall buildings – over-development – will surely destroy valued places under conditions of deregulation, secrecy, deal-making, fast-tracking, and expertise-denialism.

Elizabeth Farrelly nails it with her usual precision: ‘[C]ongestion isn’t about too many people, or even too little infrastructure. It’s about near-total absence of planning’ (‘There’s a con in congestion: it’s not caused by what you think it is’, SMH 17 August 2019).

There has been plenty of planning around St Leonards. So why does development still happen through spot rezoning and the obscure semantics of planning instruments?

Why do the North Sydney Council’s efforts to guide development seem so fragmented and one-off?

How can the community — and the Committee for North Sydney — overcome the systemic barriers to participation and engagement with planning?

Saved from overdevelopment: the full story

The local website In the Cove (ITC) has a highly readable account of how massive overdevelopment was stopped in St Leonards South by the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) — the planning manoeuvres, the Council’s acquiescence, and the sustained and well-informed resistance organised by a number of local groups.

We now know that without the community action, the rules, standards and ‘visions’ of the planning system would have counted for nothing, simply because the developers had unconstrained ambitions.

Read the excellent ITC article here.

Overdevelopment rejected in ‘St Leonards South’

Resident groups campaigning on ‘OVERdevelopment – we’re OVER it!’ had a big victory when the Independent Planning Commission — which spent a day (20 May 2019) listening to well prepared submissions by residents — actually compared the official planning ‘Vision’ with the reality of developers’ dreams.

It has been a long campaign against the expectations of developers that planning ‘visions’ are just words when it comes to proposals for massive residential development. Some of that campaign can be seen lower on this page (or click here). Developers’ dreams seem to be encouraged by planners and politicians at the state and local levels — but they don’t necessarily come true.

The IPC’s role is to give advice to the Minister for Planning and Places. Its full report is here. The IPC’s advice is clear and direct, as these three extracts show.

  • 36 …The Commission is therefore not satisfied that the planning proposal would deliver enough public open space to provide “sunny tree-lined public spaces” and “lively and active streets”, which
    are elements of the Vision.
  • 150 …the Commission considers the scale of residential development in Council’s planning proposal would represent an overdevelopment of the site.
  • 155 The Commission considers that no rezoning of the site is required to meet the GSC’s current housing targets under its North District Plan as the housing targets are currently likely to be exceeded without the proposed delivery of a further 2,400 dwellings.

The report in the Sydney Morning Herald is here.

Premier, your choice

Shortly before Christmas, the Committee for North Sydney wrote to the Premier warning that a rushed decision on the Victoria Cross metro site would have profound implications for the future of the city centre.

Two North Sydney Council studies have tacitly confirmed that this is the only site where a “wide, level, sheltered, sunny civic space is even possible.”

The choice is between launching the transformation of the North Sydney city centre into something worthy of “global Sydney”, or permanently blocking it.

The choice is between “value extraction” and “value creation”.

Read the letter here.

Postscript: That same day, Sydney Metro announced that they had sold the site to Lendlease for $200 million for a forty-storey commercial tower — that’s the price for choosing a seriously impaired business district over an improving city centre.

Is this the future?

The North Sydney Council has released two planning studies concerned with civic spaces and functions in the city centre.

It’s a mixture of good news and bad news. Actually, more of the latter.

The studies were carried out by expert consultancies, apparently under severe constraints.

How else can we explain why these two glossy reports — to improve the pedestrian experience in the North Sydney city centre — don’t mention sunlight, or wind, or slope, or the impacts (and opportunities) of the metro, or the dire effects of traffic generated by the proposed road tunnels?

You can read our analysis, and access the reports, here.

Who said that?

“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.

For the NSW Government, the North Sydney city centre is just highways

1   Giant buildings in city centres generate a lot of movement. If Sydney Metro’s massive tower were to be built (it won’t be), together with very big buildings almost adjacent in Denison and Mount Streets, there will be a lot more traffic, and maybe ten thousand extra pedestrians with nil additional space for them.

But worse is planned.

2   If the western harbour tunnel is built (it shouldn’t be) it delivers traffic from the other side of the harbour onto Falcon Street, which appears to be the only off ramp in this area. But it also attracts a lot of new traffic into the centre of the North Sydney city centre! To head south under the harbour, or north to the M2 or the Beaches Link, you have to use Berry Street. Already a traffic sewer, Berry Street is the new tunnel’s only on ramp for cars, trucks and buses heading north and south. Write off that part of the city centre.

3   None of this is explained in the RMS’s thick glossy brochures on the tunnel and the link. Berry Street is studiously not mentioned. All we have to go on is a small map.

4   And all that traffic travelling south from the peninsula to North Sydney? No mention of that either. In the road sign on the map above, it is apparent that peninsular traffic can exit into North Sydney – but there’s  no indication how this happens, and whether that traffic also finds its way into the city centre, already just an ‘office park with through traffic’.

We need help to understand (and resist) what is coming to the city centre with the western harbour tunnel.

Transport planners, insiders, researchers – please help the Committee for North Sydney analyse and publicise what the RMS has in mind for us, and what we can do about it.

Write to us at

Sydney Metro: high-handed high rise!

On 1 July 2018 a unique NSW agency was born.

Sydney Metro, previously a project management office in Transport for NSW, acquired extraordinary powers by amendment of the Transport Administration Act.

(Creating a big, powerful urban corporation is transport administration?)

Sydney Metro is Jekyll and Hyde:

  • public transport engineer – and profit driven entrepreneur
  • place maker – yet it’s a PR machine loose with the facts
  • custodian of civic spaces – and terminator of them
  • builder of public works on public land – a and fast-tracked commercial developer
  • builder of state significant development – and promoter of private towers claiming the same privileges
  • a state agency that ‘helps create vibrant places and communities’ – yet its deals are secret, they’re ‘commercial in confidence’.

That explains why ‘over station development’ is really ‘over development’.

Sydney Metro: time to create value, not just capture value!

Read about the government’s big plans for Sydney Metro.

Read about what’s happening to Crows Nest.

Get involved!

Local paper has minister ‘shutting down’ the council

At its last meeting the North Sydney Council unanimously resolved to ask the Minister for Planning for a moratorium on residential rezoning – but before the Council could do so the Mosman Daily let them know that the Minister says it’s not on!

The direct intervention of the ‘creative news’ local paper risks confusing the simple and urgent issue of a ‘pause’ in Sydney Metro’s premature and secret deals with developers.

The full story is told here.

And the article in the Mosman Daily is here.

It comes down to this:

When the Mayor meets with the Minister to tell him that more residential rezoning ‘will be become a hot issue at the upcoming state election’, we have to hope that she finds the time to convince him that Sydney Metro’s high-handed high-rise will be an even hotter issue at the election.

What’s behind Sydney Metro’s impact on North Sydney and Crows Nest?

Sydney Metro is a new kind of quango, combining the private developer’s single-minded pursuit of maximum development with the privileges, protections and short cuts available to state agencies.

A recent paper explains why Sydney Metro’s cavalier approach in North Sydney and Crows Nest will be increasingly condemned, and why it must be — and will be — strenuously resisted by the North Sydney community.

Read the paper here.

Download a pdf file of the paper here.

Let the politicians know what you think of these things, by sending a short email to the people on this contact list.

Mayor talks to Premier—about what?

Following the Council’s unanimous decision to write urgently to the Premier and Ministers for Planning and Transport, calling for a pause in Sydney Metro’s rush to lock in towers above its stations, Mayor Jilly Gibson was to have an outdoor meeting with the Premier on her Friday visit to the area.

The Council’s 30 July decision, supported by the Mayor, is reported in the most recent post, below.

According to an article in the Mosman Daily of 9 August, the Mayor’s agenda included, rightly, filtering the road tunnel stacks, compensation for tunnel disruptions, more open space, the closure of central Miller Street, and the undergrounding of the Berry ramp to the road tunnel. The Mayor told the Mosman Daily that she wants a ‘skypark’ on the roof of the 42-storey tower over the Victoria Cross station (notwithstanding the Council’s unanimous decision not to support Sydney Metro’s tower).

Surprisingly, there was no mention of asking the Premier for a pause in Sydney Metro’s fast-track process avoiding consultation and planning assessment.  Jeremy Dawkins, convenor of the Committee for Sydney, emailed Jilly, saying that the community would expect her to make a big issue of the Council’s unanimous resolutions at the last two meetings.

See the recent post, below, and the Mosman Daily article.

Council again unanimously calls for rethink

The North Sydney Council has again called for a halt in Sydney Metro’s unconstrained rush to lock in high-rise towers over its stations in North Sydney city centre and Crows Nest.

At its meeting on 30 July, the Council considered a staff report on Sydney Metro’s proposals for towers above the Crows Nest metro station. The report pointed out many concerns with the proposal.

The Council strengthened the conclusions of the report, and unanimously resolved:

THAT Council urgently write to the Ministers for Transport and Planning and the Premier seeking an urgent pause to this process and that Sydney Metro be directed to prepare a Masterplan for the site in collaboration with Council and the community in order to guide future development above the Metro station and to ensure the provision of community benefits on the site.

The Council’s full resolution can be read here.

The Mosman Daily reported on the Council’s decision on 9 August 2018. The article by Matt Taylor is here.

Please send your own message to the Premier, the Ministers and Sydney Metro using this contact list.

And you can commend the councillors that voted for the resolution — that’s all of those present on the night — using the same contact list.

Major statement on CROWS NEST by the Committee for North Sydney

In response to Sydney Metro’s efforts at ‘Early Community Engagement’ — after they have decided on the fate of Crows Nest — the Committee for North Sydney delivered to Sydney Metro, local members of Parliament, the Mayor and Councillors a clear statement about obvious conflicts of interest and other serious flaws in planning, transparency and governance in Sydney Metro’s attempts to lock in massive commercial development over both stations in the North Sydney city centre and Crows Nest, by avoiding normal, independent planning assessments.

The Committee for North Sydney condemned Sydney Metro’s truncated consultation and approval processes, warning that this approach ‘will generate anger, not agreement.’

Pointing out that the Government has just established an investigation into the corruption of planning approval processes and ‘decision-making governance’, the Committee for North Sydney said, ‘It is inevitable that the community will ask similar questions about Sydney Metro’s use of confidentiality and premature tenders to circumvent independent assessment.’

Read the statement here.

Reply to the Mosman Daily

On 18 July 2018 the Mosman Daily covered the launch of the Committee for North Sydney, interviewing Ian Grey at length. The story is here, as it appeared on the Daily Telegraph online (subscription).

They also took the opportunity to let Sydney Metro ‘explain’ what they had in mind for the city centre and Crows Nest. Their renderings were intentionally out of date – there’s no indication of the building cantilevering out to the property line in Miller Street, and there’s the deliberate omission of outside walls at ground-level, to suggest a public space. As a result, the paper said that one of the images showed ‘outdoor dining’ when there is no such thing. The paper also seemed to think it nice of Sydney Metro (a government agency) to release images of 27-storey buildings in Crows Nest, calling it a ‘sneak preview’!!

Margaret Petrykowski put them straight in a letter in the following week’s issue (26 July 2018, page 26). Thanks, Margaret!

Crows Nest ‘over-station-development’ — Residents say it’s over-development

There was standing room only when 90 residents met to consider the Sydney Metro Over Station Development at Crows Nest.

Sydney Metro is seeking feedback on its chosen development — it somehow thinks of this as ‘Early Community Engagement’.

Residents voted unanimously against the inclusion of two 27 storey apartment blocks and against the exclusion of public amenity on the site above the station.

Wollstonecraft Precinct Chair John Hancox advised the meeting that feedback will be lodged by the closing date of 29 July, and urged those present to write to Sydney Metro. He said, ‘The community is expecting that Sydney Metro will take note and modify its proposal before lodging an EIS.’

Catch up with the latest on the Crows Nest page.

It’s a similar story in the North Sydney city centre —

Committee for North Sydney LAUNCHED!

Committee members and supporters gathered on the grassed area in front of the MLC Building in Miller Street, North Sydney, for the public launch of the Committee on 11 July 2018.

It’s quite a symbolic area: in front of the locally-listed MLC Building (1957, 14 storeys), on the 13 m forecourt, now possibly the best public open space in the city centre — which shows how little there is — and next to the metro site, where the popular and successful low-rise Tower Square was recently demolished by Sydney Metro.

Margaret Petrykowski addresses the gathering at the launch.

Ian Grey, President of the Association for the Committee for North Sydney, Jeremy Dawkins, Convenor of the Committee for North Sydney, Bruce Donald and Genia McCaffery also spoke.

The gathering was informed that the Committee for North Sydney had signed off on its initial documents (see the menu under Actions above), and that meetings had been held with Felicity Wilson, Tim Parker, Project Director for Sydney Metro, and Jilly Gibson. Meetings are being sought with other key stakeholders.