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The Bays Precinct Transformation Plan vs The Current Situation: A litany of broken Commitments
Summary

The wonderful, city-building ideas, visions and principles set out in the Transformation Plan are currently being overwhelmed and abandoned due to uncontrolled demands of road and tunnel-building infrastructure.

 

Good government would step back, reconsider the commitments to the Bays Precinct Transformation Plan and choose alternative locations for infrastructure-related facilities that fit with these commitments. What will this State Government do?

The below analysis considers the promises set out in the The Bays Precinct Transformation Plan and which have been broken. The full report is available here

 

Preamble (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015)

UrbanGrowth NSW’s approach to transforming city living is guided by our City Transformation Life Cycle™ methodology. This methodology starts in a completely different place to major development projects. Before contemplating built form, we first need to reflect on the strategic significance of the site, its context economically and culturally, and its potential uses and beneficiaries. In summary, we need to start with Thinking Cities.

Thinking Cities is the first element of the Life Cycle. It brings together our ideas, ambitions, aspirations and needs to define what we want Sydney to be.

The second element is Funding Cities. Again, this is a departure from usual practice. It is an iterative process to seek innovative funding and finance ideas.

The third element is Building Cities. Importantly though, this is not solely about design; instead, it is about the integration of uses and infrastructure and the best and highest-value use of the land. Of course, it deals with design, but our methodology establishes diversity of design, enables world-class developments and, most of all, enables smart delivery through transparent market engagement processes.

The fourth element is Living Cities. This is the creation of great places, great spaces and great opportunities and is fundamental to produce a global Sydney that is resilient, happy and prosperous.

The Life Cycle anchored discussions at The Bays Precinct, Sydney International Summit in November 2014, a unique undertaking that brought together 350 local and international experts to collaborate on the best ideas for urban transformation.

 

The Summit generated a Statement of 20 high-level Principles that have guided the aspirations included in this Transformation Plan.

Our assessment

Despite the above visionary statements, Glebe Island and White Bay - 2 highly significant destinations in the Transformation Plan - appear to be assigned to re-industrialisation (due to infrastructure demands and opportunism) for the better part of the next 2-3 decades. The above grand ideas appear to have been abandoned.

 

Sydney loses a vitally important public asset to ill-considered infrastructure building through negligence.

 

Objectives for the Transformation of The Bays Precinct (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015)

1 To deliver a hub of export-oriented knowledge-intensive jobs that can increase Sydney’s global competitiveness.

Our assessment: This appears to have been reassigned to Redfern to allow re-industrialisation of Glebe Island.

2 To deliver enduring, socially inclusive and great places to benefit Sydneysiders and national and international communities.

Our assessment: This also appears (in the case of Glebe island & White Bay) to have been sacrificed for re-industrialisation.

3.To deliver housing choices, including affordable housing options, through design, finance and construction excellence.

4 To deliver a world-class mass and active transit solution that unlocks the economic and human potential of The Bays Precinct and demonstrates a model of environmental excellence.

 

Our assessment: No longer in the current plans – objective appears to have been overlooked/abandoned.

5 To achieve building design excellence and quality urban design in all Destinations.

Our assessment: Current proposals for the large-scale concrete batching plant and the multi-user facility (MUF) have no aesthetic quality whatsoever (let alone design excellence) and completely lack quality urban design, despite requirements of the (current) White Bay & Glebe Island Master Plan 2000. Design drawings for the proposed MUF have not even been released by Port Authority of NSW!

6 To provide ecological and marine water quality improvements to enable abundant biodiversity. 

Our assessment: How does this reconcile with proposed 24/7 ship operations in White & Johnston’s Bays?

7 To deliver integrated utilities solutions that enable advanced energy generation and technologies.

 

Our assessment: Not in the current plans - appears to have been forgotten.

8 To apply integrated planning within a land and water context that considers strategic policy decisions and the interrelationships between biophysical, social and economic aspects.

 

Our assessment: No overall integrated planning currently being undertaken for Bays Precinct - a failure of the planning process.

9 To celebrate heritage and culture by creating new experiences throughout The Bays Precinct. 

 

Our assessment: Appears to be substituted by desecration of heritage and culture through over-scaled concrete plant and MUF in close proximity to and adversely affecting views of significant heritage items including the Glebe island Bridge & Glebe Island Silos.

Prioritising the Destinations (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015)

The division of The Bays Precinct into eight distinct but linked Destinations will be prioritised as per below. Much of the schedule is based on existing uses - for example, Glebe Island is a longer-term Destination, as it will be used as the temporary site of the Sydney Exhibition Centre until around 2017 and later as a potential temporary construction logistics site for major infrastructure projects. The grain silos are subject to longer-term leases, whereas the Sydney Fish Market, which will be the centrepiece of the Bays Market District, is ready for an immediate refresh.

Our assessment: There is a vast difference between a “temporary site for major infrastructure projects” and the two very large projects proposed for the Johnston’s Bay side of Glebe Island. Both these projects involve very large capital investment and are seen by their proponents as being capable of coexisting with the transformation of Glebe island and remaining in place for decades. In this way, they are completely incompatible with the Bays Transformation Plan. Once in place they will severely compromise the transformation of The Bays and will be very difficult to remove.

In terms of the current lack of progress on advancing the Transformation Plan, many of the so-called long leases are likely to expire before detailed planning is resolved.

Immediate Priority Destinations & Objectives (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015)

1 For the first time, to deliver a continuous, staged, waterfront promenade from Balmain to Pyrmont, connecting right through to the CBD and beyond.

Our assessment: This appears to have been abandoned for the next 2-3 decades despite being a key objective. Proposed Glebe Island industrial facilities, which would consume most of the Glebe Island water-frontage, would render the objective ultimately unachievable.

2 To unlock the potential of the White Bay Power Station and recognise its history in an authentic way.

Our assessment: The Government has had years to do this and still nothing forthcoming. This creates a lack of public faith in the government’s ability/desire to deliver on its commitments.

3 To rejuvenate the Sydney Fish Market (wholesale and retail), and expand the fresh food offering, creating a world-class Bays Market District connected to the water.

Our assessment: Currently being master-planned but potentially compromised with yet-to-be determined Banks Street marina for Sydney Harbour cruise boats conflicting with proposed waterfront promenade. 

4 To seamlessly integrate Wentworth Park with the Bays Market District and surrounds.

Our assessment: Yet to be seen but hopefully forming part of new Sydney Fish Market design.

Medium-term Priority Destinations (works commencing 2019 – 2022) (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015)

Rozelle Bay and Bays Waterways (Blackwattle and Johnstons Bays)

Our assessment:  Apart from the Blackwattle Bay Master Plan currently being prepared, there appears to be no master planning of the overall Bays Waterways. Lack of forward planning will create ongoing confusion, disorderly ad-hoc planning & building, potential undesired outcomes and chaos. 2019 is next year!

 

Longer-term Priority Destinations (works commencing 2022 and beyond) (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015)

1 Rozelle Rail Yards

2 Glebe Island

3 White Bay (2025)

Our assessment: For work to commence 2022 and beyond, master planning would need to be commenced now and all attempts to re-industrialise Glebe Island should be discouraged/refused.

 

Announced Immediate Actions (2015 - 2019) (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015)

The following actions will kick-start the transformation of The Bays Precinct by focusing on the immediate Priority Destinations. Beyond this, we will take the time to engage with partners across government and industry, and with Sydneysiders, so that we have wide acceptance of our plans, and a clear, staged program of activity through the 25-year Transformation Program. This will keep us open to new ideas and emerging trends.

 

1 Start work on the Bays Waterfront Promenade (Stage 1 Pyrmont to Blackwattle Bay) as soon as possible.

Our assessment: This appears to have been abandoned for the next 2-3 decades despite being a key objective. Proposed Glebe Island industrial facilities, which would consume most of the Glebe Island water-frontage, would render the objective ultimately unachievable.

2 Initiate the development of the Bays Market District by rejuvenating the Sydney Fish Market (wholesale and retail) and creating a new world-class marketplace

Our assessment: Currently being master-planned but potentially compromised with yet-to-be determined Banks Street marina for Sydney Harbour cruise boats conflicting with proposed waterfront promenade.

3 Unlock the potential of White Bay Power Station by proceeding quickly with a call for proposals to transform the Power Station and its surrounds

Our assessment: The Government has had years to do this and still nothing forthcoming. This creates a lack of public faith in the government’s ability/desire to deliver on its commitments.

4 Commence planning to integrate Wentworth Park into the Bays Market District and surrounds 

Our assessment: Yet to be seen but hopefully forming part of new Sydney Fish Market design.

5 Complete the Bays Precinct Comprehensive Transport and Mobility Plan and make it consistent with the staging of the Priority Destinations

Our assessment: This appears not to have happened.

6 Establish an Early Temporary Activation Program to enable short-term experimental, cultural and recreational opportunities such as pop-ups, mobile food trucks on the land and water or a community boat shed.

7 Establish storytelling of The Bays Precinct’s heritage and culture through new trails on land and water.

Our assessment: No action yet.

8 Investigate water quality improvements that maintain or enhance water quality, with Blackwattle Bay and Rozelle Bay as a priority.

Our assessment: Proposed 24/7 shipping around Glebe Island would probably destroy this proposed action.

9 Investigate integrated utilities solutions to enable energy generation and advanced technologies;

 

Our assessment: No action yet.

10 In partnership with the Port Authority of NSW, engage stakeholders on innovative solutions to the environmental and operational issues at the Cruise Terminal.

Our assessment: The NSW Port Authority has shown no interest at all in innovative solutions preferring to advance plans (MUF) which undermine the Bays Precinct Transformation Plan objectives.

Leadership (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015) 

In July 2014, the NSW Government directed UrbanGrowth NSW to lead transformation of The Bays Precinct. We will do this by implementing this Transformation Plan.

Our assessment: The public is still waiting for something positive and public to happen. Leadership is absent/confused/inadequate.

Whole-of-Government Partnership (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015) 

We will work with partners across government to find the best ways to facilitate the transformation of The Bays Precinct.

Our assessment: When?

Public Engagement (Extract from the Transformation Plan 2015) 

We will continue to engage with Sydneysiders throughout the transformation through extensive engagement programs, liaison with councils and targeted programs for school and university students.

Our assessment: The public is losing faith that this will ever happen. Letters to Ministers & high-level officials are being flicked to bureaucrats who make banal, condescending replies and “guild the lilly”. No engagement with the public.

Industry

We will work with industry to identify practical and economically-feasible solutions, including the provision of infrastructure that can be a catalyst for capital investment.

Our assessment: Working with industry appears to be with the intention of developing industrial facilities on Glebe Island, which will create high-level pollution, threaten marine safety and destroy the objectives of the Transformation Plan.

Assuring Excellence

The UrbanGrowth NSW Design Directorate led by the NSW Government Architect and other eminent design professionals from Australia and overseas, will oversee excellence in public domain, urban, landscape and building design.

Our assessment: Meanwhile, industrialised facilities are being proposed (without any aesthetic value) and justified on large tracts of bare concrete slab.

Summary

Many of the promises set out in the The Bays Precinct Transformation Plan have been broken and abandoned, with current plans favouring re-industrialisation over city-building and innovation. 

Good government would step back, reconsider the commitments to the The Bays Precinct Transformation Plan and choose alternative locations for infrastructure-related facilities that fit with these commitments. What will this State Government do?