(Barangaroo MOD 8 & Casino Hotel, 28 April 2016, PAC meeting, Christie Conference Centre)
Barangaroo’s success as a world-class development relies on the public experience being at the forefront of planning.
Modification 8 does the exact opposite. It proposes massive increases to bulk and scale to promote private benefit at the expense of public outcomes; it would privatise prime waterfront land currently dedicated for public recreation and would impact on public space through wind and overshadowing and by dominating views.
Barangaroo planning has a history of modifications that promote private benefit. Proposed changes have repeatedly eroded values of the initial winning design and the first approved concept plan. While some changes are expected with a redevelopment of this size, the existing approval is already unrecognisable from the initial concept plan.
The 2007 approved gross floor area was 388,300 square metres; the current approval is for 563,968 square metres and Modification 8 will bring it to 605,911 square metres with a subsequent expected modification to bring it to 661,686 square metres.
Following continuous approvals for increased bulk and scale, it now appears that approvals are guides that can be changed as the project proceeds and opportunities to squeeze more private gain onto the site are uncovered. There is a strong community sense that planning has become ad hoc and driven by potential private profit.
As the local representative, I can say that Modification 8, and the subsequent detailed proposal from Crown, have sparked unprecedented community anger.
People strongly object to the increased height and gross floor area and the relocation of the hotel tower on the waterfront.
Providing public open space on the waterfront is fundamental to Barangaroo South’s planning. Relocating the hotel to the site dedicated for this would be to the detriment of the redevelopment.
Barangaroo South must provide more than a walkway around the harbour and ensure that there is open space along the waterfront where the public will want to linger. Under Modification 8, public open space is relegated to an inner city pocket park.
Increasing from 170 metres to 250 metres, the tower’s proposed height is unnecessarily excessive and would result in no public benefit. The private windfall from the additional height corresponds with serious public environmental impacts. Massive wind tunnels will exist along the waterfront promenade and in public lanes, with some spots only safe to walk in for able-bodied persons. The building will completely dominate views from far distances, public parks and it would reduce integration with the rest of the CBD.
Increases to buildings 4A and 4B, which are proposed as part of the hotel relocation, will block views of four key target objectives at Sydney Observatory. This is absolutely unacceptable. Sydney Observatory has provided a much loved service to Sydney residents and visitors to learn about astronomy and see stars since the 19th Century. It must continue to do so for future generations and this must not be sacrificed for private benefits.
Modification 8 also proposes 500 new car spaces for the casino section of the hotel, based on demand at Melbourne’s Crown Casino. 500 space is unnecessary given there are many public transport options. The Barangaroo integrated transport plan estimates that 96 per cent of visitors would travel to the site by public transport or bike, or by walking. Melbourne’s casino should not be used as a guide as it is open to the public whereas the Barangaroo casino will be restricted to ‘high rollers’.
The Barangaroo redevelopment presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create new commercial and residential space in the heart of the city, improve public access to the harbour, and provide new parks, open space and services. If we don’t plan development right, if we let private gain drive planning at the expense of community benefit, we will fail future generations.
Barangaroo South can be a remarkable place to live, work and visit but only if there is public open space on the waterfront, buildings do not tower and dominate public space, there is integration with the CBD, and the site is not windswept and unpleasant. If Modification 8 is approved, it will diminish Barangaroo’s environment merely for the private benefit of a small few.
This proposal must be rejected; no further increases to GFA should be approved, the hotel should be relocated within built areas of the site and private parking must be limited.