The City of Sydney’s $220 million investment in the CBD and South East Light Rail Project will secure its interests in both the George Street and Surry Hills sections of the route, council documents show.
A council background paper states that the Development Agreement, negotiated by the council and Transport for NSW, contains provisions “that protect the City’s interests in respect of the financial contribution and the desired urban design outcome for the City Centre and Surry Hills”.
Labor councillor Linda Scott said the final contract departed from earlier rhetoric which suggested council would only be able to protect its interests on George Street. She described the change as a “massive victory” for which she had fought.
“Once we learned that the CBD light rail was not going to be stopping at Central, it was always going to be important to ensure that our financial commitment and our advocacy covered the whole route,” she said.
“The City has acknowledged that we do have this advocacy role to fight for those people in Surry Hills as well.”
Part of that advocacy is pushing for an extra tram stop on Devonshire Street near Bourke Street.
At the council meeting, Cr Scott unsuccessfully sought to have up to $400,000 spent on researching alternative routes through Surry Hills. Some residential groups have vocally opposed the state government’s nominated above-ground route through Devonshire Street. Cr Scott also unsuccessfully tried to reduce the council’s investment to $180 million.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore noted the government had already decided Devonshire Street to be the only viable option, and said the new Development Agreement would ensure application of the City’s design codes including paving, furniture and trees.
Convenor of People Unite Surry Hills, Venietta Slama-Powell, said the state government had exaggerated the cost of the alternate Foveaux St subsurface route.
“They say the cost for the Foveaux Street subsurface is significantly more expensive than the Devonshire Street route,” Ms Slama-Powell said.
“However they’ve included their own inclusions that weren’t part of the proposal,” she said.
Ms Slama-Powell said council’s contract contains no stipulations for its investment.
“The City will invest the $220 million irrespective of what Transport for NSW (TfNSW) do,” she said.
A spokesperson for the City of Sydney said council will work in conjunction with Transport for NSW to achieve the best possible outcome for Devonshire Street residents and businesses
David McGuiness, co-owner of Bourke Street Bakery, said the construction of the light rail along his street would mean the end of his business.
“We will be very, very lucky to survive the building of it,” he said. “I can’t see that we will survive there whilst it’s being built.”
Michael Koziol contributed reporting