BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
It is a short distance as the crow flies, but a long way from any notion of a tech hub slated for the site of the former White Bay Power station, according to Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne.
He called on the NSW Government last week to reopen the Glebe Island Bridge to cyclists and pedestrians, so the tech hub can be connected directly to the Pyrmont peninsula. He believes reopening it for pedestrians, cyclists and light rail will make the development more attractive to techies, who are known as avid users of public and active transport.
Clr Byrne also called on the government to release tenders for the site so the local community can see what options are available for waterfront land.
Tender applications for the disused site closed last Thursday
He said that if the government could not reopen the bridge then hopes of developing the site as a tech hub would be dashed. “The Government has been told by its own advisors, and new technology companies, that the regeneration of White Bay will fail unless the Glebe Island Bridge is reopened and world-class public transport is extended into the precinct.”
“The reopening of the Bridge can create a cycle and pedestrian pathway which will put the CBD within a ten minute stroll of Glebe Island,” Clr Byrne said.
“The Government has now received a range of redevelopment proposals for White Bay and they should display them publicly so we can all see what community benefits are proposed for this unique waterfront land,” Clr Byrne said in a statement last week.
Glebe Island Bridge was permanently closed following the opening of the Anzac Bridge in 1995.
A 2013 report by Acil Allen Consulting found that restoring the bridge would cost just over $37 million.
“Mike Baird wants White Bay to be our own Silicon Valley but the idea that Google or any other global company will relocate there with their thousands of workers all having to travel by car is patently absurd,” Clr Byrne said.
He said that Leichhardt Council supported the inclusion of sporting fields as well as a significant amount of affordable housing in the development.
Shadow Minister for Planning Penny Sharpe told City Hub that the government needed to start listening.
“This government is too secretive about too many major projects,” Ms Sharpe said.
“I support the mayor’s call for more transparency about what’s happening at White Bay.The key part of the tech hub is good public transport, good pedestrian and bicycle access and that is very limited at the moment.”
“If the government is serious about a tech hub, it needs to understand how these tech incubators work and listen to what tech leaders are saying.”
A Transport for NSW spokesperson said it was examining options for the repurposing of the Glebe Island Bridge as an active transport link between the Bays Precinct and Pyrmont.
“The government is preparing a transport plan where public transport, bike paths, walkways, roads, water access and public spaces will all be considered,” the spokesperson said.
“Glebe Island Bridge is certainly an option we’re considering for public transport, walking and cycling into the future, but there are a number of factors that need to be investigated before we make any decisions about its potential use.”
The spokesperson said the plan is being formulated by Transport for NSW and Urban Growth NSW and was expected to be completed by the end of this year.
A spokesperson for UrbanGrowth rejected the Mayor’s call to make submissions public.
“The submissions will remain confidential for probity and commercial in confidence reasons.”