By Lanie Tindale
Community groups are condemning UrbanGrowth NSW’s community consultation process on the Waterloo Metro Quarter development.
Geoffrey Turnbull from REDWatch said that UrbanGrowth has broken its “agreement with public housing tenants” to provide a 6-8 week period to understand and discuss the Metro Quarter proposal.
Mr Turnbull said it was a “token” and “tick the box exercise”. He added that some public housing tenants spoke English as a second language, are elderly or have comprehension difficulties, and require a longer period of time in order to “make informed comments” on the developments.
REDWatch’s Alice Anderson said in a statement that public housing “is not your average community; it is the place where government concentrates vulnerable people. As a result, there is a greater need for capacity building and for time for public tenants to have their say about complex things like planning.”
Ms Anderson said: “Denied the opportunity for input at the start of the process, government and developers should not complain about opposition and “NIMBY” behaviour further down the track.”
During a meeting held by MP for Newtown Jenny Leong last Thursday, Alexandria Residents Group passed the following motion:
“[T]he consultation period for the Metro Quarter has been inadequate and poorly advertised, and … the content provided to the community has been both insufficient and contradictory.”
“This meeting calls on Metro Quarter project to extend the consultation period by one month and provide more information so the community can make a more informed assessment of the impact.”
Community groups REDWatch, Counterpoint and Inner Sydney Voice also slammed UrbanGrowth’s decision to separate the Metro Quarter from the Waterloo Estate planning. They said in a media release this was to “speed up approval of the Metro Quarter so they can deliver it well in advance of the metro trains.”
Executive Officer of Counterpoint Community Services Michael Shreenan said that the decision to separate the two developments was an “ill-considered manoeuvre” and that “any trust by the community was eroded by the government’s backtracking on its undertakings.”
Mr Shreenan said: “Their talk about social housing residents ‘being hard to reach and engage’, hides the reality that it is easier for government to ignore them than is to make sure that they have equality and ownership over any planning process that effects their community.”
The Metro Quarter plan will be submitted not long after the three-month engagement period for the Estate master plan will begin.
Community groups believe these two projects should be planned concurrently because of issues like shadows from the Metro Quarter buildings impacting compromising public spaces in the Waterloo Estate.
Mr Turnbull said thatshadow diagrams made by an architect, that was not employed by UrbanGrowth “tend to indicate there will not be a huge amount of sun, and good public spaces need to have sun.”
Mr. Turnbull said UrbanGrowth has “not made public” the solar shadow diagrams that UrbanGrowth used when designing the precinct.
Mr Turnbull said there were other concerns held by residential community groups. There have not been pedestrian or traffic studies commissioned and “pedestrian traffic has to go across two arterial roads” to get to the Australian Technology Park.
There is only “one exit off the concourse” from the station. The Alexandria Residents group believe there should be at least three exits to accommodate a large number of people that will be using the station.
Some residents also raised concerns that there will only be 70 car spaces for 700 units.
“A lot of people are concerned about the fact that people will have cars and park then in local streets and that will create problems.” Mr Turnbull said.
An UrbanGrowth report on the community consultation process said that public transport, walking and cycling are the “preferred choice” for transport because “the majority of people who responded to [a] preference ranking exercise about the transport modes they use now selected public transport options.”
The Alexandria Residents Group have expressed concerns that if the buildings are approved to be up to 29 storeys height, it will set a precedent for the surrounding area. They believe that buildings should be around 8-10 stories high.
Mr. Turnbull also said that the “provisions for social housing that could potentially be for when they relocate people off the Waterloo estate” is “one of good parts of the proposal.”
There will be no fewer social housing dwellings in the new development as there are currently, and a maximum of 70 per cent of dwellings will be private housing. 5-10 per cent will be affordable housing. UrbanGrowth says that “all current social housing residentials have the right to return to the Waterloo estate.”