By ALLISON HORE
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment have today released their new strategy for the Bays West Precinct.
The strategy, which promises to deliver a “new kind of Sydney urbanism”, outlines six “big moves” for the area which spans over three times the area of Barangaroo.
The six moves outlined in the strategy include repurposing White Bay Power Station as a “central focal point” and cultural hub and creating a crossing from Bays West to Pyrmont to increase connectivity. One option for this crossing mentioned in the strategy is potentially revitalising the Glebe Island Bridge, which has remained permanently opened for the convenience of marine traffic since 1995.
The new draft strategy also puts residential development, which had previously been ruled out for the precinct, back on the table. Planning minister Rob Stokes says the strategy is a good opportunity to make the most out of a long-neglected slice of Sydney’s waterfront.
“Bays West is so central and historically significant to Sydney that it is time to revitalise the area and make it a desirable place for people to live, work and visit,” Mr. Stokes said.
“We have the chance to explore so many possibilities for this incredible location, such as extending the Sydney Harbour foreshore walk, creating a great new public space and repurposing the White Bay Power Station.”
A cynical response
Not everyone is optimistic about the direction of the strategy. Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne said the plan, and its openness to the potential of residential developments, should be looked at with the “the cynicism and derision it deserves.”
“Now we are getting to the nub of the Government’s intentions for the Bays Precinct, not so much Silicon Valley as Chatswood by the sea,” he said.
“The Planning Minister is a nice fellow but the Government’s real intentions for the Bays Precinct are, by their own admission, to send in the wrecking balls and bulldozers so that prime waterfront land can be freed up as a developer’s playground.”
This is not the first ambitious strategy the government has put together for the precinct. In 2015, the government announced they would transform the area into Sydney’s answer to Silicon Valley by making it the home-base for Google’s Australian operations and other technology companies.
However, in 2017, Google abandoned its plans to base its headquarters in the precinct, citing poor public transport in the area as the key reason for their decision to pull out. At the time then-opposition leader, Luke Foley, said negotiations fell about because the NSW government “only had a plan for the area for more and more high-rise apartments.”
“You won’t get companies like Google and their talented mobile workforce to relocate to a precinct unless that precinct has public transport, accessibility and open space,” he said.
With a number of plans for the precinct falling through, member for Balmain Jamie Parker, who previously served on the Leichhardt council, said “White Bay is the graveyard where thought bubbles go to die.”
But Mr. Parker, who has been a strong advocate for the protection of White Bay Power Station and the reopening of Glebe Island Bridge, is more optimistic than mayor Byrne is about the new draft strategy.
“When I was first elected one of my major priorities was to defend the White Bay Power Station from demolition and see its transformation into an iconic community facility,” he said.
“This draft strategy has the potential to be a positive step forward.”
The draft strategy for the Bays West precinct is on public exhibition until Thursday 29th April 2021.