Woollahra Council has thrown a lit firecracker into the debate over the City of Sydney’s revitalisation of Oxford Street.
In a submission to the City of Sydney, Woollahra Council has come out in opposition to the City of Sydney’s Oxford Street Cultural and Creative Precinct plan.
“We are fully committed to the conservation of our heritage and do not support this path for the revitalisation of Oxford Street,” Woollahra Council said in their submission.
Under the revitalisation proposal, the City of Sydney will allow property developers to increase floor space and building heights along Oxford Street if they dedicate at least 10 per cent to cultural and creative purposes.
According to Woollahra Council, ‘100’ year old structures often do not have sufficient structural capacity to accept structural loading of additional floors and will need multiple fire-rated structures integrated through the floors to the foundations.
“We anticipate that this will impact on the integrity of the heritage fabric, the heritage significance of contributing buildings and particularly on heritage items.”
The submission also questions the credibility of the City of Sydney’s primary goal: protecting the cultural and creative integrity of Oxford Street.
The submission further stated that development will lead to an increase in rental rates and “could create further pressure on affordability for the more creative and lower income-generating sectors, which may have the opposite effect of more rapidly displacing them out of Oxford Street and this area of Sydney”.
A Better Way
Woollahra Council suggests a better way to revitalise Oxford Street would “involve giving more space and creating a safer public domain for pedestrian use, calming of traffic, provision of cycling infrastructure and advocacy for removal of clearways and enhanced public transport to support mode shift from private cars”.
The submission goes on to suggest that the City of Sydney plan for Oxford Street should draw “on its importance as the cultural heart of the LBGTQI community”.
Dr Christopher Pepin-Neff, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney, who focuses on LGBTQI politics, thinks it is “important not to downplay the concerns raised about the Oxford Street revitalisation proposal”.
“Woollahra Council is essentially suggesting that the current plan may allow for irreparable harm to Heritage buildings on Oxford Street, pricing people out of Oxford Street life.
“They allude to the detrimental impact the City of Sydney’s plans could have on queer and trans people by the revitalisation plan. This would be the opposite effect on the LGBTIQ community that many want to see.
“Everyone should read this sobering submission and ask the City of Sydney to respectfully explain itself.”
Oxford Street has been plagued with high vacancies, aggressive vehicle traffic and the absence of a sustainable plan. The City of Sydney is currently reviewing a development application to start preliminary construction on Oxford Street.
According to a City of Sydney Spokesperson, “the City has received the submission from Woollahra Council and is reviewing it alongside the other submissions that have been received to the Oxford Street Cultural and creative precinct planning proposal.
“The outcome of the public exhibition of the planning proposal and the responses to all submissions received will be reported to Council in April 2022.
“The City is unable to comment prior to this report to Council.”