Sydney mayor flags concerns about Pyrmont developments

by William Brown Last Updated
Concerns about government position on Pyrmont precinct

Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore has warned the state government’s plan to allow development in Pyrmont must not be used to justify a revised proposal from The Star casino for an “inappropriate” tower. 

The Brisbane Times reports that Cr Moore was among the majority of councillors who voted to oppose the casino group’s controversial bid to build a 66-storey hotel and residential building above its casino west of Darling Harbour.

It became a lightning rod for debate about planning in Pyrmont, triggering a dispute between the Sydney Council and Gladys Berejiklian’s government over development controls in the inner city.

The Independent Planning Commission sided with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s negative assessment of the plan when it rejected The Star’s $500 million tower.

In response to public outcry surrounding the proposal, Ms Berejilkian ordered a snap review of planning controls in Pyrmont and nearby precincts.

That review recommended the area turn into an economic and jobs hub.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes last month released for public feedback the government’s “10 directions” that will shape a new “place strategy” for the Pyrmont peninsula.

But in a mayoral minute at the council’s most recent meeting, Cr Moore said she was concerned Mr Stokes had flagged “larger scale development” as part of the scheme when she had not seen any “detailed urban design research required to determine whether this is a desirable outcome.”

She said the “directions” rightly pointed to the need to consolidate local and state government planning controls that applied to the area, but argued that “this process must be driven by genuine research and consultation.”

“This includes mapping sun access planes and conducting an assessment of the entire precinct’s character and heritage, including New South Wales government-controlled sites.

“This must not become an exercise in simply retro-fitting controls to justify a position that greater height and density is the best outcome for the area – or for The Star casino to proceed with plans for an inappropriate tower.”

The Star decided not to appeal the IPC’s decision to knock back the proposal.

However, the group could still lodge a second proposal if the planning controls are changed to allow taller buildings.

Cr Moore said the council had objected to the tower because of its height and the “negative impacts the building would have on the public domain, including overshadowing of parks and public places.”

The majority of councillors voted in support of Cr Moore requesting a community reference group be set up to help inform the strategy and that she write to the state government urging any new development be sensitive to the character of the area, prioritise employment growth and be supported by sufficient public transport.

Mr Stokes has said public feedback would play an important role in helping determine future development in the area.

“Strategic planning based on strong collaboration and a shared vision will transform this jobs and tourism precinct into an economic powerhouse over the next 20 years.”

Pyrmont tower rejected after months of to and fro

The Star Casino has been dealt a major blow with its $530 million luxury casino and apartment tower plan rejected by the state’s planning commission.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in November that the Independent Planning Commission found the “overly obtrusive” 237-metre building should not proceed.

There were concerns from the commission that the 66-storey tower was “inconsistent with current strategic planning for the site and locality and fails to promote the orderly use and development of land.”

The commission sided with the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment’s negative assessment of the plan.

The commission said on Wednesday the development would “result in unacceptable built form, including a tower of a height which is overly obtrusive and that will result in unreasonable and unacceptable impacts with respect to view loss, visual impact, and overshadowing.”

The project’s refusal is likely to spark furious opposition from The Star, business groups and the tourism sector, who all argued the project would draw tourists and ease a shortage of luxury hotels.

The decision will be welcomed by residents though and the majority of members of the City of Sydney council, who argued the project was out of character.

The Star lodged ambitious plans for a luxury 220-room Ritz-Carlton hotel and 204 residential apartments as part of a half-billion dollar power play in 2008 to lure wealthy Chinese tourists to the Harbour City.

The proposal also included a neighbourhood centre, library and function spaces.

There were more than 25 submissions against the plan, prompting the Independent Planning Commission to get involved in June.

The department’s rejection of the proposal unleashed a torrent of criticism from some development players and high-profile media supporters of the tower, including 2GB’s Alan Jones.

The results of a review by the Greater Sydney Commission on Pyrmont’s planning controls recommended developing a masterplan for the Pyrmont precinct considering the character and potential of its various districts, establishing a timeframe and options for implementation.

The three member panel said they considered the findings of that review and acknowledged The Star’s proposal was “located within a precinct which is evolving in terms of strategic context.”

“The commission takes the view that the outcomes of the Pyrmont review support an assessment of the application on merit against the existing statutory framework and strategic context of the area as opposed to a potential future context which at this stage is not yet known.”

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the decision was “a win for the integrity of the planning system, for the community and for fairness.”

“The casino proposed a tower eight times the height allowed by the planning controls, which would have included 35 storeys of luxury residential apartments on a site zoned for commercial activity as well as overshadowing public spaces and parkland.”

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