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Our post International summit submission

The People’s Campaign for the defence of the public good in the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project welcomes the invitation to make a formal submission to UrbanGrowth following the recent International Summit on the Bays Precinct. We will confine our submission to principle, process and governance issues and make recommendations on a few next steps that we see as essential to both good practice and good outcomes for the project and the protection of the public interest in the redevelopment of these valuable, publicly owned foreshores, waters and assets.

Numbers of local groups and individuals are putting forward suggestions for specific uses and developments –both for ‘in the meantime’ uses which can be activated quickly and for longer term substantive uses. In addition to these submissions, we again draw UrbanGrowth’s attention to the substantive body of work that is contained in the Bays Precinct Taskforce Report, August 2012 (though sadly not in its recommendations) documenting renewal ideas put forward by the community and the City of Sydney and Leichhardt Councils.

 It is our expectation that these proposals will be given serious consideration in the planning process.

It is not our expectation that our hasty responses to the invitation to make submissions in 6 days in any way constitutes our final input to the process or a substitute for substantive ongoing engagement with UrbanGrowth and the Government on this project.

 1. PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN IN DEFENCE OF THE PUBLIC GOOD

On the 4th Aug 2014 over 200 members of the Bays community came together at the Glebe Town hall to launch a people’s campaign to defend the public good in the major urban renewal project for the foreshores and waters of the Sydney Harbour Bays Precinct: The Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project. The meeting endorsed a core set of planning principles and a number of resolutions calling for community access to the planning and decision making processes for the project.

The Bays Precinct is of extraordinary strategic significance, not just to its local community, but to the profile of Sydney. It constitutes over 80 hectares of land along 5 kilometres of the Sydney Harbour foreshore around the Blackwattle, Rozelle and White Bays. It includes major heritage items with great potential for creative adaption: the enormous White Bay power station, the Glebe Island Bridge and the Glebe Island silos. It is all publicly owned.

This means that the Bays Precinct project provides a once-only opportunity for the imaginative reshaping of a large part of Sydney Harbour in the public interest.

The communities around the Bays have been calling for an integrated and strategic approach to renewal of this very special inner west harbour site for a decade and have participated in numerous forums and government advisory committees under both the Carr and O’Farrell governments.

Now that, at last, there seems to be a prospect for action rather than more words, local communities are determined that they – and the wider citizenry of Sydney- should have a real and influential role in the imagining and planning of this major renewal project – at every step of the process.

However, there is absolutely nothing in either recent development history in NSW or the Government’s initially announced process for this project- or the wider planning regime – to give the people of Sydney any confidence that that the ‘public good’ will have precedence over private benefit in the decision making, or that the people’s views as to what kind and level of ‘public good’ outcomes should be required of the project will have any influence.

The focus of the People’s Campaign is to get into place planning principles, governance and consultative processes which will ensure a more open and democratic process and give voice and influence to the public good- both as it effects local communities and citizens of wider Sydney.

 

  1. LESSONS FROM THE BAYS PRECINCT SYDNEY INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT

A key demand of the people’s campaign was that a significant number of community members be invited to the high profile Bays Precinct Sydney International Summit – held over held over three days 18th -20th November. In a positive, albeit belated move, UrbanGrowth did invite a number of community members to the summit. We were, however, surprised and disappointed that the key discussions on ‘financing and investment of major urban transformational projects’ had been segregated into a separate summit day. Community representatives were not invited to participate in these centrally important discussions.

The rest of the Summit was excellent in both the range and quality of discussions. The international speakers shared ideas and experiences of similar major urban renewal projects from across the world. There were numerous useful exchanges between community and ‘expert’ participants and useful ongoing connections were made. Overall it was a positive interaction. (Community participants’ views can be read at www.baysprecinctpeoplescampaign.com)

Most significantly from the community perspective, there were consistent and experienced-based messages from the international experts that explicitly supported the main themes of the people’s campaign. Numbers of speakers explicitly noted that upfront community engagement is essential for good outcomes in projects of this kind and it is possible to both strongly protect the public good and negotiate viable public/private investment arrangements.

Repeated themes from the experts suggested there is a radically different way for the NSW Government to go about major urban renewal projects. Clear messages from overseas projects included:

involve the community throughout the life of the program

  • invest in access – “no access, no value”
  • government must be an early investor
  • good governance structure essential to navigate political changes
  • long term strategic setting – tomorrow will not look like today
  • think big –start small:to preserve flexibility to accommodate change
  • one BIG IDEA is necessary – eg university, research institute, cultural facility
  • urban renewal takes time but progress must be demonstrated quickly
  • develop parks and public space first – cheap and adds value
  • parks and public space near the water – development further back
  • mix rich and poor – affordable housing featured in most addresses

It is to be hoped the Government listens to these messages. NSW Government development projects in recent years have not been typified by these practices. 4

NEXT STEPS

3. CORE PLANNING PRINCIPLES

Over the last decade the community in various contexts has progressively developed a set of planning principles that will both deliver high quality urban renewal and provide appropriate public good outcomes. Agreement on such principles is important to complex development projects- especially where public land and assets are involved. They provide reasonable certainty about outcomes, allow flexibility within specified parameters to deal with unforeseen changes and provide a framework for assessing whether the project process and outcomes are in accordance with agreed values.

The people’s campaign has identified a small number of these community planning principles as central to the Bays project because they are the principles which have been routinely breached or ignored by Governments in recent years. They are also the principles which are central to community inclusion, democratic values, transparency and the defence of the public good.

These are the principles we will campaign for at every point of the Bays renewal project. They are not unusual or controversial. Some of them appear in the MOUs that UrbanGrowth has negotiated in relation to its major urban renewal projects. They also echo the common themes we heard from the international experts at the Summit.

It is difficult to comprehend any reasonable barrier to the Government endorsing and acting on these principles.

 Recommendation 1

The Peoples Campaign calls on the NSW Government and UrbanGrowth NSW to endorse and act on the following community planning principles for the Bays Precinct Urban renewal Project.

i) Precedence be given to the public good as a driving overarching principle for the renewal of these publicly owned foreshores and bays

ii) The community of Sydney is able to fully engage in all stages of the planning process

iii) Ensure excellence in planning and design for all development proposals by designating clear, publicly endorsed planning principles and actively seeking local and international ideas for renewal;

iv) Subject all unsolicited development proposals relating to any Bays Precinct public land or waters to open competitive tender and proper public scrutiny;

v) There be no alienation of the Bays Precinct foreshores from public ownership by sale or long term lease;

vi) Ensure high priority is given to the inclusion of social and affordable housing as a significant element of any residential uses;

vii) Ensure continuous public access to the harbour foreshore is a core principle for all development in the Bays Precinct;

viii) Ensure a significant proportion of the 80 plus hectares of publicly owned lands is retained for public uses including open space;

ix) Ensure heritage items, including the White Bay Power Station and the Glebe Island Bridge, are creatively adapted and reused.

  1. GOVERNANCE MECHANISMS

Good governance of major projects relating to public land and assets should reflect democratic values. The composition of the UrbanGrowth Board, dominated as it is by developer and big business interests, is not appropriate for the coordinating/oversighting agency driving major urban renewal projects in NSW- and certainly not in relation to the transformation of publicly-owned assets.

A balanced board representing the diversity of stakeholders – including the people of NSW- would instil some greater confidence in the project.

 Recommendation 2

The People’s Campaign calls on the NSW Government to diversify the composition of the UrbanGrowth NSW Board to include community and professional and academic directors to balance its current domination by developer and big business interests.

5.  ONGOING COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND CONSULTATION

The belated decision to include community members in the International Summit was a positive. Although not without some hiccups, it generated a valuable exchange of ideas between local and international experts and community (who of, course, are themselves not lacking in ‘expertise’ of many kinds, including planning and architecture). From our perspective, it was clear that many of the international experts were surprised at the obvious difficulty that members of the ‘community’ –whether local or more broadly defined- had in gaining meaningful consultation with, engagement in, or access to information about the Bays project.

We have noted the recent assurances from UrbanGrowth senior staff that they are committed to meaningful community consultation and that they have the Government’s backing on this. We are very hopeful that this eventuates. It will represent a significant improvement in planning and development processes in NSW.

There has been some suggestion that UrbanGrowth is considering the establishment of an ongoing community consultative group or mechanism. This would be welcome as long as the process of so doing is open, the community members are not marginalized (as in earlier Government consultative processes) and have broad access to information and participation with other stakeholders in the planning process.

The People’s Campaign explicitly incorporates an expansive view of community. The local community has an obvious and significant stake in the Bays Precinct renewal and must have a voice. The wider Sydney community – the citizenry of Sydney, if not NSW- has a major stake. This is an iconic Sydney Harbour site and is owned by the citizens of NSW. Membership of any community consultative group must reflect both these community interests.

 Recommendation 3

The Peoples Campaign calls on UrbanGrowth NSW to sustain the positive and consultative spirit that was strongly manifest in discussion and process at the Bays Precinct Sydney International Summit and immediately establish a meaningful and substantive consultative mechanism to engage the community/citizens of Sydney in the ongoing planning process for the BPURP.

UrbanGrowth has included in its project timeline a Sydneysiders summit to be held after it submits a draft strategic plan on the Bays Precinct to the Government in April or May 2015. This timing suggests a post hoc debrief on what has been submitted rather than a serious opportunity for the community to influence the content of the draft plan.

Recommendation 4

The People’s Campaign calls on Urban Growth NSW to reschedule the foreshadowed Sydneysiders Summit to at least two weeks before (not after as currently planned) the delivery of a draft strategic plan to the Government to allow the community to have direct input to and influence over the content of that plan.

 6. FINANCIAL AND INVESTMENT INFORMATION

Financial and investment arrangements for major development projects are obviously determinants of what is possible and who benefits from the outcome. NSW Governments increasingly abuse ‘commercial-in-confidence’ agreements to impose a cloak of deep secrecy over financial dimensions of development projects. When the projects relate to public assets this is an affront to democracy. It fundamentally compromises proper accountability and too often – as we have repeatedly witnessed in recent years- is an open door to corruption.

This excessive secrecy deliberately obscures the relative outcomes for the public good and private benefit. (The NSW public is still denied the bottom line of this equation in relation to the urban renewal of the publicly owned Barangaroo foreshores.)

A key demand of the people’s campaign is that there is far greater transparency at every decision point about the underpinning financial arrangements for this project.

 Recommendation 5

Recognising that the Bays Precinct urban renewal project relates to publicly owned lands and assets, the People’s Campaign calls on the NSW Government to commit to a high degree of transparency in relation to financial arrangements and relative outcomes and provides accurate and meaningful reports on these to the citizens of NSW throughout and at the conclusion of the project.

 7. IN CONCLUSION

Following the Community meeting of 4th August, we invited the Premier and the Minister for Planning “to work with the people of Sydney to make this highly strategic, urban renewal project for the Bays Precinct – part of the iconic Sydney Harbour- a pilot for the restoration of integrity, transparency, community engagement and respect for, and proper protection of, the public interest into NSW’s planning and development processes.” (letter to Premier, copied to Minister for Planning 21/8/14).

While we have had no response from the Premier or the Minister, we urge the Government to take up this challenge for a radical radical change in their approach to planning major development.

 Recommendation 6

The People’s Campaign calls on the NSW Government to work with the people of Sydney to make this highly strategic, urban renewal project for the Bays Precinct a pilot for the restoration of integrity, transparency, community engagement and respect for, and proper protection of, the public interest into NSW’s planning and development processes.

Carolyn Allen (BPCRG member and President Balmain Association),

John Brooks (BPCRG member and Pyrmont Action Inc),

Dr Lesley Lynch, (BPCRG and BP Taskforce member and Glebe Society),

Professor Jane Marceau (BPCRG and BP Taskforce member and White Bay Joint Steering Committee)

26 November 2014 

Summary Report on Urban Growth’s International Experts Summit – Prof Jane Marceau

Overview

More than 330 people attended the Urban Growth International Experts Summit on the Bays Precinct. It was held over three days, 18 – 20 November, but the community representatives were not invited to the first day which was devoted to financing urban renewal.

The people participating as speakers on the 19th and 20th were extremely impressive, ranging from  the  CEO of London’s Port Authority to the ex-mayor of Seattle to the innovative city analyst Charles Landry and a vast range of architects and urban designers, academics and others. The places they represented or could discuss because they had direct experience of working there also covered a huge range, from Copenhagen and Stockholm through the UK and other parts of Europe, Hong Kong and other parts of Asia to the US, Canada and New Zealand. Locals speaking or commenting included the Chair and CEO of the NSW Port Authority, the Secretary of the NSW Health Department, the Manager of the City of Melbourne, leaders of some business organisations, notably the Committee for Sydney, numerous other public servants from State and local government, academics and a few politicians and quite a few representatives from community organisations of different kinds. The last only got the chance to speak from the floor and were not even on panels, a fact that we noted and protested. It fell to us to provide the experts with critical information and ask important questions.

The quality and breadth of information that the international speakers in particular could share with the fortunate locals who were invited were quite extraordinary. I think everyone found it very interesting and took away many messages.

It was very striking that many of the messages that came through loud and clear were very much along the lines of the ideas that the community has been developing over many years now. Although our Principles were never discussed as such (we did distribute a copy to everyone), much of the work presented to us included many common elements. Many of the messages would not have been very comfortable to traditional thinking public servants and other leaders but they served the very important purpose of forcing them to listen to arguably the best analysts, urban renewal practitioners and city managers in the world giving very well argued and convincing views backed by practical examples of how to do it and, equally important, NOT do it. Many fascinating examples of major urban renewal projects of diverse sizes were presented and one kind of wished several times to try out living there or at least going on a lengthy world tour to see them on the ground.

Several very important themes came out strongly. I have tried to summarise them here. A fuller report will be available later.

  1. Of huge importance to community members was the fact that almost every speaker talked of the importance of involving the community at every phase and every stage. Speakers reiterated this many, many times and repeated that this is the ONLY way to get such important projects right and make them successful, whether in Hong Kong, Copenhagen or London. Many discussed their different methods of ensuring community involvement and the different mechanisms needed at different times and in different circumstances. It was clear that in some cases community opinions had forced changes of direction or priority, rather unexpectedly, for example, in Hong Kong;
  2. Governance and getting governance right emerged strongly as critical factors from many places. We clearly need to think very carefully about this. It was, for example, said that leadership is vital and must be linked to appropriate governance institutions. There was quite a lot of discussion about and surprise expressed at the fact that Sydney has no overall metropolitan government;
  3. The importance of a vision for Sydney as a whole city that the Bays Precinct transformation must fit into. As yet of course, apart from the City of Sydney’s notion of Sydney as a City of Villages, we have no such vision. Indeed, having a vision often seems to be considered by both government and business as a mistake;
  4. The importance of having a strategic plan before anything else at all. All speakers agreed that nothing must be done until we know the parameters of where we are going;
  5. Associated with this, many speakers repeated that we must not rush. It has all waited this long and the imperative is to get it right, not get it soon, they said. I hope our leaders are listening…
  6. I also hope our leaders are listening to the views expressed of the desirability of keeping public funding in as long as needed. Since renewal of this scale and of this kind is a very long term activity, public funding is needed to pump prime, to ensure delivery of desired outcomes where private funding is not easy to obtain. Overall, speakers agreed that most must be done by partnerships between public and private financiers. These partnerships are not intended as PPPs in the sense that we mostly know them in Australia but involve more sophisticated methods of linking public and private funds, for example with different sequencing or project focus, for example. There was absolute unanimity that the site is for too valuable to be sold off to developers. This was linked to views that the program of transformation should start slowly and small;
  7. Several ideas were discussed about how to start small and temporary. Many projects presented had used diverse methods to get the community of both users and potential users were there were none initially to really understand the site and its multiple and complex possibilities. These were often very exciting and fun to participate in. There were, for example, pop-ups of all kinds, small scale experiments with change, interesting mixes of the existing and the new in provision of small streetscapes, cafes, galleries, workshops, studios, gardens. Many attempts were made to take advantage of serendipity, as in the wonderful example of Roubaix in northern France where the town no longer wanted its old swimming pool but someone wanted space for a museum so a museum and events space were created in the old but elegant swimming pool building, complete with water.
  8. Undertaking small projects first obviates the problem of making really costly mistakes and helps to show residents and business people in the local community and beyond what real and numerous possibilities the site holds. In particular, this kind of action was recommended by the panel discussing the future of the White Bay Power Station. Suggestions included stabilising the building, holding mass visits, asking for ideas after the visits, putting in pop-ups of different kinds and what the Tate Modern called ‘meanwhile’ activities. This enables people to try out different ideas. One speaker even suggested that we should first just improve what we have a bit by creating a garden and a promenade and getting people used to using that space since we have not been able to use it before.
  9. All speakers said ‘Take your time’, ‘Don’t rush’, ‘It will wait’, ‘Try things out’. One, for example, said start with a ferry to the area to bring people in, see how it goes and bring other forms of transport later for bigger activities. There was a general emphasis on the small scale, the adventurous, the new, the creative. I think this is very valuable for us and gives us something internationally recommended to insist on if we get faced, as we probably will, with state government demands for speed and rushing into big developments.
  10. As a very important summary of what we should be aiming for and what to avoid I very much liked Charles Landry’s categorisation of cities as Cities 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.
  • Cities 1.0 we all recognise as the mechanistic, car dominated, engineer-dominated entities built according to the view which conceives cities as containers and seeks machine-like solutions.
  • Cities 2.0 are those that seek to be developed by soft place-making and bring different people into decision-making. In this type of city, for instance, ‘transport’ as a concept is replaced by ‘mobility’, ie the function, not the form. This allows broader thinking and recognises mixed values. Here too science parks as a series of buildings in a locality become open source innovation. These cities, however, are still largely based on a corporate image.
  • Cities 3.00 are just emerging around the world and are very different. They focus on greater intimacy and compaction, make serious efforts to be socially inclusive and diverse, allow memory to feed into the future, develop creative milieux. They offer a new urbanity which focuses on shared commons, the physical and the invisible. They are part of a diversity and environmentally sustainable agenda.

The challenge was thrown out to us of ensuring that Sydney , and especially the Bays Precinct, is not at the tail end of city and city economy thinking and development approaches but rather is at the forefront of thinking about the ways in which economies and cities work.

Speakers were all asked several times to delineate the conditions of city success for urban renewal programs. I have outlined these above and will have a more detailed report later.

Issues  

These can be read in many cases as the obverse of the recommendations above. We may well have to face many of them and we need to develop our own expertise. Getting the community Planning Principles accepted, getting community collaborating at every stage and forum, including decisions, getting past the continuing silos to get governance right are right up there in importance and urgency.

I am particularly concerned about the risk of Urban Growth, especially under pressure from political masters (witness the 16,000 housing units blooper on Tuesday which the government hastily backed right away from), and the government rushing in and getting things wrong. I am sure there is pressure to sell off land and start building. Urban Growth repeated many times that they would not do that, that the process was thinking, planning, funding, building. I hope they can manage it. Things may be slow. One speaker, for example, discussing the Power Station said surveying, really understanding and stabilising the building would take a year, planning and thinking would take at least another year. That gave us two years to really think through what activities would be best. I hope we can keep to this kind of timetable.

But, I am concerned that Urban Growth will have its draft Strategic Plan ready for the new or returned government in April, a mere four months away, will hold a Sydneysiders Summit in May and have the final plan ready for government in July-August.

This seems to me to be rushing things in ways that were definitely NOT recommended in the Summit.

Caution and preparation on the community’s part continue to be vital. But I think we are far better armed for the discussions we will face than we were. I think the Summit has been very valuable for us for many reasons but continued vigilance and activity are essential.

Jane Marceau

White Bay Joint Steering Committee

City of Sydney – A Review of Planning Processes in the Bays Precinct

This report commissioned by the City of Sydney Council seeks to summarise the various planning policies, strategies and plans into a single document with an overview of the key drivers, the consultation and the outcomes for each process. It also summarises the common principles which run through these plans to assist the community stakeholders in contributing to future consultation processes.

To view the Report as a .pdf file, click here.

Prof Rod Simpson talks about the importance of governance

On 5th November 2014, Associate. Professor Rod Simpson gave the following address to the Festival of Urbanism Discussion at Sydney Town Hall

 

‘Open City’ and the Importance of Governance

I would like to reflect briefly on why we are here.

We are here because we are all interested in how we make the city and who decides what sort of city we want. We are in a situation where we feel we have lost our democratic right to determine the shape and quality of the city.

But we never really had a direct say- we entrusted government.

We have gone from a time when we looked to government to provide infrastructure to now when infrastructure and urban renewal needs to be bundled up and turned into a business opportunity, because to be fair, we don’t want to pay higher taxes. Just before we get carried away and paint too rosy a picture of the past, it is hard to be nostalgic about freeways that carved though the city, improving access to the city centre but destroying and cutting off vast areas in the process. It is fair to say that we accepted freeways, and other urban vandalism because we had a shared a view of the city as a machine for wealth creation for all citizens.

This view has faded if not collapsed.

We now see the city more as a machine for the accumulation of wealth by the few, and we see what we thought were public functions being handed to the private sector, and these privatised public functions are some of the most efficient parts of that wealth concentrating machine.

Actually they can’t avoid it because these privatised functions have to be profitable, and so they build on strengths- they reinforce the patterns of the city that we have just recognised as being problematic. In the process of privatisation we feel we have lost even a modicum of accountability and transparency that we expect in a democracy.

And this disquiet and discomfort is felt not just in those places really feeling the effects, but also in better–off places like Balmain, Rozelle and Glebe as we shall hear from Jane.

So something smells not right. What is the problem and what can we do about it.

We are not here to bash government, we want to fix it. In my opinion the problem is that the institutional arrangements for how citizens voices are heard have not kept pace with our more sophisticated and complex view of the city and our ever higher expectations on the one hand, and the corporatisation and commercialisation of government functions on the other.

That sounds like gobbledegook. To bring it down to ground a bit:

One of the reasons we invited Stephen here was to hear about the different governance arrangements at HafenCity. A corporation arms length from government, not just about profits or revenue and fully engaged with the citizens of Hamburg and the residents of the place itself and the results I think, speak for themselves.

To see governance as a dry topic with little relationship to quality or character of places is wrong. How you ‘design’ the governance, will fundamentally affect how you design ’the deal’, and how you design and structure the deal is like designing the DNA of a project. And having genetically engineered the project embryo, you stand back and watch it grow in to … Barangaroo.

So in my opinion, this is where we really need innovation: in the development of new forms of localised, place specific entities that include local and wider community representation, at arms length from government.

How often do we hear the refrain that ‘the private sector knows how to do ‘it’ better, faster, cheaper’? The problem is, what is ‘it’? We don’t necessary want or need IT, because ‘it’ is business as usual. Business as usual will always aim for the highest profits with lowest risk, or in the case of infrastructure, perform a narrow function and do nothing else.

Instead the first thing we should be asking when we approach individual place is ‘what does the city need?

To illustrate my point: In the case of the Bays Precinct do we need more expensive housing near the water and more cars? Or do we need more affordable housing, perhaps without any car parking given the proximity to the city.

Secondly, when we think of major infrastructure we should be getting as much out of it as we can. For example, surely if we are going to build WestConnex then we should be putting in a metro subway at the same time.

So in conclusion, designing the governance, working out how citizens can be actively engaged and empowered in decision making, the potential of entities that sit somewhere between government and the private sector, has not been given nearly enough thought, and there is no amount ‘design excellence’ or ‘starchitecture’ that can overcome a badly structured deal.

Prof Jane Marceau Address to Festival of Urbanism

The Bays Precinct: Principles for Action

The focus of my brief talk tonight is the Bays Precinct. Resident just above White Bay, I have been involved with others for almost a decade in trying to get sensible planning for the whole Precinct. Maybe, just maybe, we are making progress.

But we have always emphasised that the Bays are not ours alone. The Bays Precinct is an asset what belongs to all of Sydney, NSW and beyond.

This asset is irreplaceable. It is large – 80 ha, 2.5kms of waterfront – and, best of all for planning, all the immediate foreshores are publicly-owned.

The BP runs from the western edge of Pyrmont, through Glebe and a section of Annandale and Lilyfield, through the densely populated White Bay to East Balmain, passing the White Bay Power Station as it goes. It includes many thousands of residents and many more visitors. It includes Port activities, notably now the Cruise Passenger Terminal, recreational boating, the Fish Markets and numerous water-related businesses and others. Within living memory it was a port thinking its future was one of expansion…

Located next to the CBD and on the Harbour, the BP is the most valuable urban renewal site in Sydney. This value makes planning it properly of immense importance to all. We have to get this right or we do all of Sydney a major wrong.

We began our campaigning in 2005-6 with the catchcry of ‘putting an end to ad hoc planning’ and focused on the fragmentation of decision-making between the government silos, none of whom took any notice of each other or indeed the residents. Having fought off a monstrous cement terminal and other totally unsuitable developments, we are now faced with a different interlocutor: from a dozen or so silos to an urban monolith, AKA Urban Growth, with a mandate to make the best use of the Precinct.

This means that the battle has shifted for us from opposing DAs to being an active part of renewing an extremely sensitive area. Fortunately we have used the decade to build a set of Planning Principles. We consider these Principles to be non-negotiable; quite the reverse, they are to be the basis for negotiating the future. The Bays Precinct is a brownfields site. Like most such sites, the BP includes a broad range of both public and private uses and hence often conflicting interests. These Principles are the basis of good development for our extraordinarily valuable area. As developed by the Community Reference Group set up by then Planning Minister Keneally and reaffirmed in numerous community consultations, including those organised by the BP Taskforce in 2012, the Principles range from the overarching to the detailed concerning all aspects of the Bays, from transport infrastructure, housing, open space, foreshore access, cultural heritage to environment.

Tonight I present only the key ones, the sine qua non of proper planning and development as this applies to the Bays but also to every one of our cities.

Before I present them, I would like to make one critically important point which indicates our common problem. This is that community groups and everyone who helped devise the excellent People’s Planning Charter put together by the Better Planning Network all want the same things. Developed in relation to our own experience with planners and developers, we all seem to have come independently to the same conclusions! This of course immediately raises the question of why we all have the same experiences and why the wishes, ideals and ideas of community groups are practically always ignored in practice. And further, of course, what are we going to do about it.

For our part, we have pledged to run a People’s Campaign, jointly with the City of Sydney and Leichhardt Council, to ensure that the voices of the Sydney community are not only heard but engaged with in an egalitarian and convincing manner in the BP renewal.

In this the Principles will be central. Tonight I will present only those that experience tells us are on the one hand most likely to be breached by governments and developers alike and on the other are dearest to the community.

I begin with the proposition that we need excellence in design for all Development Proposals and that this can best or only be achieved by following the Principles. Using the Principles we can both assess proposals and negotiate particularities.

‘Excellence’ here is a concept which has many aspects. Most important is the aspect of overall social value which is manifest in both content and process of decisions. I am not sure that there is anything wrong with the Benthamite principle of the greatest good of the greatest number

Expressed as Planning Principles for the Bays Precinct, excellence means:
1.  that precedence must be given to the public good as the overarching principle governing renewal of the BP;

  1. as part of this, there must be no alienation of the foreshore from public ownership by sale or long-term lease;
  2. there must be continuous public access to the foreshore as a core criterion for acceptance of all proposed development;
  3. a significant proportion of all the BP lands must be retained for public use;
  4. the community of Sydney must be able to fully engage in all stages of the planning process, including, in my view, both discussion of and decision about proposed major developments. ‘Consultation’ is clearly not enough.
  5. ensuring the precedence of the public good also means that all unsolicited development proposals must be open to competitive tender and proper public scrutiny. Transparency is critical.

These Principles in their more detailed iterations (see the Summary of the CRG report) must be at the core of development initiatives and be used to inform and assess the particular interpretations of public good and public need where areas such as affordable housing, public transport and the creative adaptation and reuse of heritage buildings are concerned.

We recognise the need for governments and private sector stakeholders to obtain a reasonable return on investment but the public good must be paramount.

In summary, the key Principles are public good, community as an equal decision partner, transparency in decision-making and good governance.

Achieving these aims will not be easy. We will have to be creative and innovative in building the new institutions and expectations, both about process and outcomes, needed for building the equitable and sustainable cities that all Sydney residents deserve but have sadly gone without for too long.

I invite you all to visit the Bays Precinct website; baysprecinctpeoplescampaign.com and participate actively in the Sydney Harbour Bays Precinct People’s Campaign over the coming months. We need to make the BP renewal the very model of how to rebuild our cities and with them regenerate our failing governance structures.

Thank you for your attention.

Bays Precinct Resolutions from Community Meeting

The following preamble and resolutions were overwhelmingly endorsed by 200 plus members of the

Bays Precinct communities at a public meeting held on 4 August 2014 in Glebe Town Hall to

protect the public interest in the planned urban renewal of the Bays Precinct foreshores and waters.

 

Preamble

The Bays Precinct is of extraordinary strategic significance, not just to its local community, but to the

profile of Sydney. It constitutes over 80 hectares of land along 5 kilometres of the Sydney Harbour

foreshore around the Blackwattle, Rozelle and White Bays. It includes major heritage items with

great potential for creative adaption: the enormous White Bay power station, the Glebe Island

As such, the Bays Precinct project provides a once-only opportunity for the imaginative reshaping of

a large part of Sydney Harbour in the public interest.

 

There is great community anger over recent development of major public lands- notably

Baranagaroo and Darling Harbour. The community has been ignored, decisions have been shrouded

in secrecy, excellence in planning and design has been by-passed and public good has been blatantly

overridden by private interest.

 

The Government’s announcement of the Bays Precinct Urban Development Project excluded

community participation until after the Summit and then offers token engagement through forums

to inform the community of the Summit outcomes.

 

This public meeting of the Bays Precincts communities has been called to begin a campaign to

ensure that the people of Sydney are able to engage meaningfully in the planning process for the

Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project and to ensure that the public good is given due precedence in

the redevelopment of these publicly owned harbour foreshores lands and waters.

 

As a first step in the campaign this public meeting of the Bays Precincts communities resolves:

 

Resolution 1: Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project core public interest principles

To call on the Government to ensure that the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project follows a

democratic and open process which enables public and private interests to come together creatively

and imaginatively to ensure that the outcome will be a worthy of the site and of Sydney’s status as a

global city and properly protective of the public interest.

(Click here for Community Planning Principles list on this site)

 

Resolution 2: Building a People’s Campaign

  1. a) This public meeting urges community organisations within the Bays Precinct area to come

together to contribute their particular expertise and local knowledge to the wider people’s

campaign.

  1. b) This public meeting of the Bays Precinct’s communities endorses the development of a wider

campaign alliance incorporating interested community organisations and individuals across

Sydney to ensure:

  • that the people’s voice on the renewal of the valuable and publicly owned harbour

foreshores and waters within the Bays Precincts is heard and respected by the

Government and its agencies

  • „h that the Government conducts the planning and renewal process transparently and

consistently with the community endorsed principles reaffirmed by this meeting

  • „h and that the public good is given precedence in this major urban renewal project – as is

appropriate for publicly owned lands and waters in our democracy.

 

Resolution 3: Community engagement and participation

  1. a) The Premier and the Minister for Planning meet with the representatives of this public campaign

before the planned Summit in November to brief them fully on the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal

Project and to discuss the community’s anger and concerns about the announced process and

the developer dominated composition of the UrbanGrowth board

Click here to open Letter to the Premier

  1. b) The Government invite a significant number of community representatives, including from the

Bays Precincts communities, to the November summit so their expertise and the views of their

communities can be incorporated directly into the proceedings.

  1. c) The NSW Government -in collaboration with the City of Sydney and Leichhardt Councils-

convene a People’s Summit preceding the November summit to allow direct and democratic

participation in the shaping of the urban renewal process for the publicly owned foreshores and

bays encompassed by the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project.

 

Resolution 4: Organisation of Next Steps

This public meeting of the Bays Precinct’s communities authorises a working group consisting of the

four organisers of this meeting and a nominee from all interested community organisations within

the Bays Precinct area to carry the decisions of this meeting forward and to report to the community

regularly through their usual communication channels. Early consultation with the Better Planning

Network, parliamentary representatives and development of a social media campaign and should be

priorities.

 

Carolyn Allen (BPCRG member and President Balmain Association)

John Brooks (BPCRG member and Pyrmont Action Inc)

Dr Lesley Lynch, (BPCRG and BP Taskforce member and Glebe Society)

Professor Jane Marceau (BPCRG and BP Taskforce member and White Bay Joint Steering

Committee)

 

6 August 2014

Community Planning Principles

Preamble

The Bays Precinct is of extraordinary strategic significance, not just to its local community, but to the profile of Sydney. It constitutes over 80 hectares of land along 5 kilometres of the Sydney Harbour foreshore around the Blackwattle, Rozelle and White Bays. It includes major heritage items with great potential for creative adaption: the enormous White Bay power station, the Glebe Island Bridge. It is all publicly owned. As such, the Bays Precinct project provides a once-only opportunity for the imaginative reshaping of a large part of Sydney Harbour in the public interest. There is great community anger over recent development of major public lands- notably Baranagaroo and Darling Harbour. The community has been ignored, decisions have been shrouded in secrecy, excellence in planning and design has been by-passed and public good has been blatantly overridden by private interest. The Government’s announcement of the Bays Precinct Urban Development Project excludes community participation until after the Summit and then offers token engagement through forums to inform the community of the Summit outcomes. This is patronising, undemocratic and unacceptable.

This public meeting of the Bays Precincts communities has been called to begin a campaign to ensure that the people of Sydney are able to engage meaningfully in the planning process for the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project and to ensure that the public good is given due precedence in the redevelopment of these publicly owned harbour foreshores lands and waters.

As a first step in the campaign this public meeting of the Bays Precincts communities resolves: Resolution

1: Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project core public interest principles To call on the Government to ensure that the Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project follows a democratic and open process which enables public and private interests to come together creatively and imaginatively to ensure that the outcome will be a worthy of the site and of Sydney’s status as a global city and properly protective of the public interest. To achieve this, Bays Precinct planning process must ensure:

a) Precedence is given to the public good as a driving overarching principle for the renewal of these publicly owned foreshores and bays;

b) That the community of Sydney is able to fully engage in all stages of the planning process;

c) Excellence in planning and design for all development proposals by designating clear, publicly endorsed planning principles developed by the Bays Precinct Community Reference Group and actively seeking local and international ideas for renewal;

d) That all unsolicited development proposals relating to any Bays Precinct public land or waters be subject to open competitive tenders and proper public scrutiny;

e) That there be no alienation of the Bays Precinct foreshores from public ownership by sale or long term lease;

f) That high priority be given to the inclusion of social and affordable housing as a significant element of any residential uses;

g) That continuous public access to the harbour foreshore be a core principle for all development in the Bays Precinct;

h) That a significant proportion of the 80 plus hectares of publicly owned lands be retained for public uses including open space

i) The creative adaption and re-use of key heritage items such as the White Bay Power Station and the Glebe Island Bridge.

Background Bay Precinct Peoples Campaign

The Sydney Harbour Bays Precinct Peoples’ Campaign

The Bays Precinct is of extraordinary strategic significance, not just to its local community, but to the profile of Sydney. It constitutes over 80 hectares of land along 5 kilometres of the Sydney Harbour foreshore around the Blackwattle, Rozelle and White Bays. It includes major heritage items with great potential for creative adaption: the enormous White Bay power station, the Glebe Island Bridge. It is all publicly owned.

In July this year, the Government’s announcement of the Bays Precinct Urban Development Project excluded community participation until after the Summit and then offers token engagement through forums to inform the community of the Summit outcomes.

On the 4th August 2014 over 200 community members met in Glebe Town Hall to consider proposals for a “People’s Campaign” to defend the public interest in the NSW Governments newly announced Bays Precinct Urban Renewal Project. The meeting unanimously endorsed the ‘Peoples Campaign’, a set of essential principles for the protection of the public good in the planning process and a number of resolutions -including a call for the Government to include community representatives in its planned Experts Summit on the Bays Project in November.

Since then, both City of Sydney and Leichhardt Councils have formally supported the Peoples Campaign and Urban Growth NSW has met with the campaign organisers. There are now a number of ‘community representatives’ invited to the Experts’ Summit- including the four People’s Campaign organisers.

The Bays Precinct project provides a once-only opportunity for the imaginative reshaping of a large part of Sydney Harbour in the public interest.

 On behalf of the organisers of the Bays Precinct People’s Campaign to Defend the Public Interest 

Dr Lesley Lynch, (BPCRG and BP Taskforce member and Glebe Society)

Carolyn Allen (BPCRG member and President Balmain Association)

John Brooks (BPCRG member and Pyrmont Action Inc)

Professor Jane Marceau (BPCRG and BP Taskforce member and White Bay Joint Steering Committee