MHS at Sydenham to Bankstown Line Conversion Inquiry

On Thursday 7 November, Marrickville Heritage Society President, Scott MacArthur, sat before the NSW Government committee looking into the proposed Sydenham-Bankstown Line conversion.

Scott was invited to speak with the committee as a result of a submission the society had made to the inquiry. We have reproduced that submission below.

Scott faced the committee along with Mr Graeme Quint, Director, Conservation with the National Trust of Australia  (NSW).

We have also published Scott’s opening statement to the committee with some questions and answers from the session. 

THE SUBMISSION Dated 4 October 2019

The Marrickville Heritage Society was established in 1984 to protect and promote the wonderful heritage of the former Marrickville LGA for posterity. We currently have over 400 members that are keenly interested in the protection and promotion of the heritage values of the areas within Marrickville, Sydenham and Dulwich Hill that were proposed for rezoning and redevelopment under the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor Strategy, arising from the Sydenham to Bankstown Line Conversion. 

The Society is particularly concerned that even though the Department of Planning’s proposed plans for major rezoning of the suburbs around the new Metro train line were eventually revised, and then withdrawn after a strong community backlash, the Department of Planning is still providing high level advice and population density goals that the Councils along the LGAs are compelled to comply with. 

The Society is concerned that throughout development of these densification proposals and the community consultation process, there was inadequate consideration of the importance of maintaining the essential character and social cohesiveness of the affected suburbs, that make them stable and desirable residential neighbourhoods. The Department undertook superficial and inadequate heritage studies that failed to identify the true extent of heritage and character areas in these suburbs. The Department also declined to identify what supporting environmental, social and community infrastructure was to be provided to support the proposed extra population. There was no planning allowance for new parklands, schools or hospitals which, if not provided, would ensure that the future residents of our LGA would have a harsh, mean and poor existence. 

The rezoning proposals and residential densification were effectively a new Masterplan for the entire Sydenham and Bankstown Corridor area, and a comprehensive Statement of Environmental and Heritage Impacts should have been undertaken as a baseline document. The Statement should have identified adverse impacts, like overloading of existing infrastructure and razing heritage neighbourhoods, but also determined what mitigating measures the government should have committed to, to prevent a social, urban and heritage disaster. 

The Society hopes that the many failings of the Urban Renewal Corridor Strategy associated with the Sydenham to Bankstown Line Conversion can be avoided in future ‘residential uplift’ zones the government and the Department of Planning are proposing around Sydney’s new infrastructure projects. 

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Scott MacArthur,
President, Marrickville Heritage Society Inc. 


OPENING STATEMENT and Q & A at Inquiry on 7 November 2019

Dr MACARTHUR: On behalf of the Marrickville Heritage Society, I would like to thank the Committee for acknowledging our submission by inviting me to appear here today. The society was spurred to make a submission over two main concerns: firstly, that the letter and spirit of current planning laws and processes, particularly in relation to the management of heritage assets, were not followed in the development of the Sydenham to Bankstown corridor or the renewal corridor strategy. This lead to inaccurate and wildly unpopular rezoning proposals that were strongly and thoroughly critiqued by the community, particularly in the suburbs of the former Marrickville LGA that are rich in heritage items and character areas. The response was so negative that the proposals were eventually withdrawn. 

Our second concern was that the strong urban resilience of our area was ignored by the Department of Planning. Urban resilience enables communities to successfully adapt to change through established social and community networks. Marrickville and Dulwich Hill have demonstrated their resilience over the past century as they have thrived through waves of immigration, industrialisation, deindustrialisation and gentrification. Established personal, occupational and neighbourhood networks stabilised our diverse communities through these changes. 

The proposed replacement of low-density residential precincts with over 35,000 dwellings in 20 years, without supporting social, community and environmental infrastructure, would disrupt and overwhelm these networks. The Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor Strategy would provide the future residents of our area with a harsh, mean and poor existence. 

Our intention with our submission was to draw attention to the failings of the Urban Renewal Corridor Strategy so that better solutions could be found for future residential uplift zones around Sydney’s many new transport infrastructure projects. 

State Parliament Building of New South Wales. This heritage listed building contains part of Governor Macquarie’s ‘Rum Hospital’. Photo : State Parliament of NSW/Facebook.

The CHAIR: What is your recommendation going forward? What could the Government do now to better investigate and preserve that heritage? 

Dr MACARTHUR: I think that people who are planning the future need to properly analyse the impacts of what they are proposing. That is very multi-level: It is looking at population impacts, it is looking at environmental impacts and heritage impacts. We do not believe that was adequately done in this study, particularly when the outcome was planning without provision for community services, hospitals, parks and local shopping precincts. We were in discussion with the Department of Planning. They said, “No, this is just the zoning exercise. We are not going to go into where all these facilities are or, in fact, if they are going to be there”. I think that is terribly short-sighted. 

The CHAIR: I am trying to understand how you can have densification of an area as well as retaining heritage properties. Will it end up with high-rise and then post-war bungalows and then high-rise? Is that the proposed solution? How can it be done better to preserve heritage whilst still allowing the increased density? 

Dr MACARTHUR: I think that the identification of conservation areas is very important. You have precincts with particular characters. It is not really just about individual houses, it is about the streetscape, street trees, social connection through community buildings like churches and shopping precincts. All of those lend a particular character to an area that makes it a community and attractive for people to move in. 

The integration of new development into existing heritage areas is not a mystery. It has been done all around the world and it does require sensitivity, it requires acknowledgment of scale and streetscape values and amenity. You will not have a California bungalow next to a 10-storey building. That is not going to work for anybody, the people arriving in the precinct or the people staying there. There can be modulation. There can be zones of transition from low intensity to higher intensity. As Mr Quint said, there are conservation areas that are already degraded and they do present an opportunity for sensitive redevelopment which can enhance the community’s appreciation of a conservation area.