Lend Lease’s Barangaroo South sparks backlash

The City of Sydney has slammed property developer Lend Lease’s revised concept plan for Sydney’s Barangaroo South, also known as Modification 8.

In its 42-page submission to New South Wales (NSW) Department of Planning and Environment, following Lend Lease’s planning application, the council said “Modification 8 is not in the public interest” and “a new concept plan application should be carried out for the Barangaroo site.” Furthermore, it urged the NSW state government to refer the concept plan to an independent consultant for assessment.

Taking this advice, on 20 May 2015, the NSW minister for planning Rob Stokes announced the appointment of an independent design advisory panel. The panel will be chaired by NSW government architect Peter Poulet and also includes Shelley Penn and Meredith Sussex, co-chairs of the original Barangaroo Review in 2011. The review was triggered by a legal challenge from Australians for Sustainable Development against the government and Lend Lease.

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In a statement, the minister said the panel will review modification applications (including the current Modification 8), carry out site visits and work closely with the community and City of Sydney.

“Barangaroo’s significance and the high level of community interest requires that an appropriate level of scrutiny be applied to its design,” Stokes said.

The City of Sydney made a raft of objections on the proposed development. ArchitectureAU obtained its submission to the Department in which it detailed concerns about a lack of public amenity, adverse effects on neighbouring heritage sites and lack of provision for affordable housing, among many others.

At the centre of its objections is Lend Lease’s choice of location for the proposed Crown Hotel tower, designed by UK-based Wilkinson Eyre Architects. Modification 8 was triggered by a request from the government to relocate the proposed Crown Hotel tower from a pier in the harbour onto land. Lend Lease then proposed the tower be situated in a foreshore site originally earmarked for public parkland, which is in turn to be recast as an urban park east of the proposed Crown tower. Lend Lease claimed this move maintained the original 52% public space for the entire Barangaroo development.

Masterplan of Barangaroo development.

Masterplan of Barangaroo development.

Image: Lend Lease

But the City of Sydney said this is a manipulation of public open space.

“MOD 8 reduces the quality and quantity of public open space (by manipulating what is classed as public open space),” said the council. “The modification includes an increased width for Globe Street and the introduction of a new vehicular road to service the casino/hotel tower. These new roads are included in the calculation for public open spaces but effectively represent a reduction in the amount of usable public open space.”

It goes on to say: “The increased development yield does not correspond with any increased public amenity or public benefit commensurate with private gain to the proponents.

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The proponent’s [Lend Lease’s] submission fails to justify on social and environmental grounds… how a minimum $20-bet gaming facility, high roller hotel and luxury apartments is a preferred land use to public foreshore recreational parkland, a public benefit outcome obligated under the current approvals.”

The bulk and size of the tower is also a concern for the council. Citing a Statement of Heritage Impact prepared by Tanner Kibble Denton Architects, the council outlined the adverse impacts on a host of heritage sites with national, state or local significance including the Sydney Observatory and Sydney Harbour Bridge. It concluded that “a more appropriate alternative location should be pursued for the casino/hotel tower so that it is located within the Barangaroo tower backdrop.” Furthermore, a submission from Leichhardt Council said the “modification failed to provide adequate assessment of the proposal’s impact on the World Heritage-listed Sydney Opera House.”

The urban park was described by City of Sydney as "poorly integrated with the street grid."

The urban park was described by City of Sydney as “poorly integrated with the street grid.”

Image: Lend Lease

Of the proposed urban park, the council believes it “is poorly integrated into the street grid of Barangaroo, poorly connected to Barangaroo Point to the north and Darling Harbour to the south, and does not relate to cross links to the city.”

The City also criticised the proposal for its lack of affordable housing provision or what it calls “key worker housing.” Modification 8 increased the gross floor area of residential development from 128,763 to 183,000 square metres, only 2.3% of which is allocated to affordable or social housing. Given the City has set a target to achieve 7.5% affordable housing (community rental) and 7.5% social housing by 2030, the City wants a minimum 10% and optimum 20% allocation for key worker housing.

In addition, the City also objected to three proposed legislative changes to the State Environment Planning Policies (SEPP) relating to Barangaroo, including amendments to the zoning map, maximum building height and gross floor area as well as site boundaries.

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