THE PARRAMATTA NORTH URBAN TRANSFORMATION PROJECT [PNUT]
The PNUT project (formerly the Parramatta North Urban Renewal Area), as defined by UrbanGrowth NSW in its Executive Summary Report of November 2014, encompasses four distinct precincts over a total of 146 hectares:
- Parramatta Park Precinct
- Cumberland Precinct
- Old Kings School Precinct
- Sports & Leisure Precinct
The then Minister for Planning, Pru Goward, agreed to consider land within the Parramatta North Urban Renewal Area as a potential State Significant Site on 21 July 2014.
BACKGROUND TO THE PNUT & NPRAG ACTIVITIES
For a number of years, various individuals and community groups have been seeking government recognition of the national importance and of the built heritage and social narrative of the Parramatta Female Factory (oldest in Australia), Asylum Buildings and Parramatta Girls’ Home that are located within the area defined by PNUT as the Cumberland Precinct. You can access these organisations via:
Parramatta City Council’s Research and Collections Services Team have launched an extensive series of online articles about the history of the Cumberland Precinct, with interactive maps and photograph albums.
- Plus a fascinating and detailed history of the asylum has been written by historian and former health professional, Dr. Terry Smith: Hidden Heritage: 150 years of Public Mental Health Care at Cumberland Hospital, Parramatta 1849-1999.
At the behest of community groups dedicated to seeing the site restored for the public’s benefit, on the 21st August, 2012, NSW State Member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee, moved a priority motion in the NSW Parliament “That this House supports the development of a master plan for Parramatta’s Heritage Precinct”. You can read this Motion HERE.
Lee stated that such development had to be a cost-neutral solution to the restoration, opening assets to the community and tourism, with emphasis on community consultation.
In September 2012 Landcom is appointed Project Lead (now UrbanGrowth NSW) and undertakes preliminary site investigations. As the Government’s development arm, its role is to “unlock private sector investment, “derisk land” for wholesale to the market and “planning and fast tracking urban renewal projects” with a nominated time frame of 6-8 months from precinct identification to Ministerial declaration of rezoning.
UrbanGrowth NSW holds a general Industry Forum in May 2013 at which it identifies the heritage area and current home of Cumberland Mental Health Hospital in North Parramatta as “surplus Government Land”.
In November 2013, invite only consultation workshops are held with industry and key stakeholders, with some public feedback opportunities. Information from these sessions was summarised in the Community Consultations Report 2014 (CCR) that formed part of the formal proposal exhibition. You can read the summary HERE and we note with interest the Industry expectations. The full report can be accessed HERE
The next round of consultations are held in July/August 2014. From information provided in the CCR, invite-only stakeholder “Charrettes”/workshops seemed driven by a pre-determined outcome of residential infill touted as a necessary “compromise” for the best outcome. The creation of a “buzz” to encourage momentum for the release of the rezoning proposal before the end of 2014, “seize the moment” and “the time is now” were catch-cries of the workshops. Complementary public “Drop Ins & Fly Bys” at Parramatta Station (500 flyers distributed) and in Parramatta Park (not on rezoning site) raised awareness that something might be happening but without anywhere near the information provided at the charrettes, such consultations were limiting. Pictures below show a required stakeholder exercise during the second charrette – moving a fixed number of perspex residential building blocks around the site noting that participants did not respond well to:
Hot on the heels of the charrettes, Premier Mike Baird announced in August 2014 that “widespread consultation had allowed the biggest infill land development project in western Sydney to go ahead in a heritage precinct.” The rezoning of the site is now out of Parramatta Council’s hands.
Throughout September and October 2014, local newspapers ran stories showing initial artists’ impressions of plans for the site and interviews with concerned residents, National Trust and historians. For most, this was the first knowledge of a potential development or imminent proposal.
The formal exhibition of PNUR proposal documents with supporting reports for rezoning and amendment of Development Control Plans were lodged with the Department of Planning & Environment. Documents are on public exhibition from November 19 2014 – December 19 2014 a mere 4 weeks for such a significant site and potential redevelopment!
STAGE 1 of PNUT submitted to the Department of Planning & Environment
A rezoning application that “seeks to change the Parramatta Local Environmental Plan 2011 and Parramatta City Centre Local Environmental Plan 2007, by establishing alternative land use zones, building heights, and floor space provisions against which future development on the site would be assessed.” The rezoning application is confined to the Cumberland and Sports & Leisure Precincts approximately 50 hectares.
In essence, for those uninvited participants and those who missed the odd letter box flyer, this was the first opportunity to “consult” – Two “Community Drop Ins” on 29 November and Wed 3 December provided no further information. The latter was cancelled due to venue damage and replaced with an invite-only session. A number of concerned community members request an extension of time from the Minister for Planning. In late January, local residents meet in North Parramatta to discuss concerns and NPRAG is born.
In February 2015 the Deerubbin Aboriginal Council wins a Land Claim over Parramatta Gaol and associated land to the north of the Cumberland Precinct. There were whispers of a government buy back, but nothing has been formally negotiated at this stage and this site could be sold in the future for additional large-scale private high-rise residential development that would further impact the site.
NPRAG holds its first public event, a Rally on 21 February, 2015. A resounding success at which NSW State Member for Parramatta, Geoff Lee promises to ask Minster for Planning, Pru Goward to “Press Pause” and to support National & World Heritage Listing after rezoning and planning finalised. There is no pause nor communication from Ms Goward. Instead we are told that a special extension has been granted to us to make submissions. We are advised by the Department of Planning, however, that the public is already entitled to make more submissions until the Minister makes a decision, although such submissions will not be considered by UGNSW in its response.
Throughout March – June 2015, NPRAG incorporates as a not-for-profit Association and elects Office Bearers. The Group continues to raise awareness of the proposal to the public with mass letter-box dropping ( approx. 5,000 to date) and at the State Election. The NPRAG committee attends meetings and makes presentations with/to government departments and like-minded community, political and business organisations as well as actively seeking new members and supporters and keeping them appraised of developments. A healthy debate about the proposal is kept to the fore through local and Sydney newspaper and TV stories initiated by NPRAG and guided public site tours are arranged.
NPRAG finally secures a meeting on 9 June, 2015 on site with Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes. Also in attendance is Simon Paggett from UGNSW and Geoff Lee. Stokes declines to “Press Pause” but courteously listens to concerns that have been voiced to us by our members and the broader community.
Shortly after this meeting, UGNSW releases its response to submissions and revised proposal below including its Indicative Layout Plan [ILP] that forms part of the planning changes proposed and seeks to be the guiding document for future build within the precincts.
In conjunction with NPRAG, the ABC prepared a story for Australia Wide that was aired on national television on June 20. You can view it HERE
From June – September 2015
- NPRAG has continued to engage with Parramatta City Councillors, Parramatta Chamber of Commerce, Parramatta Female Factory Friends, National Trust, local and state politicians, ICOMOS and the EDO.
- The NPRAG committee and members submitted questions via video and online for Q & A see them on Page 9 HERE
- Parramatta Female Factory Friends presented its petition with over 10,000 signatures to the NSW Parliament requesting World Heritage Listing for the Female Factory.
- A motion was passed on 27 July by Parramatta Councillor, John Hugh, for a “study tour” of the site to better inform councillors of the proposal within the context of local community groups’ concerns, including NPRAG. UGNSW assumed organisation of this tour and suggested that representatives of community groups could not attend as numbers had to be kept to a minimum in deference to the well being of the mental health residents on site. The tour was deferred.
- On the 31st July, 2015, Federal Minister for the Environment & Heritage, Greg Hunt, announced that the Parramatta Female Factory Site within the Cumberland Precinct, has been placed on the Australian Heritage Council’s assessment list with a determination by 2017. A recent visit to the Department’s website indicates that this date has been inexplicably extended to 2019.
- 27 August, 2015, iconic environmentalist, Jack Mundey leads the CFMEU in announcing a Green Ban on the entire Cumberland Precinct.
- NPRAG announced its community inspired Fleet Street Heritage Precinct Symposium that was held on Monday, 12 October, 2015
- A formal request was lodged by the EDO on behalf of NPRAG under the GIPA Act to have access to the 3D modelling prepared by UGNSW of the revised proposal as requested by the Heritage Council of NSW. Previous requests for access had gone unheeded.
- NPRAG launches its “Postcard Campaign” obtaining more than 1,600 signatures in only 9 days. The Santa Sack of postcards were delivered at Parliament House to delegated recipient, Geoff Lee, Member for Parramatta on Thursday November 19 2015, the last day of sitting for Parliament and exactly a year after UGNSW’s proposal documents were first exhibited by DoPE.
- Parramatta Mayor, Paul Garrard, continued to lobby UGNSW for representation from community groups to attend a revisited Council “Study tour” on November 21
Friday, 20 November 2015, Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, approves the rezoning proposal submitted by UrbanGrowth NSW.
DoPE‘s website is updated with its report now publicly available. You can view these and original exhibition and response documents HERE
UrbanGrowth NSW documents can be accessed HERE
The National Trust responded to the approval announcement which you can read HERE
We note the DoPE link says it all about the site’s future: Plans-for-Your-Area/Priority-Growth-Areas-and-Precincts/Greater-Parramatta-to-Olympic-Peninsula-Urban-Renewal-area
Within this context, it will remain a challenge for the community to ensure that this public land and its national heritage, river connectivity and potential open space and parkland, is allowed to realise its full potential beyond merely satisfying a government mandated housing quota.
In 2016 UrbanGrowth NSW has indicated it will:
- Hold an information session and consult stakeholders about next steps including on the potential uses of buildings in the core heritage precinct;
- Begin to repair heritage listed buildings;
- Finalise and lodge a Development Application for roads and the public domain.
NPRAG will continue to advocate on behalf of the site, our members and supporters in 2016 for a better alternative vision.