The government’s development partner Aqualand unveiled plans for the 5.2 hectare site in April, including a two-hectare waterfront park, campus-style offices and a new cultural venue, as well as mid-rise buildings and a 73-meter building above the metro station .
National Trust NSW conservation director David Burdon said the changes were so significant they should require a fresh proposal rather than a modification.
“If I was designing my own house, when you do a modification to your design it’s for a minor amendment, it’s for a small change. And this is much more than a small change,” he said.
Though the residential building is only a quarter of the height of Crown’s adjacent tower, Burdon said it was nearly as tall as the much-maligned Blues Point Tower across the harbor and would block views of Observatory Hill from Pyrmont and Balmain.
He argued the building would not contribute to the community or amenity of the area because its apartments would likely be purchased by wealthy foreign buyers. “They’re people’s overseas pads, not regular people that will populate the street,” he told the herald.
In a long statement, project director Rod McCoy said Aqualand’s Central Barangaroo proposal responded to the government’s policy of increasing the intensity of land use around new public transport infrastructure, which was generally considered best practice.
He said Barangaroo’s scale and mixed use made it “one of the most vibrant public places and one of the most connected and successful urban renewal projects in the world”.
McCoy said Aqualand was “conscious of the sentiments of the residents of Millers Point around perceptions of view loss”, but the building heights originally approved for Central Barangaroo in 2007 would have obscured some views anyway.
“We recognize that there is some sensitivity to the height of the proposed building at the northern end of the site from some local residents, and we’re listening to their concerns,” he said.
“That said, we do see this building as an opportunity to deliver world-class design that responds to the unique and special setting, and we think that many of the concerns can be addressed once the concepts for the site are revealed.”
The modification plans were lodged by government body Infrastructure NSW, which is managing Barangaroo, and will therefore be determined by Roberts as planning minister, or his delegate.
Roberts referred questions to Infrastructure NSW. A spokesperson said the body had engaged with stakeholders such as the National Trust and welcomed their feedback.
“Infrastructure NSW respects the planning process and the role it plays in ensuring the community are given the opportunity to have their say before any final decisions are made,” they said.
The Langham, a luxury boutique hotel on Kent Street, wants Roberts to refer the decision to the Independent Planning Commission. Manager Shane Jolly said the hotel was concerned about the heritage values of Millers Point, the loss of views and “a loss of visitation to this iconic area”.
Similar objections are being lodged by Friends of Sydney Harbor and the Millers Point Community Residents Action Group. The group’s president, Bernard Kelly, said the fact the application would be decided by the minister was “a clear indication [the government] is determined to steamroll this enormous project through before the state election.”
The City of Sydney is finalizing a submission. Lord Mayor Clover Moore told a public meeting last weekend the council would object to the bulk and scale of the proposal as well as “the lack of any public benefit such as affordable housing”.
The Morning Edition newsletter is our guide to the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up here.