Planning is up in the air, needs to be grounded – City of Sydney on Central Station renewal

The NSW Government’s ambitious plans for the renewal of up to 24 hectares of land in and around Sydney’s Central Station have received objections from the City of Sydney, with the Council red-flagging several aspects of the proposal.

The multi-billion-dollar Central Precinct renewal plans aim to revitalise Central Station and surrounding areas by transforming this underutilised part of Sydney into an exciting new place for business and the community. The proposal envisions a vibrant precinct that unites a world-class interchange with innovative and diverse businesses and high-quality public spaces.

Transport for NSW’s rezoning proposal for the Central Precinct will deliver a technology and innovation precinct by enabling development over and adjacent to the railway lines at Central Station. Tech Central is Australia’s biggest innovation district of its kind, made up of six connected neighbourhoods near the Sydney CBD (Haymarket, Ultimo, Surry Hills, Camperdown, Darlington North Eveleigh and South Eveleigh). The urban renewal of Central Precinct has been identified as a key project towards achieving the vision for Tech Central.

The Central Precinct renewal includes an over station development – a giant deck built over the Intercity and regional rail lines that will feature buildings of varied height and scale (4-34 storeys) along with open green spaces, activated laneways, active transport loops, social services, recreation services, public art, community and cultural spaces, and restaurants and cafes. All heritage buildings will remain as part of the vision, and protection of key heritage views is an important consideration in the renewal plans.

However, in their submission to the Central Precinct rezoning proposal, the City of Sydney has raised several concerns that need to be resolved for the development to deliver on the vision.

About rezoning the airspace above the rail lines for over station development, the Council pointed out that the construction of the deck and buildings will require significant structure to be landed at track level, which is likely to require changes to the rail lines. The development should, therefore, safeguard the future operations and capacity of Central Station as the primary transport interchange in Greater Sydney.

Additionally, the development should provide the infrastructure to support the needs of new worker, resident and visitor populations. The Council also sought better, well-designed public spaces to be created in existing and planned public spaces around the development.

The proposed development will also need to better integrate with the surrounding city to be a part of the city, and not apart from the city, the Council submitted.

“The streets, blocks and buildings replicate the obvious mistakes of Barangaroo South, without the drawcard benefit of the foreshore promenade. The streets are too narrow, connections from the surrounding streets and spaces are narrow, steep and not legible and only one clear east-west connection is provided,” the submission read.

The proposed Central Precinct renewal is drawing other voices of protest. The National Trust, for instance, fears that the rezoning around Central Station and the tech precinct development will damage the heritage fabric and character of the area, while burying the station under skyscrapers.

“The station and clock tower were designed to be a landmark structure visible from afar, and the rezoning for skyscrapers means it will be obscured and dwarfed by the surrounding architecture,” the National Trust commented.

NSW Heritage Council has called for the tall buildings above the rail lines to be removed from the renewal plans, and replaced with low rise options.

Along with the technology and innovation precinct, the rezoning will deliver about 16,000 jobs in commercial, retail, education and hotel sectors; 850 new homes including a minimum 15% affordable housing; 266 rooms for student housing; more than 2 hectares of public open space; new connections to Central Station and the surrounding suburbs; and protection for heritage buildings, says Transport for NSW.

Central Precinct renewal is one of three urban renewal projects shaping the future of Sydney, together with Redfern North Eveleigh Precinct Renewal and Circular Quay Renewal, delivering communities 34 hectares of a revitalised Sydney.

Images: Transport for NSW

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