'Unprecedented' apartment plan with density as high as Hong Kong alarms councilThe indicative massing strategy for the Central to Eveleigh study area. Photo: City of Sydney, UrbanGrowth

'Unprecedented' apartment plan with density as high as Hong Kong alarms council

Leesha McKenny and Jacob Saulwick

Apartment density of the scale seen only in pockets of New York or Hong Kong but greater than anything in Singapore is being planned for inner Sydney by the state government, according to an alarmed City of Sydney Council.

The government is planning a precinct of 20 and 30-storey towers that would increase the density around Waterloo, where a new rail station is planned, to the equivalent of 70,000 people per square kilometre, the council says.

That would be more than four times as dense as the current densest area in Australia, Pyrmont, which houses 14,000 people per square kilometre. The Green Square area, which is already an emerging transport nightmare, is planned to house a comparatively modest 22,000 people per square kilometre.

“Development at this density over this 19-hectare area is unprecedented in Australia and rare internationally,” the council’s chief executive officer, Monica Barone, told councillors on Monday night, though her analysis was later disputed by the government.

“London has no areas of the size of Waterloo at this density,” Ms Barone said.

“New York and Paris have only a few. Neighbourhoods of this density are found in parts of Hong Kong but not in Singapore. Given available public information we expect to see as many as 10 or more buildings over 30 storeys on the Waterloo Estate with others up to 20 storeys.”

UrbanGrowth did not agree with the city’s analysis, saying it commissioned its own advice that concluded Waterloo would be less dense per hectare than developments at Green Square, Central Park and Darling Square.

“Most significantly, Waterloo is adjacent to a new metro station and will also be serviced by the Green Square and Redfern heavy rail stations,” a spokesman said.

“It is better located and better served than other precincts… with a lower overall density.”

But the council’s concerns, according to the memo presented on Monday, go beyond the apartments planned to sit near a new Waterloo metro station.

According to Ms Barone, the council is also troubled by the role of UrbanGrowth, the government agency in charge of big new property projects near Central and Redfern stations, around Rozelle, Glebe and White Bay, at North Parramatta, and along Parramatta roads.

Ms Barone said UrbanGrowth seemed to be acting as a government planner, as well as property developer.

“This dual role presents serious concerns as to accountability and transparency as well as who is protecting the public interest,” she said.

When the state government announced it had chosen Waterloo over Sydney University as a site for a metro station on a new line through the city, it said it wanted to build 10,000 new dwellings in the area, while replacing existing public housing units.

But it has not released details about what the new developments would look like, or how they would be structured.

Construction on the new train line is to start next year.

The council says its analysis of the government’s plans is based on publicly available information, though it has been talking to UrbanGrowth about its broader plans for apartments along the Central to Eveleigh rail line.

According to the council, UrbanGrowth’s plans for Central to Eveleigh involve doubling the population along the rail line from 52,000 to as much as 108,000.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said no area of the city could sustain the scale of density being planned for Waterloo, particularly with its large social housing community.

“If these proposals were to go ahead, the NSW Government and UrbanGrowth will destroy the inner city and condemn people living in the area to substandard living conditions not seen in most developed cities,” Cr Moore said.

UrbanGrowth said: “We will finalise detailed plans collaboratively with council.”

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