Mayors hatch plan to save Centennial Park from developers

Mayors hatch plan to save Centennial Park from developers

Andrew Taylor
By Andrew Taylor

Sydney mayors are calling for new planning rules to protect Centennial Park from the impact of private developments amid fears that the park’s views and heritage values are under threat.

Towers up to 36 metres high could be built opposite the park on Oxford Street following a decision by the Independent Planning Commission last year to approve a proposal for two 11-storey buildings housing 94 apartments and retail space.

Sydney's mayors are calling for new planning rules to protect Centennial Park from developments along its perimeter.
Sydney’s mayors are calling for new planning rules to protect Centennial Park from developments along its perimeter.CREDIT:ISABELLA PORRAS

Paula Masselos, the Labor mayor of Waverley Council, said stronger planning rules were “urgently needed” to protect the park’s heritage values and amenity, and discourage landowners from seeking changes to building height controls.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment approved changes to planning rules at the site on Oxford Street following the IPC decision.Advertisement

“The decision took into account potential impacts on the park,” a DPIE spokeswoman said.

But Cr Masselos criticised the decision, saying it created a precedent for increasing heights along the park’s edge that might encourage other landowners to build towers.

Unsolicited planning proposals to develop the Waverley bus depot, opposite the park, had been submitted in the past and Cr Masselos said the council was “closely monitoring this site”.

The park, which is listed on the National Heritage Register, falls within the boundaries of Randwick Council, but it is adjacent to three other councils – Waverley, Woollahra and the City of Sydney.

Cr Masselos will meet with the mayors of neighbouring councils next month to discuss new planning rules for developments along the park’s perimeter.

Sydney mayors are eager to protect the heritage values and views of Centennial Park.
Sydney mayors are eager to protect the heritage values and views of Centennial Park.CREDIT:ISABELLA PORRAS

One option is to replace each council’s planning controls with one set of rules, known as a state environmental planning policy (SEPP), to control development around the park.

“This policy could overrule local planning controls that might impact on the significance of the park,” Cr Masselos said.

The Western Sydney Parklands and Moore Park Showgrounds each have SEPPs, but a DPIE spokeswoman said they did not apply to development outside of their boundaries: “The SEPP model – if applied to Centennial Park – would have had no impact on the proposal at 194 Oxford because it’s outside of the park.”

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said efforts to protect green space were important given increasing densities and more people living in apartments.

“Successive state governments have failed to protect the parklands, allowing car parks, private development, elite sporting facilities, function centres, and the $38 million Tibby Cotter bridge to nowhere,” she said.

“These assaults would be unthinkable for New York’s Central Park or London’s Hyde Park.”

Susan Wynne, the Liberal mayor of Woollahra Municipal Council, said the council had already taken measures to prevent inappropriate development in areas adjacent to the park.

“This means the controls for this area do not facilitate high-rise redevelopment and support our commitment to protecting the Park’s local perimeter,” she said.

“It would seem logical that there is a consistent approach with regards to these development controls within the vicinity of Centennial Parklands.”

Randwick’s Labor mayor Danny Said said he would also join the meeting to investigate ways of strengthening planning controls to protect the park.


Sydney's Centennial Park heritage listed

Sydney’s Centennial Park heritage listed

A spokeswoman for the Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust, which manages the park, said it was protected under environmental laws that “we believe helps to maintain the integrity of this public asset for generations to come”.

A plan of management also guided the decision-making by the trust, local councils and planning bodies.

“Centennial Parklands is the green lungs of the city and at every turn we work to ensure the protection of this significant space,” she said.

Andrew Taylor
Andrew Taylor

Andrew Taylor is a Senior Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.