Block plans on exhibition

Hi Everyone,

On 5 August 2021 Hunters Hill Council (HHC) released two block studies that have been commissioned as part of the Masterplan process. These relate to Blocks 1-3, and Block 4, as they have defined sections of Gladesville, which will be incorporated into an overdue Masterplan.

Today we can share some relevant background information to help understand where we are at. We will send another email later, after we have time to review the detail that is included in the block plans.

Comments below are facts as best we recall and understand them, and some comments are our opinions. Our opinions can easily be differentiated from facts stated below. We do not ever represent that we make submissions on your behalf, or on behalf of the community. We have always tried to give the community the relevant facts in plain English, including the facts that others might prefer us not to know or remember. That is important for accountability. We encourage everyone to write their own submission, and we hope that our emails help people to do so.

here have the block plans come from? 

The new Masterplan for Gladesville is WELL OVERDUE. Below is a short summary of the relevant history.

HHC amended the permitted building heights and floor space ratio (FSR, a measure of ‘bulk’) that apply to buildings in Gladesville under HHC control when it adopted the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2012. That LEP allows 34m (10 storeys) in height, and FSR between 2.3 and 2.7 across the Gladesville Shopping Village (GSV) site. In 2013 a Development Application (DA) was received from the owner of the GSV to redevelop the site with a 2-storey podium level and four 8-storey towers, which would permit 180 flats to be built as well as an increased commercial space. Earlier in 2013 Mayor (at that time) Richard Quinn and General Manager (at that time) Barry Smith had delegated authority from Hunters Hill Council and entered into Deed agreements (options) to allow the owner of the shopping centre to acquire public land, without tender and without public consultation. The land that was disposed of was: 10 Cowell Street with the timber cottage on it, the at-grade open car park at 4-6 Cowell Street, and a small parcel referred to as 1c Massey Street.

The timber cottage at 10 Cowell Street was included in Schedule 5 of the draft LEP 2012 which listed Heritage items to be protected, but when HHC submitted the LEP to the NSW Government it removed 10 Cowell Street from the list of Heritage items in Schedule 5. There was no reason given for why 10 Cowell Street would not deserve heritage listing. At the time HHC said it ran out of time to decide on that listing, despite including 10 Cowell Street in the draft LEP which was exhibited to the public, and despite the recommendation by Paul Davies Heritage Architect in his 2006 report to HHC that the timber cottage at 10 Cowell Street should receive heritage protection. Then, instead of answering the outstanding question of the heritage listing of 10 Cowell Street, HHC entered into option deeds to dispose of it (without heritage listing), to the owner of the shopping centre, without public consultation or tender. Eventually, after disposing of 10 Cowell Street, HHC applied the weakest heritage listing in the council’s history, the only heritage listing to exclude the curtilage of the building, which means it could be relocated or even demolished and certain elements be preserved. HHC has literally shown greater respect for heritage listing sandstone gutters in Hunters Hill than for the actual timber cottage in situ at 10 Cowell Street in Gladesville, when it sought to heritage list those sandstone gutters at its meeting on 9 June 2020!

To be clear: we do not suggest that anything illegal was done. We just think the public expects to be informed about what Council is doing to our suburb at the time, instead of finding out when it’s too late. We also expect the sale of public land to be subject to tender, and that was recommended by NSW Government guidelines if the sale would be contentious.

The Masterplan is something that this current term of Council committed to on 12 March 2018, despite the HHC website referring to the motion from December 2018 dealing with the block plans specifically. It is worth noting that the Masterplan was committed to at one of the first meetings of the current term of Council (2017-2021), and that the disposal of public land was arranged under the previous Council (2012-2017). The removal of 10 Cowell Street from the list of heritage items in the 2012 LEP occurred under the council previous to that (2008-2012). 

Importantly, the Masterplan goes beyond the GSV site and considers a broader area of Gladesville than just the GSV site. It includes the main commercial buildings that front Victoria Road. In 2009 HHC adopted two LEPs for the GSV site, referring to it as the ‘key site’, as it was trying to make it more attractive and profitable for development, informed by the ‘Newbold report’. This Masterplan is the first Masterplan since the 2005 Masterplan for Gladesville, which was so obviously out of date by the time the 2012 LEP was adopted, with increased heights and FSR on the ‘key site’ (GSV) as well as the buildings along Victoria Road.

We believe that Hunters Hill Council badly let down Gladesville in its actions in 2012-2013, when it rezoned the suburb to receive a lot of additional flats, and our public land was sold off to create the impression of financial sustainability of Hunters Hill Council, but Council did not do the hard work that should have occurred AT THAT TIME to consider the impact on the suburb and how to ensure that Gladesville remains functional. There has not even been an integrated traffic study for Gladesville informed by the massive re-zonings in 2012!

It is important to understand the starting position, which is that the heights and FSR adopted by HHC in the 2012 LEP are already law. The GSV site is already zoned to 34m, or 10 storeys and enough FSR to build 180 flats per the original DA in 2013. As much as we would like to see it, we do not see any likelihood of success in arguing for a reduction in those key controls. 

What is good about these block plans?

1) They exist. The actions of Hunters Hill Council around 2012-2013 simply treated Gladesville as a dumping ground for new flats to be zoned and some public land to sell off, after not adopting the Heritage listing for 10 Cowell Street timber cottage that was publicly exhibited. It is a step forward that these block studies have been developed and released for the public to see. As unwelcome as the plans may be, it is an improvement in governance that such plans are developed and exhibited properly before decisions are made – if HHC has not already made decisions and this is just ‘being seen to do consultation’.

2) They consider Gladesville more broadly than just the GSV site. The GSV site received attention from HHC in 2012 and 2013, when putting in place the events that lead us to where we are now. There is still a mess to fix up in terms of what the GSV site should end up looking like, but it is also important to consider the buildings on Victoria Road and how the sites may integrate. It is a separate problem that Victoria Road splits Gladesville across Hunters Hill Council and City of Ryde Council.

What is not good about these block plans?

1) They seek to give more FSR to “Block 4”, the GSV site. It has already been zoned for height and FSR to allow 180 flats and more commercial space. More FSR means more flats means more congestion. Unless the community is assured that the vehicle movements including goods deliveries to the GSV site and the rear of the buildings facing Victoria Road,  from all of this bulk can be handled, we could not possibly support any additional FSR on Block 4.

2) They intend to allow a new building where the at-grade open car park currently sits at 3A Cowell St. We do not see that the new building is nominated to be a public car park. Gladesville is facing increased demand for parking, for residents in the new flats (usually built with insufficient car parking), visitors to residents in the new flats, business operators and staff working in the increased commercial spaces both inside and outside the GSV, customers (hopefully) of the commercial businesses, and other users of Gladesville e.g. parents dropping their kids off or picking them up from school.

3) The briefing to the consultant was wrong. It should never have stipulated a minimum overall FSR of 3.0. The permitted FSR of 2.3 to 2.7 on the GSV site is already high enough for 180 flats on that site alone. We believe there should be no increase to FSR for Block 4, and we believe the public have expressed this to HHC on a number of occasions, including the ~295 submissions in response to the DA in 2013, and more recently in response to the Planning Proposal when the owner of the GSV site applied to the state government for more generous controls, which would make the site even more valuable to a developer but more likely to cripple the suburb with such overdevelopment. FSR for the buildings on Victoria Road are mainly 2.5 already, and they have 5-6 storey development permitted. It would take a very convincing argument that we will get a better result from redevelopment before any increase to Blocks 1-3 could be considered.

4) The increased heights are excessive when taken with an increase in FSR. There is an argument that slender development is preferable to ‘squat’ bulk, but objection to height is also common. When responding to the applicant’s Planning Proposal, we suggested that submissions should object to any increase in FSR but we suggest that amending height controls COULD deliver a better quality design and amenity benefits. We do not think that height and FSR should be increased, because that is just bulky overdevelopment and not slender development.

5) We think the pictures in the block plans are misleading, as they show sites that are generally much larger than the GSV site. Nice pictures of other places do not make the actual plans that are put forward more palatable.

6) There has still not been an integrated traffic study for Gladesville after Hunters Hill and Ryde Councils adopted their 2012 LEPs that permit much larger development than was possible prior, so we see no basis on which to believe the contemplated increases to FSR could be responsibly considered.

Where to from here?

* We will review the block plans in more detail and hope to offer suggestions that you might like to consider in your submissions. We will send that out as soon as we can.

* We encourage everyone to make a submission, and it can be as simple and blunt as you like (without swearing). Be heard!

* Our suggestion at this stage would be to state that no increase above the current FSR should be considered for Block 4. You may consider that the same should apply to Blocks 1-3. You might also object to increased height, or you might believe slender development is preferable, and we acknowledge both of those views do receive support.

* Council should be clear and open with the public. What are they planning to do with the car park site at 3A Cowell St? Sell off more public land? Reduce parking supply? We need MORE public parking, not less, to accompany the development that HHC is jambing down in the Gladesville corner of the municipality.

* Council election on 4 December 2021 will provide an opportunity for the community to show what it thinks of the various candidates and how they treated Gladesville in the past (for those who have already held office).

* HHC website links to the block plans.

* Height of building map from the 2012 LEP for current controls

* FSR map from the 2012 LEP for current controls

* Hunters Hill Trust website selected links

* Selected links from our website with previous emails about the history and evolution of this situation

From the Committee of the Gladesville Community Group (incorporated).