What do we know about the Waterloo redevelopment?

17 September 2017 | Posted In: #132 Winter 2017, Housing Types and Issues, Public Housing, Public Housing - Waterloo, Urban Development, | Author: Geoff Turnbull

Discussions about the future shape of Waterloo are starting with the community. Geoff Turnbull explains what we know about the master plan and redevelopment process.

When the government made the announcement of a new Metro station at Waterloo and the redevelopment of the Waterloo public housing estate in December 2015, tenants sought details about how it would affect them. Detail about the redevelopment of the largest inner city public housing estate in Australia has been slow in coming. A master planning process that started in mid-2017 will formally determine much of the detail.

Master plan timetable

Family and Community Services (FACS), Land and Housing Corporation (LAHC) and UrbanGrowth Development Corporation (UGDC) are working together to plan for renewal in Waterloo, including the Waterloo estate and the land around the new Sydney Metro station, known as the Metro Quarter. They have mapped out an 18-month process to draw up and lodge a master plan for new planning controls for the Waterloo redevelopments. The organisations recognise that this timetable is likely to continue to slip as they encounter unexpected issues, so timeframes provided in this article are a guide only.

The master plan timeframe includes opportunities for community capacity building to run in parallel throughout the master planning process. This is to give an opportunity to those impacted by the development to understand the urban planning and design concepts, formulate what they want to say during the consultations and how they might want to say it. Local non-government organisations (NGOs) run the community capacity building independently of LAHC.

State Significant Precinct studies

In May 2017, the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) declared the Metro station site and the Waterloo Estate (excluding the conservation area) as a State Significant Precinct (SSP) making the Minister the approval authority not Council. This is the first step to rezone primarily government owned land for redevelopment. The declared area also covers 110 private properties along Cope and Wellington Streets.

The DPE issued 27 key study requirements LAHC and UGDC need to address in formulating their master plan and the new planning controls. To cover the existing SSP requirements and a place making study, UGDC has hired 19 consultants to produce a wide range of studies from wind and aeronautical patterns to open space and social sustainability. Summaries of key studies will be released in early 2018 to feed into the master plan options discussion. The study process will continue through 2018.

Need for work about people issues

The SSP studies are primarily about the buildings and the public space rather than about the people issues of public housing such as tenancy management, allocations and human service supports for tenants with high and complex needs. These issues also need addressing if there is to be a successful redevelopment outcome. Local agencies have requested additional work including an ongoing equity focused Health Impact Assessment, an assessment of the international experience of “social mix” (government now prefers to use the term “integrated communities”) and the development of an integrated human services plan to sit alongside the master plan for more on these issues see Social Mix and the Challenges in Creating ItCan the people problems be fixed by estate redevelopment? and Reducing redevelopment impact on health and wellbeing). LAHC have recently agreed that human services planning will run in parallel with master planning.

Putting together a vision for Waterloo

In parallel with the studies, consultants Kathy Jones and Associates (KJA) will be undertaking activities to gain input from the community. In this phase, called “visioning”, KJA will try to find out what people would like to see happen as part of the redevelopment – what people want to see kept or changed. This is the main opportunity for residents, at the beginning of the process, to have your say and make sure your concerns are on the table. This process should start in early October and run until early November 2017.

LAHC has said that the master plan visioning process will cover a number of areas such as cultural expression and community wellbeing; community facilities and social sustainability; housing and urban design; transport; and parks, open space and recreation. One issue LAHC wants tenant feedback on is whether tenants want to be in the same building as private tenants (called salt and pepper mix) or if they would prefer separate social housing buildings in the new development.

The visioning is not just about the questions the consultants ask. It is the opportunity for people to say whatever they want to say. LAHC, for example, has told tenants and agencies that if people raise issues in the visioning then it will look more closely at those issues even if they are not currently on the agenda. The need for missing services or greater integration of human services for people with high and complex needs would be such an issue.

It is important that people make their thoughts and concerns known at the start of the process to get their issues on the agenda. There is a greater chance for issues to be included at the beginning of the master planning rather than to try to have things added in later consultations. Further down the track you will be reacting to proposals put to you by consultants rather than trying to set the agenda!

What is the master plan?

The master plan is a vision for the future of the Waterloo redevelopment area. Ideally, it shows how the future development can create a great neighbourhood where people will enjoy living, visiting and working, and how the change will happen over the next 20 years. It will show the location of new streets, footpaths and bike lanes, parks, community facilities, shops, offices, houses, car parking and transport service routes, as well as the type and size of buildings. The master plan consists of maps, diagrams and design rules to guide the new development. For a large site like Waterloo, to be developed in stages over 20 years, the process identifies where redevelopment starts, who will be relocated first and who will be living next to a construction site or otherwise inconvenienced.

Master plan options

The consultant studies, the community “visioning” consultation outcome and Government’s requirement for the project to be financially feasible, will feed into determining some options for the master plan. These three options will be the focus for a further round of community consultation.

Between the “visioning” and the presentation of “master plan options” there will be another opportunity for independent community capacity building to help people understand the consultant studies. This will help people think about what to look for when the master plan options are presented for community discussion.

In addition, during the options testing, it is expected that independent experts will also be available to help people understand the proposals and to help people formulate what they might want to say about them. This independent support will continue through the process to ensure people are not reliant solely on the consultants, LAHC and UGDC for information to understand the proposals.

Based on the feedback, the multiple options will be re-worked into a single option that will be presented publically for discussion. This will not be the final exhibition but rather an opportunity to view and discuss the preferred master plan before LAHC and UGDC formally put their proposal to DPE for assessment and formal exhibition.

New Planning Controls

The master planning is the mechanism for producing new planning controls for the Waterloo precinct that will replace those in the current City of Sydney Council Local Control Plan (LEP). The planning controls set the land uses for parks and buildings. For buildings, they also set the building heights, how much floor space the buildings have, as well as building use – such as residential, commercial or mixed use. This defines how much development can go on the site, not what it might look like. The planning controls will cover private land in the SSP area as well as government owned land.

Alongside the LEP planning controls will be a new site specific Development Control Plan (DCP) that provides detailed planning and design guidelines to try to deliver what is in the master plan. There will also be proposals for development levies to be paid for community facilities and affordable housing. The Premier’s Waterloo announcement said the Government was considering a Special Infrastructure Contribution on land around Waterloo station for the Sydney Metro project – this would probably see property within a certain distance of the station pay a levy when redeveloped and this would probably be included in the contributions plans.

The master plan proposal with its studies and proposed planning controls will go to DPE and the City of Sydney for assessment. DPE will then formally exhibit the proposal and ask for feedback from the community and government agencies. DPE will then ask FACS and UGDC to consider that feedback and make changes to the plan if needed.

DPE will then assess the plan with a Project Review Panel and make recommendations to the Minister for Planning and Environment to reject or approve the plan. The Project Review Panel has representatives from the Department of Planning and Environment, the City of Sydney Council, NSW Government Architect’s Office, and Transport for NSW.

Planning Controls start a new process

It is important to understand that this 18 month (or possibly longer) process is about setting what LAHC, UGDC and their developers can do on the site, but it does not allow them to just start building. They have to get building approvals for the actual buildings they want to build in a subsequent development application (DA) exhibition process.

The DA process is supposed to happen within the planning controls approved, however developers and land owners often try to “push the envelope” to get approval for more on the site, so communities have to stay alert during the process to make sure that the master plan is not eroded in the actual development.

Waterloo estate is a very large development and it will not be developed in one lot. There will likely be a number of different developers doing parts or stages of the development over the 20 years. Before anything happens on the site, LAHC would first have to seek expressions of interests from consortia made up of developers, financiers and possibly community housing providers to deliver a portion of the plan for the selected site. Only after a final decision is made as to who will develop a site will the developer prepare the detailed designs and studies for its DAs to get approval for what is to go on that site.

The DAs will include the fine detail about things like the architectural design of buildings, parks and community facilities outlined in the master plan for each site. The community will be asked to provide feedback as part of each DA assessment process.

LAHC has undertaken that tenants living in a site to be redeveloped will: have six months’ notice of their relocation; be assisted in finding suitable premises; be assisted in their move; and have a right to return.

On the Metro Quarter site, the NSW Government has compulsorily acquired the site with the exception of the Congregational Church. Work will start in the second half of 2017 to get this site ready for the construction of the underground station. What goes above the station will be determined in the master plan for the combined sites. It too will need to go through a DA process but construction should proceed quickly once the underground station is built, as staging would not be necessary.

City of Sydney Council’s role

After the City of Sydney Council raised concerns in mid-2016 about the density of the development proposed by UGDC for Waterloo (see City of Sydney planning density concerns), the Council has been working with DPE to create the SSP study requirements. Many of the Council’s own policy and planning documents are referenced in the study requirements in the expectation that this will ensure Council’s concerns are addressed. While the Minister makes the final decision, Council sits on the Project Review Panel.

Geoff Turnbull is the co-editor of Inner Sydney Voice Magazine.