BACKGROUND

 

1.       Nos. 2-12 River Road West, Parramatta are located within a small light industrial precinct generally bound by Parramatta River, James Ruse Drive and Tramway Avenue. Many of the buildings on the site are reaching the end of their economic life.

 

2.       During consideration of Draft Parramatta Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2010 at its meeting of 23 March 2009 Council resolved: ‘that Council invite the owner(s) of land within the industrial precinct at River Road West, Parramatta to discuss a separate process by which the rezoning of land to allow a mix of uses including residential, be considered.

 

3.       In September 2010, Council received a planning proposal from the owners of 2 -12 River Road West, Parramatta to rezone the land from IN1 General Industrial to B4 Mixed Use, enabling a mix of retail, commercial and residential development. At its meeting of 13 December 2010 Council considered this planning proposal and resolved:

 

(a)   That the planning proposal for the rezoning of land at 2-12 River Road West, Parramatta for mixed use purposes and public reserve be supported in principle to facilitate an initial gateway assessment by the Department of Planning.

(b)   That the proponents provide additional information in relation to existing and post development flood modelling prior to finalisation of the proposal.

(c)   That subject to initial consideration of the gateway proposal by the Department of Planning and consultation with relevant public authorities, that a further report be put to Council to advise of the outcomes of the additional flooding information and further consideration of height and floor space ratio controls for the site.

(d)   That Council proceed with negotiations for a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) in relation to a planning proposal at Nos. 2 – 12 River Road West, Parramatta as outlined in Attachment 6.

(e)   That delegated authority be given to the CEO of Council to negotiate the VPA on behalf of Council and report back on the negotiations in regards to the VPA.

(f)    That the proponents prepare for Council’s consideration draft Development    Control Plan (DCP) provisions for 2-12 River Road West, Parramatta. The draft DCP provisions to be exhibited concurrently with the planning proposal and the draft VPA.

(g)   Further, that as a separate matter, Council considers undertaking a strategic investigation of the long term planning direction of the area in the vicinity of this planning proposal, potentially including the suburbs of Camellia, Rosehill and Harris Park.

 

4.       In February 2011, the Department of Planning  (now Department of Planning & Infrastructure) issued a Gateway Determination which supported the rezoning of land from industrial to mixed use, but which required additional information in relation to heritage, flooding, acid sulfate soil and land contamination, building heights, floor space ratio and foreshore building lines to enable determination of suitable height and densities across the site.

 

ISSUES

 

Flooding

 

5.       The site lies adjacent to the confluence of Parramatta River and Claycliff Creek and is subject to flood inundation in the 1 in 20 year flood event, the 1 in 100 year flood event and the probable maximum flood event, with inundation of up to 4 metres across the site in extreme events.

 

6.       Council’s Engineering consultants previously recommended that additional information be provided by the proponent to address the site’s flood issues including “existing” and “post-development” flood modelling of the 20 year, 100 year and PMF events.

 

7.       Council has since engaged consultants to undertake flood modelling to include the impacts of climate change and sea level rise in the Lower Parramatta River Catchment (including Clay Cliff Creek).

 

8        This study is expected to be completed in late November and will provide new information detailing the extent of flood affectation over the site and surrounding catchment and will then be available for the proponents to utilise in developing their post development flood modelling. This modelling will inform the most suitable locations of building footprints and extent of site coverage.

 

Heritage

 

9.       The site lies within the ‘Area of National Significance’ and the ‘Harris Park Precinct’ adopted by the former Sydney Regional Environmental Plan 28 – Parramatta, now forming part of Parramatta Development Control Plan 2011. Furthermore, identified ‘historic view corridors’ to and from Elizabeth Farm and other historically significant locations such as the Female Orphan School traverse the site across a number of points.

 

10.     Council recently engaged Godden Mackay Logan (GML) to prepare a Heritage Study (provided under separate cover) to review the Area of National Significance, the historic view corridors and building height controls for land within parts of Harris Park, Rosehill and Camellia, including a case study of the Planning Proposal at 2-12 River Road West.

 

11.     The key recommendations of the GML Heritage Study as it relates to 2-12 River Road West, Parramatta are that building heights should generally not exceed the current height limit of RL14 (approximately 3 storeys), with some capacity to permit one additional storey (to maximum RL 17). This additional storey may be supported where future development of the site provides for small building footprints, generous separation between buildings, landscaped area that provides visual permeability to the river and public access between River Road West and the river.

 

12.     The key justification for the restricted height control is that development generally greater than RL 14 will affect the outlook from Elizabeth Farm and the historic setting of the Area of National Significance. Development on the site at or below RL 14 will be below the existing tree canopy allowing the landscaped setting to dominate the built form across the Area of National Significance.

 

13.     The GML study states that the visual impacts that could arise from the planning proposal at 2-12 River Road West if it were to proceed would likely be greater than that of the existing Mercure building.

 

14.     While the subject planning proposal has attempted to retain view lines between historic sites at point to point locations, the GML study states that by simply retaining these point to point view lines this would fail to protect the heritage values of the Area as a whole as it would not adequately recognise the importance of the river valley setting.

 

15.     Furthermore, the GML study states that the most important view from Elizabeth Farm is not towards any single property or marker tree but a wider panorama northward across the landscape linking its historical visual connections with the Parramatta River and the hills and ridgeline beyond.

 

16.     While the GML study recognises that existing vegetation filters and in some cases obstructs the views identified in the current and former planning instruments, the screening effect of this vegetation must be discounted when assessing development impact on views and determining appropriate scale of development. The study highlights that the NSW Land and Environment Court places little weight on the screening effect of vegetation on development given the somewhat temporary nature of vegetation that can be pruned, removed or even die.

 

17.     It is noted that the GML Study makes reference to the rezoning of land at 2 Morton Street stating that while the land does not form part of the Area of National Significance, the height and scale will have a severe impact upon the setting of the Area, but that this should not be used as a precedence to support the planning proposal for 2-12 River Road West.

 

18.     The proponents have provided additional information (see Attachment 2) including a photomontage indicating that the proposed development at 2-12 River Road West would not be visible from within the garden of Elizabeth Farm given the existing olive tree plantings within Elizabeth Farm. However, as stated above, the GML study advises that the vegetative screening should be ignored in the assessment, and for the purposes of the study states that the olive tree planting undertaken by Historic Houses Trust (HHT) is identified as a temporary measure to screen out the visually obtrusive Mercure Hotel (being the only tall development that interrupts views toward the river). The GML study recommends that HHT be encouraged to reduce planting at the northern boundary to recapture views to the north.

 

19.     The proponents have also provided a photograph from Pemberton Street on the northern side of the River looking south toward Elizabeth Farm, being one of the identified view lines in Council’s DCP 2011. The proponents state that Elizabeth Farm cannot be seen from this location. However, the GML study identifies that the view to the tree markers at Elizabeth Farm are still visible from this location.

 

Economic Viability

 

20.     The proponents have advised that redevelopment of the site would be economically unviable if the maximum building height was limited to RL 14 as detailed below and in Attachment 3:

 

1)      The site is directly on Parramatta River and is currently awaiting results from the Council’s revised flood study. The implications of this on construction costs are substantial. Contiguous piles will be required and the basement car parking will have to be of a 'tanked' construction technique to ensure water resistance.

 

2)      The dedication of over 4,000 sq m of foreshore land, to open up the river frontage and provide significant public benefit, would, in normal circumstances, be reasonably compensated for by way of additional height.

 

3)   The Voluntary Planning Agreement, which would lead to major contribution to public amenities, would see an additional project cost of several million dollars.

 

21.     No additional economic feasibility analysis has been undertaken by Council

 

PLANNING PROPOSAL

 

22.     As previously reported to Council in December 2010, the proponents were seeking building heights of 8 to 14 storeys (approximately RL 34 to RL 52). These heights are substantially higher than the current height limit of RL 14 (approximately 3 storeys) in Parramatta Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2011 being the height suggested by the GML Heritage Study to be retained to preserve the significance of the Area of National Heritage Significance including its context and historic view corridors.

 

 

SURROUNDING PRECINCTS

 

23.     While the subject planning proposal relates solely to 2-12 River Road West, Parramatta, changes to the permitted zoning, height and density on these sites are likely to influence future redevelopment on surrounding areas and may increase pressures to allow similar height and densities within the adjoining River Road West Industrial Precinct.

 

24.     These pressures could similarly arise for redevelopment of the James Ruse Drive Corridor, former James Hardie site at 181 James Ruse Drive, and former Wyeth Pharmaceutical site in Gregory Place as these buildings/land uses have (or are approaching) the end of their economic life and are also subject to the pressures of urban renewal. Accordingly, any planning controls for 2-12 River Road West need to be considered in the context of the broader surrounding precincts.

 

OPTIONS

 

25.     In consideration of the future redevelopment of the River Road West Precinct, Council is requested to provide policy direction regarding its preferred outcome for 2-12 River Road West, and surrounding precinct to enable consideration of the planning proposal. The key options for Council’s consideration are:

 

1.   Ensure that development and development controls within the ‘Area of National Significance’ protects the historic significance of the area, including its context and historic view corridors. This option would include retention of low building heights (generally to a maximum height of RL 14 and 3 storeys).

 

2.   Consider development and development controls that may compromise the heritage significance of the ‘Area of National Significance’ but that will achieve other public benefit outcomes. This option could allow for maximum building heights exceeding RL 14.

 

Option 1

 

26.     As detailed above the site is located within the ‘Area of National Significance’ identified under former SREP 28 and carried into DCP 2011. The Godden MacKay Logan Report identifies that the area is worthy of preservation and historically significant for the following reasons:

 

-     The traditional country of the Barramattagal people.

-     Early contact and exchange between Aboriginal and early European settlers occurred here.

-     The first land grant was made here.

-     The first successful farm and experiments in agriculture were conducted on the land.

-     Elizabeth Farm house (c1793) is Australia's oldest surviving building.

-     Experiment Farm and Hambledon Cottage, both pre-1850 remain.

-     There is early archaeological evidence of early wharves, stores, a military barracks, stables and barns.

-     Remnant colonial plantings survive.

-     Evolving pattern of subdivision and urban development.

-     The Maronite Church, Our Lady of Lebanon, a contrasting 20th century landmark and evidence of Australia's post-war migration.

 

27.     In order to preserve the heritage values of the Area of National Significance the GML study recommends that heights remain low scale (generally RL 14 with potential for up to RL 17).

 

          Option 2

 

28.     However, by enabling development at heights exceeding RL 14, this may realise a number of significant benefits including:

-        Revitalisation of the Parramatta River foreshore including removal of aging industrial buildings and replacement with mixed use buildings ‘facing’ the river as well as addressing and activating River Road West;

-        Provision of public access along the foreshore continuously from Parramatta CBD to James Ruse Drive, including construction of a shared path at 2-12 River Road West (via Voluntary Planning Agreement).

-        Provision of a monetary contribution toward pedestrian bridge over Parramatta River (via Voluntary Planning Agreement);

-        Provision of monetary contribution toward traffic signalisation of River Road West and James Ruse Drive (via Voluntary Planning Agreement).

-        Provision of pedestrian access over the site from River Road West to the River Foreshore (via Voluntary Planning Agreement).

-        Improvement of the riverbank and riparian corridor including restoration of eroded bank via, removal of noxious weeds and native vegetation restoration;

-        Removal of contaminated fill from the site;

-        Reduction in building footprints which may reduce the impacts of flooding on surrounding developments (via increased overland flow).

 

29      Any future redevelopment of the site with heights exceeding RL 14 would need to meet strict performance based guidelines controlling the built form outcome, urban form, public domain, relationship to Parramatta River and surrounding development to achieve a superior quality development of the site and establish a benchmark development at the gateway to the CBD. Planning controls and guidelines would need to form part of any future DCP to guide the future redevelopment of the site.

 

VOLUNTARY PLANNING AGREEMENT

 

30      In conjunction with the planning proposal, Council would be seeking to continue its negotiation with the proponents to enter into a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA). The public benefit value of the VPA would be influenced by the density of development achieved on the site as part of the planning proposal.

 

31.     To date negotiations have generally included dedication of the river foreshore land; provision of public infrastructure including shared path, seating, lighting etc along the foreshore; restoration of the riverbank and riparian corridor including erosion control and native vegetation restoration; provision of a through site link from River Road West to Parramatta River; monetary contributions toward pedestrian bridge over River; and contribution toward signalisation of River Road West and James Ruse Drive.

 

32.     The final VPA would be reported to Council for endorsement (along with final Planning Proposal and Development Control Plan) prior to public exhibition.

 

WAY FORWARD

 

33.     To enable the further consideration of the Planning Proposal, Council is requested to provide guidance on its preferred option for the future redevelopment of the 2-12 River Road West having regard to the recommendations of the GML Heritage Study to retain maximum building height of RL 14 with potential to allow up to RL 17 (3 – 4 storeys), and the Planning Proposal request of building heights up to approximately RL 34 to RL52 (8-14 storeys).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane Galea                                                               

Project Officer Land Use