Pub: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
NO PLAN, JUST AMBIGUITY AND VAGUE HAND-WAVING
THE CHANGING FACE OF SYDNEY
By E.M. FARRELLY Architecture Writer
With CSR’s “concept plan” for Pyrmont a mere two weeks old, the Government, not to be outdone, finally has unveiled its draft strategy for the area. In fact, the Government document covers not just Ultimo-Pyrmont but no less than 300 hectares of what it calls “city west” – a loose collation of Glebe Island, Eveleigh and Central station united by nothing much except predominant Government ownership.
But where the CSR proposal, complete with model, sketches and plan, seems to reveal much more detail than was intended, the Government’s version stands so far back from its object that barely any detail is discernible.
The clearest commitments are to a public walkway around the harbour edge and an appealing if undefined notion of Harris Street as a tree-lined boulevard, or “primary pedestrian route”.
Beyond that there are vague hand-wavings towards heritage precincts, improved public transport and mixed-use, small-scale development.
What there is not, so far, is anything that rightly may be called a plan, even in the broadest terms. Nor do the crucial implementation decisions – such as exactly what the rules are and exactly who pays – seem to have been addressed.
There is brave talk of a public-private sector partnership in the provision of infrastructure, and of “flexibility” that somehow prohibits mediocrity while allowing excellence to shine through.
But when it comes to the physical vision of the place, confusion and ambiguity reign. Some of the cooks seem to see a wide social mix, with cheap public housing as well as the usual five-star stuff, while others – such as the deputy director of State Development – evidently imagine some less resistable magnet for Japanese corporate finance.
Planning on this scale consists both of having ideas and of making them work, which is often the hardest part.
In Sydney particularly, which suffers from its lack of a viable urban tradition, we need both physical vision and political will – the will to make money, certainly, but also to make a vivid, memorable city.
The vision cannot be implemented without the will, but equally the will cannot be generated without the vision. So far, it seems, we only have the vaguest evidence of either.
This document is the beginning of a public process to which response is crucial. The danger is that such motherhood vagueness makes sensible response all but impossible until it is too late.