Charles Jago on overdevelopment

“If we want a liveable city that isn’t overwhelmed by rows of apartment blocks linked by traffic-jammed private motorways, we must fix the rigged planning system. “Our planning system has little vision for the future, no voice from the community and prioritises profit. It’s time for that to change.”

Senator David Shoebridge

Development is occurring right across Canada Bay, with new duplexes, apartment blocks, boarding houses and more. The following map shows areas exposed to higher levels of development. See the official zoning map.

Areas facing more development

1. Rhodes East

In the area between the railway line and Concord Road north of Mary Street East in Rhodes, the NSW Government has announced plans for 3,600 dwellings in place of the existing ~140 dwellings, plus an additional 600 new dwellings west of the railway line – an 80% increase in the population. The government’s transport proposals (including a ferry wharf) are inadequate for current residents’ needs, let alone the future needs of Rhodes and Wentworth Point residents.

2. Concord West & 3. North Strathfield

Key issues raised by locals are recurrent flooding and restricted access via George Street, already causing traffic problems. Recent rezoning of the PRCUTS precinct to the west of Concord West station allowing town houses and terrace housing will increase low-rise density over time, while former industrial zones have been rezoned to medium density housing of 5-7 storeys. This includes the former Cadwallader/Circle C transformer building at 7 King Street, now zoned for 16m (5 storeys).

The large site at 1 King Street Concord West (used by Westpac for some time as a call centre, now vacant) is an exception. It’s now owned by Billbergia, the largest developer in the area. Nevertheless, it is still zoned for industrial use with an 8.5m (2 storey) height limit. It would be a great spot for a new high school.

The area north of Bakehouse quarter on the western side of George Street up to Rothwell Avenue is currently zoned R2 residential, also with an 8.5m (2 storey) height limit.

NSW Labor, as part of their 2023 election campaign, said they planned to build greater density around metro stations – they will likely be targeting North Strathfield.

4. Bakehouse Quarter

The owners of the Bakehouse Quarter hope to redevelop a significant part of the area between Parramatta Road and Pomeroy Street, now zoned for 8 storeys (27m), but likely to be increased to 10 storeys in the next couple of years. Note that the former Arnott’s buildings, protected by heritage, cannot be removed although some land there could possibly be built on.

5. Strathfield Triangle

The Strathfield triangle is that part of Canada Bay Council LGA south of Parramatta Road. The area between Leicester Ave and the railway line will include high-rise of at least 20 to 30 storeys. This area has less open space and fewer services than other parts of Canada Bay LGA. The plan previously passed to zone this area was rejected by the Dept of Planning, so the council has to start over.

6. Concord & 7. “Kings Bay”

In late 2022, the proposed rezoning of two PRCUTS precincts along Parramatta Road came to Canada Bay Council. Charles Jago (Greens councillor) opposed them. Council decided that the low community response in the community consultation meant that additional consultation was required: they deferred the matter. Within days, the NSW government moved to approve the rezoning itself, taking the decision out of Canada Bay Council’s hands. Their approval documents removed some of the protections which had been included by Canada Bay Council staff for the rezoning. The precincts are:

  • Concord precinct from Broughton Street to Loftus Street, up to Burton Street.
  • the “Kings Bay” precinct from Walker Street nearly up to Courland Street, up to Queens Road and also sections on Kings Road, excluding Rosebank College and Lucas Gardens School. (Note that all the locals see this area as part of Five Dock – it doesn’t build confidence that the government knows what’s really there.)

Both include areas with medium density and high-rise up to around 20 storeys (possibly much more).

8. Five Dock (around Great North Road)

While Five Dock has been kept to medium density in areas around Great North Road in the Five Dock CBD, pressure will mount in the longer term for greater density due to the new Metro station at Fred Kelly Place. The Metro will also expand Five Dock’s role as a transport hub for buses.

Parramatta Road Corridor Urban Transformation Strategy (PRCUTS)

The NSW Government’s Parramatta Road Corridor Urban Transformation Strategy (issued in 2016) has now led to plans to enormously increase housing density along Parramatta Road from Parramatta to Sydney CBD. This plan fails because the area lacks key infrastructure to handle the current population, let alone the additional numbers the State Government wants, especially for transport and schools.

Infrastructure shortfall

Following are some of the main problems now being experienced, which will get worse with the new rezoning with PRCUTS.

Overcrowded trains

Based on past surveys, the Northern train line has offered the most overcrowded trains in Sydney. Passengers in peak hours sometimes cannot board trains in Rhodes, Concord West and North Strathfield due to overcrowding. It is important to remember that the Rhodes station also services the suburb of Wentworth Point. The government has mentioned the possibility of various upgrades of the Rhodes station which will not actually increase the throughput of passengers on trains. They have also mentioned the possibility of quadruplicating the train lines (another passenger train track in each direction) but there are no reported plans to actually do this. Even if the government planned to do this, it could easily take a decade to complete. Meanwhile, the government is pressing ahead with very detailed plans to fast-track new development.

It is unacceptable that, with trains already overcommitted, the government’s plans will create an 80% increase to the population of Rhodes, with 10,000 new people in the next ten years. For more details see the Canada Bay Greens submission on the plans for overdevelopment in Rhodes.

Traffic congestion (two broken promises)

  1. “Prior to any rezoning commencing, a Precinct-wide traffic study and supporting modelling is required to be completed…”* The government initiated rezoning before the traffic study was complete. The study was finally delivered in late 2022, showing massive future traffic problems. Then the government eventually finalised the rezoning in parts of Concord West, Concord and Kings Bay (shown in purple) itself, when Council balked at the unresolved issues and lack of communication with the community.
  2. The NSW government has twice promised a Rapid Transit system using buses or light rail along Parramatta Road. Delivery was planned to commence in 2019-20, in line with the opening of Westconnex M4 East. Only Rapid Transit can abate Parramatta Road congestion. While the Metro will be welcome, it cannot do that. The traffic study makes clear the problems that only Rapid Transit can solve.

* Parramatta Road Corridor Urban Transformation Implementation Plan 2016 – 2023, pages 27, 31 & 35

Over-crowded schools

The NSW government has fallen far short in delivering public school places, especially in high schools with long waiting lists. The Sydney Olympic Park High School due in three years (promised for 2020) will not be enough.

Concord Hospital upgrade – upgrades not keeping up

The hospital’s stage 1 upgrades which have just finished in late 2021 were designed to deal with a population increase of 20% over decades. The 2015 stage 1 plan aimed for the hospital to cope with a projected population increase of 20% over 10–15 years based on 2011 census figures. In 2011 the Canada Bay population in was 75,762. Yet the population had already grown by 20% around the start of the project in 2017, and now – at completion – exceeds 30%! See more on the Concord Hospital page

More detail to come – pressure on…

  • Access to open space
  • Tree targets in Canada Bay
  • Sporting facilities
  • Swimming pools
  • Libraries

More on the PRCUTS program

  • PRCUTS actually has two stages. The rezoning enacted above represents stage 1 rezoning. Stage 2 rezoning is intended to begin implementation two years after stage 1 (initiated 2021) – ie in 2023. It includes additional medium development, but not high-rise.
  • PRCUTS makes provision for affordable housing. While the level of 5% is below the level the Greens are calling for, it marks a significant step forward. (Of course, affordable housing as any proportion of new development will never be enough to meet current demand; the state and federal governments will also need to build a lot of new housing to meet these needs. See the Greens housing policies for NSW and Australia.)
  • PRCUTS and the latest rezoning proposal for Concord and Kings Bay precincts include provisions for some increase in the energy efficiency of housing. A good idea, but not actually enough to reduce carbon emissions from housing to meet the Government’s net zero emissions by 2050 commitment (itself too low as well). See more in my motion on updating BASIX.
  • The May 2021 planning proposal includes provision for active transport, with relocation of cycling paths out of the way of cars – I credit Council planners for this – good on them! The problem being that this could have been rezoned as medium density, with the same benefits.
  • PRCUTS affects other local government areas too, including Burwood on the opposite side of Parramatta Road, and Strathfield LGA along Parramatta Road in Homebush.

Overall though, the potential benefits of affordable housing and energy efficiency don’t overcome the problem that additional density makes no sense without the infrastructure like the promised Rapid Transit along Parramatta Road (NOT the same as the Metro), or enough high school places, and much more. And that’s what the original PRCUTS documents said too – but the government has abandoned its promises in those documents.

Presentations from the Greens’ March 2021 public meeting on overdevelopment

A public meeting on overdevelopment was held on 10th March 2021 at Concord Community Centre. 

The speakers were:

  • Jamie Parker MP, Greens Spokesperson for Planning and Heritage
  • Jenny Leong MP, Greens Spokesperson for Housing and Homelessness (including Renters)
  • Councillor Charles Jago, City of Canada Bay Council
  • Ned Cutcher, Greens candidate for Burwood Council
  • Event MC: Pauline Tyrrell, former Deputy Mayor of Canada Bay Council

See the flyer on the meeting, with specific information on the areas that were discussed, and the most recent overdevelopment flyer. See the media release. See Charles Jago’s slides (updated) and Ned Cutcher’s slides.

Causes of overdevelopment

The NSW Government has tilted the planning rules in favour of developers and greater development, and has removed many of councils’ powers:

  • The NSW government must approve all key council planning documents, and imposes changes on them.
  • The government sets compulsory targets for councils to approve new dwellings. It required Canada Bay Council to approve a target of 2,150 new dwellings between 2016 and 2021, which they did, and more targets still to be met. Yet councils are starved of the funds to build infrastructure for the growing population.
  • The system of private certifiers.
  • Councillors no longer approve developments. Decisions are now made by a “local” panel appointed from a list of government approved experts, who must follow government rules. Council appoints one community representative who can be outvoted.
  • The rules for “complying development” and “exempt development” reduce the time for approvals, but can also create inappropriate development.

The Greens want a complete overhaul of NSW planning laws to reflect the interests of residents and the environment, rather than following the dictates of developers.

Dealing with development around you?

See Charles Jago’s comments on dealing with development next door.

More information

For more information, see our media releases from the 2019 state and federal elections:

Date Press release
14 January 2019  Government’s Rhodes development plan ‘larger than Bondi Junction’ says Greens candidate
1 February 2019 Greens campaign launch focuses on overdevelopment and climate change
21 February 2019 Greens call for “trackless trams” from Burwood to CBD along Parramatta Road
25 February 2019  Greens candidate calls for NSW Royal Commission following Opal Tower fiasco
6 March 2019  Concord Hospital upgrade – good to have something, but too little, too late