Sunday, June 29, 2014

Newcastle East End Project- Submission

23 May, 2014
The General Manager,
The City of Newcastle.

Dear Sir,
SUBJECT: (Staged) DA 2014/323; Newcastle East End Project.
The Hunter Regional Committee of the National Trust of Australia (NSW) would like to make the following submission:

Please note: The subject area is referred to by the applicants as “Newcastle East End”.
This area has never been known by that name and this is confusing. The “East End” or “Newcastle East” is the area of the city (mainly residential) from Watt Street eastward. The CBD area east of Darby Street has been referred to in planning documents in the past as the City East precinct.
The Trust strongly endorses the heritage buildings identified in the HIS for conservation, both individual NLEP 2012 heritage schedule items and contributory buildings within Council’s City Centre Heritage Conservation Area.
We believe that many of the identified contributory buildings are worthy of individual LEP item status. It is noteworthy that the only CBD Heritage Study (by Suters Architects in 1988) has never been updated. It was meant to be a preliminary document only. The Trust has on numerous occasions advocated that Newcastle City Council (NCC) comprehensively review the document with a view to adding further items to its LEP heritage schedule. However, this never occurred. The “City-Wide Heritage Study”, produced in 1996 was focused on the suburbs of Newcastle LGA.
We strongly endorse the recommendations on pages 70-71 (HIS) and the methodologies outlined on pp 52-55. We are pleased that the consultants have not recommended a mere facadism approach to conservation.

However, matters not raised in terms of heritage impact include:
• The negative impact of the 3 tower buildings (between 15 and 20 storeys) on the urban cultural landscape defined by The Hill east of Darby Street. The Hill area rises along a sloping ridge along both easterly and westerly directions to Christ Church Cathedral at its central apex.

While the SEE claims these towers would “frame the cathedral”, and “maintain the visual prominence of the cathedral in the city skyline” (SEE, p12) they would in fact visually compete with the cathedral as the dominant structure and would be visually intrusive elements within the fine-grained , low- rise building form of The Hill area south of Hunter Street. This includes views from the east, such as from Fort Scratchley and Nobbys.
• While the HIS lists listed heritage items “in the near vicinity”, there is no mention of the cultural significance of the 1858 rail corridor and the two heritage listed  National trust, LEP and Railcorp s.170 registers) railway stations (Newcastle and Civic).
There are no statements of positive and negative impact, presumably because there are no detailed proposals to comment on. This raises the issue about whether further impact statements will be written and published  once more detailed proposals are drawn up; and whether there will be further opportunities for public comment, if the HIS is approved as part of the this DA.
For instance, the Trust would like to suggest that reinstatement of the ornate, above parapet line decoration in the Menkens –designed Charleston Studio, later “Washington House” (167 Hunter St, asset 37) should be considered. It may be worthwhile to conserve at least some of the 1960 David Jones shopfront with its travertine facade and large chrome-framed shopwindows. Will there be opportunities to comment on such fine-tuned, heritage related matters in future staged DAs?

“Conclusion” (HIS, p 73).The Trust does not agree with some claims made in the various dot points:
1. It is claimed that all items including conservation area contributory items will be retained. However, 22 Newcomen St (asset 10) and 14 Morgan St (asset 30) appear to be earmarked for demolition, apparently for pedestrian links that may not be necessary.
2.   It is claimed that the proposed new building envelopes (height, massing and scale) comply “in principle” with NLEP 2012, NDCP 2012 and Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy 2012.This is completely incorrect. Under the Draft SEPP 2014, there will be major, negative in urban design terms, changes to the development standards including height and FSR.
3. It is claimed that that the proposed building envelopes will minimise negative impacts on adjacent heritage items and heritage items in the “immediate vicinity” (N.B there is no reference to contributory items). This is also incorrect.
4.  Comments about diversity of uses and improved amenity for residents and visitors are not heritage impact issues.
5.  High rise towers in this area will not “reinforce significant architecture and urban design”.
6.  Issues such as “providing improved amenity for an increased number of residents and visitors”, whether correct or not, are not heritage impact issues.
7. “The potential to regain and reinforce significant views to and from the cathedral by locating additional height outside the primary view corridors”. Comment: These views while important are not the only ones to consider. High rise towers will have a massive negative effect on views to many significant parts of this low-scale heritage significant urban topography and cannot be justified.

“Building conservation, Retention and demolition” (3.3.10)
While it is stated that the DA “does not seek consent for the demolition of any buildings across the site”, this is  contradicted by seeking consent for “the approach to 3.3.10 which identifies the extent of buildings to be conserved and retained  on site , and the buildings on site to be demolished”. The “approach” would not guarantee that the provisions of 3.3.10 would be implemented. Further, two contributory buildings appear to be identified for demolition.
Further, while the draft DCP provisions call for “4. Protect heritage items and contributor (sic) buildings”, the applicants’ response/comment to this is to “protect heritage items and contributory buildings where appropriate” (SEE, p 84. Comment on DCP provisions). The word appropriate is subjective and not defined by the applicants.
Height Controls;
The proposed building heights contravene the existing and only legal statutory planning instrument, Newcastle LEP 2012, which contains a height limit (a development standard, not a guideline) of 24 m. The height limits are a product of planning instruments and development control plans (DCP) that have sensitively assessed over more than two decades.  These planning guidelines, development standards and urban design considerations respect the CBD’s historic topography and heritage issues. Their genesis is the landmark DCP 30 (c 1990) authored by Professor Barry Maitland, an urban designer with an international reputation. The DCP received national acclaim at the time. The principles that underpin that document have not changed. The recent Draft SEPP (Newcastle City Centre) and Draft DCP allow massive increases in height, FSR and other controls which cannot be justified in planning and urban design terms and don’t respect the community-endorsed principles  of previous planning instruments. Indeed, they mock these sound principles and past community endorsement of them.

We call on Council to reject the application and to inform the applicants that Council might look more favourably on a resubmitted proposal that complies with the current Newcastle LEP 2012, including its maximum building height development standard of 24 metres.
We are aware that under certain circumstances a development may exceed the 24m metres in this area. However, it must not be more than 40m AHD and satisfy the consent authority that it does not impede or detract from views to and from the Cathedral to the Hunter River foreshore.
The DA proposes a maximum height of more than 60 m and clearly does not comply with requirements about views.
It also doesn’t comply with heights indicated in Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy 2012.
• This DA should not be assessed using the provisions of the Draft SEPP and Draft DCP (City Centre) as they have no legal status.
• Given that the Draft SEPP and DCP were prepared by the NSW Government (Planning NSW) and that one of the applicants (Urban Growth) is a public sector property developer, the Government has a clear conflict of interest if it considers approval of these documents. This is a matter of great concern to the Trust.

Yours sincerely,
Keith Parsons.
Hunter Regional Committee,
National Trust of Australia (NSW).
Phone: 0249265301.