A rezoning application has been made to allow for the construction of tower buildings on either side of St John’s Cathedral, the oldest church site in Australia.
What is the issue?
The National Trust (NSW)’s Parramatta Regional Branch has been following this Planning Proposal since 2018 and has presented at three City of Parramatta Council Meetings and one Local Planning Panel to oppose this enormous high-rise development.
The Site-Specific Planning Proposal (rezoning) is for the erection of two tower buildings, one on each side of St John’s Cathedral, the oldest church site in Australia. The Planning Proposal also seeks the demolition of the heritage listed St John’s Church Parish Hall by providing a list of community benefits.
However, the Planning Proposal will destroy the heart of Parramatta and create a precedent allowing heritage listed buildings to be traded off for community benefits to Council. The proposal is not only for two buildings but also includes the taking over of the part of the Council-owned Hunter Street to allow access to underground parking via a shared vehicle/pedestrian space.
The basis for the rezoning sought by the developer and their subsequent plan for the site appears to be to build the largest possible buildings on the site to maximise the development footprint, rather than protect Parramatta’s rich heritage.
Reasons to oppose this development
The (soon to be approved) Parramatta Local Environment Plan (which sets out the development rules for Parramatta) states the maximum building height on the site is 18-24 metres. However, the Planning Proposal currently on exhibition for this site proposes an increase in building height to 211 metres. Add to that a 15% Design Excellence Bonus – resulting in a building height of 243 metres. Even taking the Council determined upper height limit of 24-metre in the DLEP, the developer is proposing a ten times increase in height.
The National Trust (NSW) Parramatta Regional Branch is opposing this rezoning for the following reasons:
- The Proposal is inconsistent with LEP 2011, DCP 2011, the DLEP and the DDCP.
- It does not comply with the Height of Buildings control set at 18 – 24 metres on the site (CBD Planning Proposal – Appendix 2B: Revised Proposed LEP Maps). The developer is proposing a lift of building height up to 243 metres.
- Is not consistent with the DDCP’s objective to “generate towers of slender proportions” (DDCP page 18).
- Is not consistent with mitigating the “potential adverse effects that buildings may have on a public domain” (DDCP page 18). This bulky tower located to the west of a public space stretches between Macquarie and Hunter Streets and will result in significant overshadowing to an area identified in the DLEP as “Sun Access Protection Surfaces” (CBD Planning Proposal – Appendix 2B: Revised Proposed LEP Maps). This area includes Centenary Square, Parramatta Square, and Parramatta Town Hall.
- The development proposes a change to DLEP Schedule 5 – Environmental Heritage list by seeking to delist and demolish the local heritage listed St John’s Parish Hall. This c.1910 hall was a definite part of the Anglican parish’s planning and has an important status in the history of ministry on this site.
- The proposal will result in buildings that dominate the pedestrian orientated Centenary Square and dominate the setting of Australia’s first church site.
- The proposal will impose an overbearing backdrop to the important State listed heritage item St John’s Cathedral.
- The proposal will reduce the useability of Centenary Square by increased overshadowing and the loss of a community meeting place due to its overbearing appearance.
In summary, St John’s Church is the oldest church site in Australia in continuous use, yet this proposed development will destroy the setting that the church has been in throughout the last two centuries.
What can you do to help?
If this rezoning is not opposed, the developer will then seek to maximise their building area by delisting and demolishing the local heritage listed St John’s Parish Hall to build the 45-storey tower on its footprint.
We need your help opposing this planning proposal – make a submission and amplify our advocacy. Submissions are due by the 13th May 2022. Using the “Reasons to oppose this development” points in this blog, we encourage you to write a submission. Remember to put these points into your own words so that your submission is counted as an individual submission.
To make a submission, you can use Parramatta Council’s online submission form here. Or you can email Council directly with your submission, using the subject line “Public Exhibition of St John’s Cathedral site (RZ/5/2018)” to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Trust of Australia (NSW) mission is to advocate for the conservation of built, cultural and natural heritage. For more than 75 years, we have been at the centre of the state’s most important heritage campaigns. Explore more of our advocacy work.