Forum offers local solutions for protecting heritage and designing cities

Experts in heritage, planning and architecture gathered at the National Trust (NSW)'s recent 'Past and Future Cities Forum' to debate the big issues facing Parramatta's heritage and city planning, identifying new solutions for creating cities with character.

The Forum, held on 28 July 2022, brought together key advocates and thought leaders, including Parramatta and Sydney City Councils, university representatives, leading Sydney consultants and National Trust experts.

The Forum focused on “Reimagining” Parramatta’s future to ensure it becomes a truly great second city, not a “second rate” city.  As the great Jane Jacobs said in 1958: “Designing a dream city is easy: rebuilding a living one takes imagination.”

Parramatta is currently imagining, planning and building projects that will set its character for generations to come – the Forum challenged planners, government agencies, Councils, urban designers and architects to reimagine that future, predict different possible futures, and to experience other viewpoints. The growth of Parramatta is inevitable and, in fact, desirable, but the destruction of its character and the loss of public places is not. The question is not whether Parramatta is going to change – the question of the day was “how.”

Key recommendations from the Forum included:

  • Urban density is important to reduce urban sprawl, but only where this can be accommodated with the overall aim of maintaining and enhancing a varied and interesting urban environment.
  • The preservation of heritage assets, including buildings, streetscapes, parklands, and river environments is a critical component of this process and fundamental to the development of vibrant communities.
  • The Trust calls on the NSW Government and Parramatta City Council to take a leadership role to ensure that Parramatta’s heritage places, their settings and the overall historic character of Parramatta is protected, allowing the people of the western suburbs world class heritage precincts.
  • Parramatta’s development objectives should strive to protect and enhance the individual heritage values of localities within the overall area and aim to create and maintain locally distinctive urban villages in new development zones.
  • Zonings, floor space ratios, heights etc must respect listed heritage items (including Conservation Areas) and spot re-zoning must consider the cumulative impact it is having on the cityscape.
  • Significant investment in to the protection, restoration and promotion of Parramatta’s heritage places and landscape should be a priority for all levels of government. Key sites that need urgent investment, precinct planning and holistic design with heritage at the forefront are:
    • The entirety of North Parramatta, not simply the bubble of the Female Factory
    • Roxy Theatre
    • Harris Park heritage precinct
    • Parramatta Park
    • Parramatta River
    • Prince Alfred Square
  • Community and public participation need to happen upfront, with true opportunity when identifying options, and need engagement with Parramatta’s diverse communities.

The National Trust has long argued for the history of our cities to play a meaningful role in their future – we want our cities to be loveable, not just liveable. The Past and Future Cities Forum reminded us to be imaginative in our approaches, to think beyond the economics, and to embrace a future for Parramatta that will benefit future generations. Because in the end, Parramatta will not simply be defined by what we create, it will defined by what we refused to destroy.

Read the Forum’s program.

Join us on facebook for updates and outcomes from the Forum.

Find out more about the National Trust (NSW)’s advocacy work.

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