Planning minister kills proposal for new tower

The minister – who is perceived to be more friendly to developers than his predecessor, Rob Stokes – delivered his verdict on the proposal after receiving an overwhelmingly critical report from the NSW Government Architect, which he had commissioned.

The architect found the increased building heights did not “follow the important urban language established by the Millers Point Conservation Area”, and a 73-metre tower would obstruct public views to and from Observatory Hill, “a highly significant public place in the history of Sydney”.

Construction of the Barangaroo metro station in August. The proposed tower would go above the railway station.Credit:Kate Geraghty

It would also overshadow the forthcoming Harbour Park in the morning, contribute to increases in wind turbulence at one corner of the site and potentially affect Sydney Observatory’s operations, the architect said.

Roberts has not yet rejected the application, and is awaiting a response from the proponent to the architect’s concerns. But his emphatic rejection of the proposal as it stands leaves Infrastructure NSW and Aqualand with little choice but to radically redraw the plan, or withdraw.

“I do not believe, in its current form, that consent is in the best interests of the community, and I will await the proponent’s response to the issues raised,” Roberts told the Herald. “Quite frankly, there’s not enough column space to cover my concerns about this proposal in its current form.”

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On Friday night, Aqualand pointed out its proposal contained 116,000 square metres of above ground floor space – well within the 150,000-square-metre maximum set out during the tender process under former premier Mike Baird when the Barangaroo metro station was announced.

In a statement, McCoy said Aqualand respected the minister’s strong views and was conscious of community sentiment regarding several aspects of the proposal.

“The proposal for Central Barangaroo responds directly to a brief set by the government, and the building envelope for the proposed scale of the development was issued by Infrastructure NSW in 2019 following the resolution of the sight lines negotiations,” McCoy said.

“We look forward to working with the government to find the most appropriate way forward to deliver an outstanding outcome for Central Barangaroo.”

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The final piece of the massive urban renewal project, Central Barangaroo has been besieged by difficulty and delays from the outset. Originally a joint venture between Grocon, Aqualand and Scentre Group, Grocon exited the project in September 2019, leaving Aqualand – a subsidiary of Chinese development firm Shanghai Shenglong – as the key proponent.

The tower had been fiercely opposed by an activist group of Millers Point residents, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich, Sydney Observatory, the Heritage Council of NSW and numerous other stakeholders – though it was backed by developer lobbyists.

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