The Benefits and Costs of Alternative Growth Paths for Sydney: Economic,Social and Environmental Impacts,
Centre for International Economics
12 March 2012
A report that was commissioned by the previous Labor Government in New South Wales and delivered back in December 2010 has only now been released by the current Government. This report, by the Centre for International Economics, is titled The Benefits and Costs of Alternative Growth Paths for Sydney: Economic, Social and Environmental Impacts (CIE Report). It examines alternative ways in which additional people could be housed in Sydney.
The New South Wales Department of Planning has projected that the population of the Sydney region will increase from 4.3 million in 2006 to 6.0 million by 2036, an annual increase of 57,000 people (NSWDOP, 2008),. For a number of reasons, including overcrowding and environmental concerns, most of the public oppose such an increase in the population (PC, 2011a; EMC).
THE METROPOLITAN STRATEGY
New South Wales Government sees planning doctrines based on higher population densities to house this projected increase. Its planning policy, known as The Metropolitan Strategy, works on locating some 70% of new dwellings within existing urban communities (in-fill) and 30% in greenfield sites (NSWDOP, 2005). The policy is implemented by ministerial directives and State Environmental Planning Policies issued by the Minister of Planning. These are promulgations issued by ministerial fiat and are not even tabled in parliament, let alone debated there.
To accomplish this 70/30 strategy the Department of Planning in effect has placed a restrictive growth boundary around Sydney to force higher-densities into existing residential areas. Greenfield land release has been reduced from an historic 10,000 lots per year to less than 2,000 (NSWDOP, 2010; Note 1). In tandem with this reduction in housing land availability the Department of Planning insists that local authorities plan for a specified increase in the number of dwellings in their areas. This insistence is backed by the threat of taking away their planning powers if they resist. This authoritarian impost is reflected in the finding that the majority of communities report that they feel their governments are not concerned with community preferences on planning issues (PC, 2011b). Existing policies are thus undemocratic and widely resented. But can they be justified in terms of public good?
THE CIE REPORT
It is possible to find some answers to this question in the CIE Report. This examines three different scenarios for Sydney for the period covered by the Metropolitan Strategy. These portray alternatives of 90%, 70% and 50% of new housing to be built in existing urban areas (and correspondingly 10%, 30% and 50% in greenfield sites).
The report assembles evidence which appears to favour densification against fringe development. However this evidence is very flimsy. It may well be that the reason for the delay in releasing the report was to avoid scrutiny of this flimsy evidence base.
FINDINGS OF THE CIE REPORT
The report finds that when compared to the current Metropolitan Strategy 70/30 ratio being implemented, that a 90/10 proportion would save $795 million (or $1,761 per dwelling) whereas a 50/50 proportion would cost an additional $4,992 million (or $11,064 per dwelling). It also finds that for 100% of new dwellings in Greenfield sites the additional 25 year cost per dwelling would be $26,000. The report does not attempt to proportion these costs and benefits between the public and private sectors.
The CIE Report is of a much higher standard than previous reports on the subject. But despite this, it contains some serious flaws.
CURRENT CONDITIONS ASSUMED AS A BASIS
For its findings the CIE Report calculates costs for the two additional scenarios to the Metropolitan Strategy’s 70/30 policy that it examines. These costs are shown as differences from the current 70/30 strategy, which is taken as a zero base. But the Metropolitan Strategy produces market distortions in that it has caused a severe shortage of land on the fringe which has grossly inflated the cost of housing. The report states “Sydney is considered to be the most expensive city for housing in Australia and one of the most expensive cities in the world. In this context housing affordability has been a key issue of concern to the community” (p. 178). But in its calculations the CIE Report does not take into account the effect of the land shortages resulting from the 70/30 strategy on the cost structure of the other two scenarios examined.
It is noticeable that as part of the trend resulting from the Metropolitan Strategy, over a five-year period (2000 to 2004) annual greenfield housing land production on the Sydney fringe decreased by 6000 lots. During this period the median price of lots in Sydney escalated from $150,000 to $350,000 (UDIA, 2009). As a result of this trend the median price of a house in Sydney is now about $650,000 (Note 2), far more than it need be (Note 3).
The 90/10 strategy, with a mechanism of further intensification of the current growth ring boundary restriction, would reduce the supply of land still further from that of the 70/30 strategy. As a result of supply and demand this shortage would lead to still higher prices. In contrast, a 50/50 strategy, with its relaxation of the growth ring boundary restriction would increase the land supply and result in lower prices.
Not taking into account price variations caused by land shortages has two implications for the report. Firstly, if they had been taken into account, this would have had the potential to significantly change the relative cost differences found between the scenarios examined. Secondly, such differences as have been found are comparatively trivial. They are completely swamped by the magnitude of the actual cost of houses.
It should be noted that coinciding with an increase in housing cost has been a deterioration of the economy of New South Wales relative to other Australian states. It has become noticeable that there has been some movement of people and employment to other centres (Berkovic N., 2007; Salt B., 2008; Colebatch T., 2011), Sydney employers not only have to pay excessive rentals caused by land scarcity, they also have to pay increased salaries to enable employees to meet their high housing costs. This also is not taken into account in the CIE Report.
The CIE Report quantifies “transformation benefits” that will accrue from individual developments. It defines a “transformation benefit” as one that “relates to the value people place on living in different areas above and beyond the cost of providing dwellings in these places. This incorporates all private costs incurred and benefits received by households and developers in producing dwellings and making decisions about where to live” (p.12).
Under this heading the report sets out figures on a range of costs and benefits. The calculations are based on the distorted market conditions and result from three factors. These are:
• developer profits that are estimated from reported actual developer profits;
• theoretical gains to households from being able to buy a property that they prefer to other properties and
• gains to existing landholders if they can get higher prices for their land.
These factors of course will be influenced by many elements including the inflated land costs discussed in the previous section, a variable which the CIE Report does not take into account. The land shortage caused by the Metropolitan Strategy is likely to result in higher profits for developers building multistorey apartments than would be the case if buyers had the choice of single-residential housing at lower prices that would result from policies with less restrictions.
Further, it is questionable whether such private sector impacts should be included and whether such items are legitimate matters of public policy concern.
If transformation benefits are to be included, then, for consistency, impacts on other parties such as existing residents should also be quantified. These impacts include:
• The impact on the value of a single-residential property that has high-rise built next to it. This can include theft of amenity - new infill residents look over gardens of existing residents while the latter have to look onto unsightly structures, suffer lack of privacy and overshadowing. The report states, but does not take into consideration, that this can depress the value of property by as much as 30 per cent (p.121);
• Congestion - existing residents have to suffer from increasingly congested streets and shortage of street parking (Cox W., 2010; Note 4);
• Shortage of recreational facilities – as more vacant land is built upon in an existing community originally designed for low density, it becomes impractical to find new open areas. This means that the community cannot meet the recreational needs of the additional population for sport and other outdoor activities;
• The general effect of more and more high-rise in a former predominantly single-residential neighbourhood including a perception that an increase in the incidence of crime is associated with denser areas (which the CIE Report finds is beyond its scope to consider, p.61);
• Reduction in housing choice. Most infill development consists of apartments which are not suitable for bringing up young children (Randolph B., 2006; Recsei T., 2011). Indeed the majority of those currently living in apartments do not do so by choice. They can be described as the economically engaged, battlers or those achieving education (Easthope H., 2009). Indeed multi-storey apartments are not even acceptable to most people wishing to downsize if they have other choices (Levi J., 2010);
• Reduction in biodiversity - the impact of gardens and open space being replaced with unit blocks has a severe effect on urban plant and animal life (Conacher Travers, 2000);
• Heritage items valued by the community are often lost (National Trust, 2011);
• Human health - high density considerably increases the incidence of mental illness (rates of schizophrenia almost double), (Lederborgen F.et al) and there are other documented negative health effects (Maas J. et al 2009);
• Atmospheric pollution. There is a local effect on residents of atmospheric pollution (Mustafić H,, et al, 2012) in high-density. This is due to less volume of air being available for dilution and dispersion and to higher traffic densities;
These impacts on existing residents, if quantified into the report’s transformation benefit calculations, would probably completely change its overall findings.
QUESTIONS ON COSTS
(a) Electricity and water
The report alleges that electricity consumption is greater in houses than in apartments. This is incorrect. Studies show that consumption per capita is greater in apartments (Myors P. et al 2005). It appears that the data relied upon in the report apparently does not take into account the significant common electricity consumption of the whole apartment block which include energy used by such items as lifts, lighting common areas such as foyers and car spaces and the common components of air conditioning. Studies also show that, contrary to expectation, that per capita water consumption is no different for those living in units than for people living in single-residential housing (Troy P. et al, 2005).
High-density advocates claim that infrastructure costs will be saved by imposing higher densities onto communities originally designed for lower densities. However the opposite has occurred. In the period since high-density policies have had time to have a significant effect, the New South Wales Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has authorised unprecedented increases in water tariffs of 40%, sewerage of 18% and electricity of 100%. All of these within a four year period. This has resulted in economic hardship to sections of the community (Note 5).
If, in the future, planners want to save on reticulation costs by maximising the use of localised energy (sunlight) and water (rain) then the greater the roof area per occupant the more feasible this will be.
As far as transport is concerned the report makes three important admissions. The authors say:
• “there is no clear guide as to whether total transport costs (congestion and infrastructure) will be higher in a growth path focused on fringe or in existing areas” (p.72)
• “travel times are relatively similar across different regions, as people who face lower time costs of travel choose to travel further, and people on the fringe typically travel on less congested roads and walk less” (p.74)
• “For future fringe areas, the transport patterns for work journeys will depend on where employment is located. The share of employment that occurs locally could also change through time as businesses take advantage of better availability of labour on the fringe” (p.75).
But despite these uncertainties, the report produces specific figures for its scenario comparisons and finds that the cost of major road infrastructure in the fringe alternative would be $18,000 per dwelling and for public transport $9,000 (p.78).
Firstly, the findings of the CIE report are marred by the fact that some of the costs that it uses on which to base conclusions are questionable and the fact that not all significant factors are covered. If costs and benefits were fully accounted for, including the costs and benefits born by existing residents, a case for emphasising densification over fringe development would simply not stand up.
Secondly, the report’s findings, such as they are, make the unpopular Metropolitan Strategy 70/30 policy that has been imposed onto communities difficult to justify. When the number of dwellings and the time period involved are taken into consideration, the cost differential found between the scenarios it examines is too small to justify imposing a particular policy. Overall for the 50/50 scenario, the report finds the additional cost per new dwelling to be $11,064 per house over a full 25 year period. This is an infinitesimal amount compared to the costs that people have to pay for houses described earlier, costs which have been exacerbated by excesses that are generated by the current growth-boundary policy. A high proportion of people currently forced to live in blocks of units would probably prefer to live in lower densities on the fringe. It is bizarre that their preferences should be outlawed in order to save a paltry sum of money.
Fourteen months went by between the date that this report was completed and the date when it was released. Why the delay?
At the time it was completed it may well have been an embarrassment both for the Department of Planning and the then government. Neither would have cared to admit just a few months before the 2011 March election that the major reason they had provided for an unpopular policy, namely cost difference, proved to be insignificant.
If costs and benefits are fully accounted for, including those born by existing residents, the case for a policy of densification over fringe development cannot be supported. If we must have urban growth in Sydney there is no justification to continue to frustrate the popular demand of the community that desires more of it to be on the fringe and less of it as in-fill.
Unwanted high-rise development represents theft from the community. It reduces the amenity of existing residents and reduces the monetary value of their properties. It transfers that value to property developers without recompense. This theft is abetted by autocratic fiats imposed by the developers' collaborators in government, making that government a participant in kleptocracy.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
Berkovic N, 2007.,
Young workers fleeing Sydney, The Australian, December 31, 2007
CIE Report, 2010 [on line]. Source. Available from http://www.metroplansydney.nsw.gov.au/Portals/0/pdf/AlternativeGrowthPaths.pdf [accessed 6 March 2012]
Colebatch T., 2011, City's population explosion, The Age, April 1, 2011, http://theage.domain.com.au/real-estate-news/citys-population-explosion-20110331-1cng1.html [Accessed 6 March 2012]
Conacher Travers, 2000., (Conacher Travers Pty Ltd) Environmental baseline study for Ku-ring-gai municipal council, Local government area. http://www.kmc.nsw.gov.au/resources/documents/Environmental_Baseline_Study1.pdf [accessed 6 March 2012]
Cox W., 2010, New traffic scorecard reinforces density-traffic congestion nexus, Newgeography 03/03/2010 http://www.newgeography.com/content/001444-new-traffic-scorecard-reinforces-density-traffic-congestion-nexus [accessed 8 March 2012]
Easthope H. et al, 2009, The Desirable Apartment Life? City Futures Research Centre, University of NSW, p.14, http://www.be.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/upload/pdf/cf/research/cityfuturesprojects/higherdensity/DP0223388WorkingPaper5(DesirableApratmentLife).pdf [accessed 6 March 2012]
EMC A survey of nearly 2000 people revealed that in the large capital cities only 7% think Australia needs a larger population while 87% think it needs a smaller or the same population (6% don’t know). Australia’s Population, Essential Report No. 100419, 19 April 2010, Source: Available from http://www.essentialmedia.com.au/?s=Do+you+think+Australia+needs+a+larger+population [accessed 12 March 2012]
Mustafić H., et al, 2012. Main Air Pollutants and Myocardial Infarction, Journal of American Medical Association 2012;307(7):713-721, 15 Feb 2012
Lederborgen F.et al, City living and urban upbringing affect neural social stress processing in humans, Nature 474, 489-501, 23 June 2011
Levi J., 2010, A stack of evidence to show Govt is off-track, North Shore Times, 8 January 2010, http://digitaledition.northshoretimes.com.au/default.aspx?iid=32372&startpage=page0000002#folio=004 [accessed 8 March 2012]
Maas J. et al 2009, Morbidity is related to a green living environment J Epidemiol Community Health published online 15 Oct 2009, Abstract on http://jech.bmj.com/content/63/12/967
Myors P. et al 2005. Multi-Unit Residential Building Energy & Peak Demand Study, Energy News Vol 23 no 4 Dec 05
National Trust, 2011, (The National Trust of Australia (NSW)) Of Form Assembled in the Light -The National Trust’s Submission to the Chairs of the NSW Planning Review, p.30 http://planningreview.nsw.gov.au/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=lO60_vJvmao%3D&tabid=105&mid=516 [accessed 6 March 2012]
Note 1 It should be noted that expansion of Sydney does not have a significant impact on food production. Only 7% of food consumed in New South Wales emanates from the Sydney basin and of this only 1/3 is vegetables, the largest proportion is eggs and poultry, cattle and pig slaughter (J. Wilkinson, Agriculture in the Sydney region: historical and current perspectives, NSW Parliament, Feb 2011). Furthermore the area required for housing is small in proportion to agricultural land in the region and it should be relatively easy for development to bypass significant agricultural land that otherwise might be impacted such as the estimated 2025 hectares used for vegetables
Note 2 The median price for a house in Sydney is given as: $651,000 in B.Gora, Sydney house prices worse than London or New York, Sunday Telegraph, 30 May 2010;
$637,600 (September 2011) in 8th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Dec 2011, p.41, http://www.demographia.com/dhi.pdf [Accessed 6 March 2012]
Note 3. A current (March 2012) “back of the envelope” calculation for the cost of a house on the city periphery, unrestrained by artificial shortages, reveals the land cost at $10,000 (from subdivided farmland on the outskirts costing $60,000 per hectare yielding six 600 sq. m lots), services at $90,000, and other costs $20,000 giving a total unimproved cost of about $120,000. Add the cost of building a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house at $130,000 gives $250,000 for the cost of a home (personal communication)
Note 4. Example: Blog entry; A.Jeffery, Rhodes Peninsula, Sydney overdevelopment. See section “traffic problems”, 08 December 2010, http://sosnsw.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/rhodes-peninsula-sydney-overdevelopment.html [accessed 8 March 2012]
Note 5. A survey has found that one in five New South Wales households was unable to pay an electricity, gas or phone bill on time and seven in ten expect to have to make sacrifices to meet future bills. J.Irvine, Struggle puts squeeze on bill payments (referring to a Wesley Mission Report), Sydney Morning Herald 31/10/2010 http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/struggle-puts-squeeze-on-bill-payments-20101031-178xx.html [accessed 6 March 2012]
NSWDOP, 2005. NSW Department of Planning, 2005, Metropolitan Strategy. City of cities: a plan for Sydney’s future, Source. available from http://www.metrostrategy.nsw.gov.au/ [accessed 6 March 2012]
NSWDOP, 2008. New South Wales Department of Planning, [on line]. The annual increase of 57,000 people is projected to consist of an average natural increase of 39,000 and net migration of 18,000 (table 4.1, p.17) Source. available from http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/population/pdfs/nsw_state_regional_population_projections_2006_2036_2008release.pdf [accessed 6 March 2012]
NSWDOP, 2010 NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, 2010. In 2006 as much as 90% of new dwellings were in-fill into existing communities. Metropolitan Plan for Sydney 2036, Strategic Direction D p.107 Source. Available from http://metroplansydney.nsw.gov.au/Home/MetropolitanPlanForSydney2036.aspx [accessed 6 March 2012]
Troy P. et al,2005, Water Use and the Built Environment: Patterns of Water Consumption in Sydney, Research Paper No. 1, City Futures Research Centre, December 2005
PC, 2011a. A Productivity Commission survey of nearly 16,000 people revealed that 64% of the Sydey community would not like an increased population, 9% would like it and 27% did not know or did not care; Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation:Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments, Productivity Commission Research Report Volume 1, p.28, April 2011; Source. Available from http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/108840/planning-volume1.pdf [accessed 6 March 2012]
Productivity Commission Research Report Volume 1, IBID, p xxxvii
Randolph B., 2006, Children in the Compact City; Fairfield as a suburban case study, University of NSW, October 2006
Recsei T., 2011, Blog: Confining children, 10 December 2011, http://sosnsw.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/confining-children.html [accessed 6 March 2012]
Salt B., 2008, Tale of two cities: Why Melbourne thinks it’s a chance to overtake Sydney early this century, (Presentation to Australian Institute of Urban Studies), 29 July 2008
UDIA, 2009 (Urban Development Institute of Australia) The 2009 UDIA State of the Land : National Land Supply Study, p.11
Monday, March 12, 2012
Posted by Tony Recsei at 4:14 pm
Saturday, December 10, 2011
The Department of Planning states ad nausea that its high-density policies provide housing choice. But one or the reasons for SOS resisting high-density housing being forced onto communities that do not want it is that this reduces choice for the housing that most people want – family friendly single-residential housing.
SOS has been pointing out for years the tragic consequence of this policy – the regular newspaper reports of child deaths from falling out of apartment windows. With no backyard in which to play and explore, children restricted within four walls are tempted to explore their confines. At last the Department of Planning has recognised this is happening. But instead of solving the problem by allowing the community the type of dwelling they need, the response to these increasing tragedies is to distribute 40,000 posters and brochures to strata owners and tenants in an education campaign to reduce child falls from windows and balconies.
So much for housing choice! We have also been pointing out that mental illness is associated with increasing density. Presumably a Department of Planning brochure on mental illness will be next.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
The NSW Department of Planning has told councils that special purpose or special use lands such as for schools, hospitals, churches and community centres must be rezoned according to that of their surrounding areas. That mostly means they will be zoned for even more residential. So while densities will increase further, public land will be reduced. Where and how will children be educated and enjoy recreation, the sick be treated and community functions held for existing populations if the land available for these purposes is to be reduced while at the same time yet more people will be housed in the area? We will have massive concentrated population with no public facilities or open space - a recipe for a violence and crime dominated concrete jungle or the totalitarian government of "1984" or "Brave New World".
This is a futher continuation of the Government's crazy high-density policies. It is wholesale theft of our land for the ultimate benefit of developers. Ali Baba's forty thieves have nothing on this crowd.
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
AMENDED MASTER PLAN FOR RHODES PENINSULA
ALAN JEFFERY povides a description of how the amenity of Rhodes is being destroyed by senseless overdevelopment as at the end of December 2010.
Rhodes Peninsula continues to be abused by both the State Government and Canada Bay Council. The Master Plan is being massively amended during construction of this residential/commercial/retail development to permit much higher residential densities and over double the height restrictions. This is producing greater developer profits but at substantial cost to the local community and, in particular, the local road infrastructure.
The following is a summary of some of the events and concerns surrounding this development. Whilst it is based on correspondence, documentation and recollections of the author, a resident of Rhodes for 35 years, due to the constantly changing nature of this development over more than a decade, not always to the community’s knowledge, no guarantee can be made that all facts, numbers, etc are absolute accurate.
Rhodes is a small suburb on the southern bank of the Parramatta River slightly more than half way from Sydney to Parramatta. The development site occupies the area of the suburb lying west of the railway line. Part of the proposed development site was badly contaminated by the previous heavy industry usage.
After lengthy “consultation” a decade ago a Master Plan (SREP 29) was approved by the State Government around the end of 2001 for the 0.43 square km site which approved (approximately):
· Commercial area for 2,000 employees (in addition to a further 3,000 employees elsewhere in Rhodes)
· Shopping centre with over 100 shops
· 3,000 residential units for around 7,300 residents
Members of the local community fought hard to limit this development during consultation for the original Master Plan, writing over 40 letters to departments, the Premier, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and meeting with Planning Minister Refshauge, Opposition Leader John Brogdan and Shadow Minister Barry O’Farrell. They also provided submissions to a Parliamentary Inquiry into the development, including a 40 page report into the transport issues. Yet the community concerns were effectively ignored.
Following the approval of the Master Plan, construction began with the shopping centre opening at the end of 2004 and commercial sectors opening progressively and they are now effectively complete. The residential component on the non-contaminated portion of the site commenced early in the project whilst the remaining residences waited for the completion of the remediation of the northern portion of the site. Currently about 1,000 of the original proposed 3,000 units have been built and occupied.
Contamination and remediation of the site
The following is understood to represent the circumstances of the remediation process.
Much of the Rhodes Peninsula site was heavily contaminated primarily by dioxins produced at the on-site Union Carbide factory being incorporated into reclamation landfill. A significant portion of the contaminated site was owned by the State Government which called for expressions of interest (EOI) to remediate the land after which the successful contractor could development the land in accordance with SREP 29. The EOI explicitly prohibited the use of direct thermal desorption (DTD) to remediate the soil. DTD is basically heating the soil in the open to evaporate the contaminants. The contract was awarded in the understanding that remediation would be undertaken using indirect thermal desorption (ITD) which heats the soil in a closed system to contain and collect any toxic gases.
To the best of the author’s knowledge here are just some of the concessions re this site:
1) After awarding the remediation contract, the contractor was subsequently permitted to use a modified form of DTD without a new EOI being issued. A professor from a New York university, with then 18 year’s of world-wide dioxin experience, had previously told a public meeting at Rhodes that DTD was so dangerous that under no circumstances should residents remain in the area if DTD was used; they should definitely move.
2) The remediation extent and standards were significantly reduced after the contract was awarded.
Both of these dramatically reduced the period and cost of remediation and thereby greatly increased developer profit – AFTER the contract was awarded.
The remediation is almost complete so nothing much can be done in this regard although who knows what health concerns may arise in the local community. It should be mentioned that the remediation was stopped for several weeks after it was found the process wasn’t satisfying the required standards, believed to be in regards to the emissions.
Q. Why did the State Government grant such remediation concessions to the developers?
The Amended Master Plan
About September 2009 local residents were advised that Canada Bay Council was exhibiting an amended Master Plan for the site. After apparently ignoring the major concerns of local residents, a few weeks ago Council approved amendments to the Master Plan to permit
· 5,300 units not the original 3,000*, and
· an increase in maximum height from around 10 storeys (in this area) to 25 storeys
* note the original 3,000 approved units had previously been increased to 4,500 units on the basis that the units had more 1 and 2 bedrooms although the number of residents had also been significantly increased. This increase appears to have been somewhat surreptitious as it was almost certainly not accompanied by an amended Master Plan but more likely incorporated into individual DAs.
Q. What was the purpose of the 2-year consultation period and a Parliamentary Inquiry if the Master Plan can be dramatically amended during the construction phase?
The developers, after having been given financial benefits by massive remediation concessions, are now being given even further concessions. Canada Bay Council stated that the changes were needed to satisfy development targets set by the State Government.
Impacts of the Amended Master Plan
Some of the impacts of this development, and the amended Plan in particular, are:
· unacceptable population density (detailed below)
· overwhelming traffic problems (detailed below)
· stress on educational facilities (discussed below)
· overloading of public transport particularly the nearby railway
· massively increased overshadowing of existing developments
If around 5,300 units are approved the original population of Rhodes will increase around 16 fold in little over a decade. The final population of around 11,200 people (700 original plus an expected 10,500*) in a suburb as a whole of around 1 square kilometre is equivalent to fitting the world’s population in about 80% of NSW. Yet Rhodes, as a very small suburb, is just not residential development but includes:
Ø a six lane arterial road
Ø a train line with four track potential
Ø a 62 bed aged care hostel
Ø a large church
Ø parkland (almost 10% of the suburb)
Ø existing light industrial use (app 5% of the suburb)
Ø employment for around 5,000 workers
Ø shopping centre with over 100 shops
* whilst the exhibited plan referred to an estimated population of 10,500 residents, the local newspaper report refers to an additional 12,000 residents (see transcript at the end of this document)
Q. How can the State Government believe that a suburb residential density equivalent to fitting the world’s population in 80% of NSW is good planning?
Perhaps the major concern with this development, and that which the author is most knowledgeable, is its impact on traffic in the area due to its proximity to Ryde Bridge and the restricted access to the area.
Currently most of the retail and commercial development is complete and occupied but only around 1,000 of the original 3,000 units are occupied. Yet traffic problems are already diabolical. The development is immediately adjacent to Ryde Bridge and traffic is at a standstill throughout most of the morning and evening peaks on this crucial piece of Sydney’s road network.
There are only two access roads to Rhodes:
1. Homebush Bay Drive coming from the south-west which becomes Concord Rd and continues past the site over Ryde Bridge, and
2. The old Concord Rd (south) which comes northward from Strathfield and joins Homebush Bay Drive near the southern boundary of the development.
Hence all traffic visiting or passing through Rhodes has to travel on part of the Homebush Bay Drive and/or its extension along Concord Rd to Ryde Bridge.
Based on the original Transport Management Plan (TMP) adopted by the Government the average delay in Concord Rd at the Homebush Bay Drive intersection will exceed 12 mins (for 2,000 cars an hour) under the 3,000 unit proposal. An analysis of this shows that in just one hour enough petrol will be “wasted” by cars queuing at this one intersection for a car to drive around Australia. Yet with only 1,000 units occupied these delays are already being significantly exceeded. The author recently surveyed the traffic one afternoon on a normal day (no rain, breakdowns or accidents) and cars in Concord Rd were taking over 13 minutes to get through the set of lights at Homebush Bay Drive. Apart from the environmental concerns, additional traffic delays within Rhodes (due to the original 3,000 unit development alone) can be shown to cost the community over $10 million a year in lost time.
Q. How can the environmentally-conscience State and Local Governments consider such a waste of precious fuel resources and the associated CO2 and pollution production acceptable?
The original TMP projected post-development flows on Ryde Bridge are up to 1,900 cars per hour per lane. This means cars have to travel around 1.9 seconds apart; much closer than the RTA recommended 3 seconds and even closer than the 2 seconds which is illegal in many countries (eg New Zealand).
Q. The State Government was repeatedly informed of this fact so how can they condone this unsafe driving practice?
The traffic flow figures in the original 3,000 unit TMP demonstrate that because of the proximity of the development to Ryde Bridge, this development is going to generate traffic volumes equivalent to the modelled increase in traffic arising from around 16 years of background growth i.e. Sydney-wide development. That means this vital piece of infrastructure will have to be augmented or replaced 16 years before previously necessary just because of the original 3,000 unit development; or much more than 16 years if 5,300 units are approved.
Q. How can the State Government justify approving a development with such disproportionate negative impacts on important infrastructure?
The community repeatedly advised the Government that insufficient parking was being provided based on an existing very detailed survey of transport use in the suburb e.g. car use represented over 80% of journeys whilst the Government ideologically assumed 55%. Despite drawing their attention to this survey the Government refused to reference it in the studies and failed to provide sufficient parking. Previously quiet local streets are now parked out by workers who then walk for 15 minutes to their offices.
In January 2010 a local newspaper reported that a nearby school principal said all local schools were experiencing capacity problems. During the original Master Plan the matter of inadequate schools was raised by the community which noted that age demographics in a study for the Master Plan demonstrated over 600 school age children would reside in the 3,000 unit development. This fact was not directly disclosed in the study and recollections are that there was never any discussion by government of a new school. It is understood that Council is now, with only 1,000 units occupied, discussing with the Department of Education the possibility of a new primary school in the eastern/older portion of Rhodes.
Q. Why was the community’s call for a school to be incorporated in the new development ignored but now there is talk about a new school to be located outside the development?
Despite significant local opposition, this increased development has been recently approved by Canada Bay Council and it is understood it is awaiting the signature of the Minister for Planning.
According to the local newspaper report that follows, the Mayor said the council had decided to back the plan for high-density living on the former industrial site because it was a better way to meet the State Government's population targets than spreading medium density living across the whole of Canada Bay. Perhaps he should ask the opinion of thousands of drivers who already frequently take over 30 minutes to traverse the 1.6 km long suburb.
Lastly, what precedence does this set for the rest of Sydney? Even the local ALP MP (Angela D’Amore) is so concerned that 20 odd storeys may become the norm around the quiet neighbourhoods in her electorate that she called a well-attended public meeting and continues to fight the increased height restriction although she has said the increased population numbers don’t concern her.
Less than ten years ago, Rhodes was nothing more than an industrial village but the State and Local Governments have decided to make it another Chatswood purely because it is near a railway station and the industrial land was ripe for picking. Both these Governments have chosen to totally ignore the negative impacts of this development whilst such developments are directly or indirectly responsible for most of the woes they face.
Official documentation for the proposed amendment is available on the Canada Bay Council website at
HIGH DENSITY FUTURE 12,000 more for Rhodes Peninsula
Inner West Courier 26 Oct 2010 Hannah Parkes
A plan to bring 12,000 new residents and seven skyscrapers to the Rhodes Peninsula was adopted by Canada Bay Council last week. The approved Rhodes West Master Plan comes after a 30-day public exhibition period and will allow the previous eight-storey building limit to be increased to allow construction of five towers at 25 storeys, one at 20 storeys and one at 18 storeys.
Mayor Angelo Tsirekas told the meeting the decision to approve the plan was "difficult". "We're in a bit of a dilemma, we'd like to walk away from it, it's not an easy decision," Cr Tsirekas said.
He said the council had decided to back the plan for high-density living on the former industrial site because it was a better way to meet the State Government's population targets than spreading medium density living across the whole of Canada Bay. "Unfortunately we now need to handle this. We need to provide 10,000 new dwellings under the new metro strategy" he said.
He said the council had done its best to provide for the future community including the construction of a $13 million community centre and increased open space.
Drummoyne State Labor MP Angela D'Amore said she would continue to oppose the development. "If developers and council get their way, this will open the door for 25-storey residential towers to be built in anyone of my suburbs," she said.
Addressing the meeting, Rhodes resident Paul Hanly spoke of his concern about the scale, high speed limits and lack of community facilities. Mr Hanly asked the council to set aside $20,000 for a comprehensive recreation plan to provide community activities which would help create a social fabric on the site. "You can't just have a centre. I would like to see organised team sports, dragonboating, stuff the community can get involved in," Mr Hanly said. "What I'm worried about is that all these people will not be able to build a community, activities like this help people meet and get to know each other."
Despite the significant increase in population, the area has yet no plans for new schools or childcare centres to be built. Liberal councillor Helen McCaffrey said while she did not enjoy approving the plan, the focus now had to be on making it as good as it could be. "People wanted more open space and there is going to be a 28 per cent uplift in open space," she said.
Greens councillor Pauline Tyrrell was the only councillor to vote against the plan.
The plan will now be forwarded to the Minister for Planning, Tony Kelly, who will decide whether or not to approve the plan.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The 2008 oil crisis caused a substantial increase in fuel costs which, not surprisingly, at the time resulted in a decrease in car travel and an increase in the use of public transport in the United States. Some have used this occurrence to claim that there is a wide significant move from private to public transport and that this has resulted from policies to force higher densities into cities. The following article by Wendell Cox in New Geography puts this into perspective.
The Fifth Estate Clarifies US Driving and Transit Figures
by Wendell Cox 07/27/2010
Late on July 26 (Washington time), The Fifth Estate corrected the attribution by Professor Peter Newman of Curtain University to the effect that driving was down 43% and transit up 65% in the United States. This issue had been the subject of my column on the same morning. It was a simple decimal error (in the reporting) and has now been corrected on the site. Driving is now reported as being down 4.3% and transit up 6.5%. Professor Newman provided slides with the data to Ms. Tina Perinotti, who forwarded them to me.
While the new figures are less inconsistent with the official figures than the former, there are still material inconsistencies.
Driving Trend: Official Data: The slides provided simply refer to the two figures as relating to the past year, without a source or specific period. The 4.3% driving decline is more than double the largest annual decline reported by the official source for such information, the Federal Highway Administration.
Transit Trend: Official Data: We reviewed the data published from the official sources for transit data (the American Public Transportation Association and the Federal Transit Administration) and found no recent annual data indicating a 6.5% increase in ridership (either in boardings or in passenger miles). Much of the transit ridership gain from 2007 to the peak year of 2008 was lost in 2009, according to data posted by APTA in early March
A later first quarter report by APTA indicates further losses. Moreover, as we indicated in our article, the percentage decline in transit use since the peak year of 2008 is many times that of the decline in driving.
Not All Percentages Are the Same: Care must also be used in comparing percentage changes between transit and driving, because so little travel is on transit. For example, a one percent increase in roadway urban travel converts to about one-third of a mile per person per day. A one percent increase in transit use converts to about 30 feet per person per day, about the same distance as walking from one side to the other of the average bedroom and back.
Note: It is possible that the 4.3% driving decline was taken from an
interim Federal Highway Administration report indicating that driving declined 4.3% in March 2008 compared to March 2007 (a monthly comparison, not a year on year comparison). This FHWA report, however, is subject to annual revision based upon the more comprehensive Highway Performance Monitoring System, which in 2009 revised the March 2008 such that the annual change became 2.7%.
(The diagram below from the article referred to illustrates the comparative magnitudes:)