Feeling insulted by Sydney Uni
Once again Michael Spence has said he wants to be a “good neighbour”. But yet again he has not been. As the Vice Chancellor of Australia’s leading University, he should have been able to follow the simple requirements set down by the Director General. But he couldn’t do that. As an Anglican Minister, you would think that he’d do the right thing by his neighbours. But we were ignored as though we didn’t exist. As a lawyer, he can spin it so it looks like the University’s done the right thing and the Director General is taken in. The future looks grim for any respectful behaviour coming from students of the University when their VC can’t follow the Director General’s Requirements, can’t show any respect and can’t even keep his word. The Darlington community doesn’t want to stop the University’s progress but it is disappointing that after many years of us building a relationship with the University, they still can’t show us proper respect.
I am a Darlington resident (of 29 years) involved in RAIDD and other community groups. I am appalled that Sydney University has the audacity to amateurishly imply that it consulted with RAIDD & REDWatch about its CIP documentation to the Department of Planning prior to February 28. These community groups were quick to respond to the Department that this was not the case. The university then “agreed” to extend its consultation to March 28. I am also concerned about the extent of student accommodation planned for a corridor along City Road from south of Butlin Avenue (the Merewether Building) to Cleveland Street. It appears that functional buildings are being demolished only to be replaced by higher storey ones. Overall, the “improvements” to the University are very over-represented in the Darlington Campus. And the “community benefits” repeatedly touted in the University’s CIP documentation have yet to be described, let alone measured. The current lingo has been absorbed by the University – but it means nothing unless demonstrated.
Sydney University’s massive expansion plan, as revealed by the SSH [March 2014], should be ringing alarm bells in Darlington. Of particular concern is the University’s intention to degrade the heritage value of terrace houses from 86-130 Darlington Road. These terraces have been listed as heritage items by the National Trust with an “A” rating. Despite this, the University plans to fill in the entire backyards of all but three of these terraces with massive modern three-storey extensions. No resident in Darlington can fill in the backyard with a massive extension; why should the University be able to? This plan carries on the University’s long tradition of destroying Darlington’s heritage. To date, the Uni has bulldozed 650 Victorian terraces, a Victorian Gothic Revival Public School, Town Hall, Post Office and other important buildings in Darlington. The University administrators, from the Vice Chancellor downwards, should hang their heads in shame. Wake up Darlington, object to this development plan NOW!
The University did not consult with the community in the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its Campus Improvement Program (CIP), despite having been instructed to do so in the Director General’s Requirements. By including a list of RAIDD members, the University attempted to make it look as though this consultation had taken place. But these people had attended meetings in regard to the Abercrombie Precinct Development, not the CIP. Inexplicably, the University chose to ignore the Director General’s Requirements in relation to community consultation. Not only that, it then tried to hoodwink the Director General by making it appear that the required consultation had actually taken place. It seems that this deception has worked. The Director General, in a letter to REDWatch dated March 7, 2014, has said that the EIS “satisfactorily addressed the DGRs”. The future of community involvement in planning in NSW is indeed dire if statutory requirements can be so easily ignored.
RAIDD (Residents Acting In Darlington’s Defence)