Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Revealed: the Sydney flats squeeze

TENS of thousands of new homes will be forced upon traffic-choked Sydney suburbs under a State Government plan that councils have condemned as being unrealistic and shrouded in secrecy.

The Herald has obtained housing targets imposed on 26 of the 43 councils included in Sydney's Metropolitan Strategy, which is designed to provide 640,000 new homes for an extra 1.1 million people within 25 years.

Densely populated Strathfield Municipal Council is expected to accommodate 9000 new dwellings - double what it considers possible. Willoughby has been asked to take a further 8000 homes, also twice the limit it has set itself. And a spokeswoman for Bankstown said it had been set a total of 26,000 extra residences, which "would have to be built entirely in place of existing homes".

One year after the Premier, Morris Iemma, unveiled the blueprint for Sydney's population growth, several councils say they have no idea how the Government came up with their preliminary housing targets.

They say they will be forced to erect scores of high-rise apartment blocks that will drastically alter the face of their neighbourhoods, and have expressed bewilderment at the lack of transport planning.

But supporters of the strategy insist that well-designed residential towers are needed around transport hubs close to the city centre to stop the relentless spread at Sydney's fringe.

The Mayor of Strathfield, Bill Carney, said: "The Planning Minister [Frank Sartor] has told us it's all negotiable. But how can it be when there's absolutely no consultation with us? Call me a cynic, but I suspect we won't hear anything more about this until after the March election."

Even the heavily developed suburbs around Marrickville and Woollahra, on the central business district's doorstep, must find room for 5200 and 2800 extra homes respectively by 2031. Woollahra council had an increase of just two new dwellings this year.

Although some councils have declined to reveal their targets, all will be affected.

Many fear the new homes will be built over conservation areas and employment space. But some, such as Canada Bay and Burwood - which will include the two inner-west hubs under the plan - believe intense urban development is the only way to avoid urban sprawl.

Canada Bay has been asked to take 11,000 homes, most of which would be built at Rhodes and Breakfast Point. Cr Neil Kenzler said: "You either go up or out. The only other option is down and I haven't met anyone yet who wants to live in a hole. The higher you go, the smaller the footprint and the more open space you're left with."

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