NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian recently announced her government’s support for the controversial urban renewal of the North Parramatta precinct. A hefty $310m will be allocated for the project, amid some heckling from locals angered about the proposed construction of more than 2,000 apartments.
The 30-hectare site has a rich indigenous history and is home to several historic buildings, including the colonial-era Parramatta Female Factory, the former Catholic Orphan School, and the Parramatta Gaol.
UrbanGrowth NSW’s proposed plan for the North Parramatta precinct would see the restoration and conservation of historically significant buildings, the creation of more public open spaces, as well as the construction of roughly 2,700 new apartments.
Announcing her government’s multi-million dollar funding over the next seven to 10 years, Berejiklian focused on heritage conservation efforts and the creation of public open spaces, including ovals, playing fields, and parklands.
Berejiklian emphasised that buildings that were being neglected would be repaired, restored, and made safe for community use. “We have so much [of] our history locked [here] on those 30 hectares and it's wonderful to see it returned to the community in such a considerate and thoughtful way,” she told reporters on 30 April.
Not everyone is on board with the project. North Parramatta Residents Action Group president Suzette Meade (who showed up to the media announcement with a small number of opponents), has described the project as “vandalism.”
Meade said the construction of multi-storey apartments would destroy any opportunity for the site’s convict buildings to achieve national or UNESCO World Heritage listing. “We can make this the biggest arts and cultural precinct in Australia,” she said. “We can have heritage tourism, arts and culture … we can have artists’ studios, museums, cafes, a sculpture park.”
In contrast, the Urban Taskforce is fully endorsing the project, saying it would create “a new [and] vibrant neighbourhood.”
“The Parramatta North precinct is a unique opportunity to build on the important heritage of the site to create a vibrant community,” said Chris Johnson, CEO of the Urban Taskforce. “The site is ideally located close to Parramatta’s centre and to the jobs hub of Westmead Hospital and on the route of the proposed Western Sydney Light Rail.”
Johnson said it was “good news” that Premier Berejiklian had allocated such a generous budget for the project. “This will kick start the urban renewal process with its future 2,700 homes and 2,000 jobs on the site,” he said.