Tower plans lowered to protect Cathedral

CUT: The tower at the right will be smaller than planned. NEWSof the government’s ruling – to lower by two stories a towerproposed to be built as partof a planto redevelop Newcastle’s city centre -has done nothing to appease a city residents’ group.
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The group opposses changes to building height limits on the city centre site owned by UrbanGrowth and GPT.

Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance described the move as ‘‘farcical’’.

‘‘This morning’s announcement by the minister is a cynical approach to appease community concerns while maintaining an abuse of planning policies to satisfy the ambitions of developers,’’ NICRA spokesman Brian Ladd said.

‘‘We are taking the risk of having our unique historical section of Newcastle destroyed for future generations. And it will at the taxpayer’s expense as we have already paid for UrbanGrowth – a state government-owned legacy – buying out GPT for its failed investment in inner city land.

‘‘The minister’s cynical announcement solves nothing,’’ he said. ‘‘But the community will continue to fight.’’

THE tallest tower in a proposal to redevelop Newcastle’s city centre will be lowered by at least two storeys in new plans to be announced today – but the heights of other buildings could be increased.

Christ Church Cathedral will remain the city skyline’s tallest building under revised planning controls the state government will issue today.

The maximum building height for the GPT/Urban Growth redevelopment in the Hunter Street mall precinct has been reduced from a proposed 69.5 metres, about 20 storeys, to 58.9 metres, about 17 storeys.

Its buildings won’t exceed the height of the parapet of the cathedral’s nave, which the government said would ensure the iconic building was protected as the city’s prominent feature.

The new Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan follows more than 200 submissions to the original plans, with the pitch for three tall towers in the East End for the GPT/Urban Growth site provoking the most controversy.

The trimming of the tower plan comes on the same day the Newcastle Inner City Residents Alliance will hold a public meeting on the redevelopment at City Hall.

The towers had been proposed as 19 storeys on the old David Jones car park site, 15 storeys in Wolfe Street and 14 storeys corner of King and Newcomen streets, but the tallest will now have to be reduced.

The buildings will still soar above the current height limit of about seven storeys.

Other changes from the draft documents include more floor space for the University of Newcastle’s inner city campus, up from a 4:1 ratio to 5:1, and increased heights for some other buildings.

Planning minister Pru Goward said the community’s concerns about high rise had been listened to ‘‘and we now have planning controls that provide the framework for the delivery of a long-term vision for the future – planning for a growing Newcastle’’.

The controls would ‘‘help shape the city centre to take advantage of the significant investment in new public transport’’, specifically light rail, she said.

Newcastle’s population is expected to hit 190,000 by 2031, with an extra 10,000 jobs and 6000 homes forecast for the city centre by 2036.

Newcastle MP Tim Owen welcomed the reduced East End maximum heights.

‘‘It is possible to protect the things we value while providing the housing and jobs we will need into the future, and that’s what I’m very pleased to have seen happen here,’’ Mr Owen said.

Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy, a vocal supporter of increase heights and higher density living, was also on board.

‘‘I want to make sure that our city is prepared for the future and a modern set of planning controls for the city’s centre is an important first step in helping the city realise its full potential,” Cr’’ McCloy said.

The changes are separate to potential uses for vacant rail corridor land when the heavy rail is truncated, beginning later this year.

The government is still conducting public consultation for those potential planning measures, with Urban Growth to hold a summit to hear ideas for public space over the weekend.