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‘Decisions that will last for years’: 100 experts to review all major future NSW developments

Members are experts in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, Aboriginal and European culture and heritage and sustainability.

Meadowbank School. A panel of 100 leading design experts will be charged with improving the quality of the built environment across NSW.

Meadowbank School. A panel of 100 leading design experts will be charged with improving the quality of the built environment across NSW.

During the pilot, these experts reviewed projects worth almost $9 billion. These resulted in modifications to the Sydney Modern extension to the Art Gallery of NSW, the $57.5 million redevelopment of the Australian Museum so that it could accommodate further extensions if needed in the future, and changes to new public housing in Redfern.

Newly-appointed panellist, architect Hannah Tribe, said she hoped the panels would result in better outcomes for Sydney than Packer’s casino at Barangaroo.

“It is one of the missed opportunities of our generation,” she said. “It is a monument to gambling,” said Ms Tribe.

Barangaroo was cited as a "missed opportunity" for Sydney.

Barangaroo was cited as a “missed opportunity” for Sydney. Credit:Getty

“At a high level, the value [of the panel] is to introduce a process that keeps the human quality at the forefront of planning,” said Ms Tribe. She cited Syd Einfeld Drive, that “severed Bondi Junction from Woollahra”, as an example where infrastructure and the movement of people had driven the making of the city at the expense of those who lived there.

NSW State Architect Abbie Galvin said a review of the pilot project found 98 per cent of 200 participants thought it should continue and 91 per cent felt it had improved the quality of projects.

About 76 per cent thought the process had changed their organisation’s culture to put more emphasis on better design.

It will be compulsory for developers and backers of state significant proposals to meet with a panel of four experts, she said.

The results had shown that the earlier proponents met with the panels, the better the outcome. For example, panellists had recommended that plans for the new Meadowbank school be changed to maximise ventilation, allow more sunlight, to make it more sustainable.

By taking more time in the very early stages of a project, it should speed up the approval process. “Ultimately this should help speed, rather than something being submitted and having multiple approvals and asking for clarification,” said Ms Galvin. “The decisions we make are going to last for years.”

But Tom Forrest, the chief executive of the Urban Taskforce representing property developers, said the new panel was an example of the “nanny state gone too far.”

Mr Stokes said NSW residents would be relieved to hear that the Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who wants to take a bulldozer to many well-known buildings, was not on the panel.

But Mr Forrest said Mr Perrottet would’ve been perfect, saying he was prepared to stand up to the “industry of architects which have for too long held Sydney back by adding complexity, cost and causing delays”.

Mr Forrest said government architects had historically played a critical role in shaping the design of public open spaces, government buildings and many of the most cherished sites of modern Sydney. But they had been responsible for some reprehensible failures, including the public housing monstrosities at Waterloo.

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