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White Bay Power Station the centrepiece of draft plan to revive area

The government has committed $14 million to restoring the heritage-listed White Bay Power Station.

The government has committed $14 million to restoring the heritage-listed White Bay Power Station. Credit:Dominic Lorrimer

It makes housing a key strategic direction, including affordable housing (which means the property is rented at a percentage of market rate and is separate to social housing).

Indigenous Australians’ relationship to and history with the environment will also be threaded through the creation of the precinct as a critical principle of design.

The peninsula will be transformed into an open, recreational area, while the heritage Glebe Island Bridge will potentially become a new link for pedestrians and cyclists to connect with Pyrmont. The Pyrmont Bridge’s twin, the Glebe Island Bridge, closed in 1995 after the opening of the Anzac Bridge and is permanently open for maritime traffic.

The strategy also allows for a potential footbridge over Rozelle Bay, connecting Rozelle to Glebe Point Road.

The blueprint foreshadows a walk stretching around the harbour from the western edge of Federal Park in Annandale to the White Bay cruise ship terminal, passing the previously slated Rozelle Rail Yard Parklands being built over WestConnex.

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The draft retains the terminal and raises the possibility of using Robert Street as “an attractive and welcoming approach to the cruise ship terminal”. Most of the working port facilities are proposed to move around the side into Rozelle Bay.

The Glebe Island silos would also be retained, and together with other heritage aspects, would “provide the opportunity to shape an iconic arrival experience for international tourists and locals returning home,” according to the strategy.

Jamie Parker, the Greens MP for Balmain and previously on the local council, said the strategy was “a good step forward” in ensuring precious public, waterfront land was well used.

“The good news is the reopening of Glebe Island Bridge and the transforming of the power station into a cultural facility is a vindication of the campaign the community has run for many, many years,” he said.

“Clearly, the risk is the temptation that the residential development will be a forest of towers that will compromise on the public access and effectively privatise the site.”

Balmain Association vice-president Ross Mackenzie welcomed the strategy’s “many good points”, including the retention of the power station as a cultural facility, the reopening of the Glebe Island Bridge and the idea of a promenade from the cruise ship terminal around to the metro station.

The government in 2016 indicated the power station was being considered by major tech companies, including Google, though by 2017 the plan had fallen through in part because the developers wanted to fund the development with large residential towers.

A cruise ship docked at White Bay in 2013.

A cruise ship docked at White Bay in 2013. Credit:Peter Rae

It now envisions the area will be the northern anchor of the long-term plan for an “innovation corridor” in Sydney’s east, with Tech Central – where Atlassian’s new headquarters will be – making up the southern end.

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Now the government has committed to injecting $14 million, already accounted for in budget estimates, into the first phase of its repair and remediation, with works to begin later this year. Previous governments have already invested significant money in remediation, especially asbestos removal, back in the 1990s.

Anita Mitchell, the chief executive for Placemaking NSW, an agency with the Department of Planning, said the building required urgent maintenance for structural integrity and safety as the first of three stages expected to be completed in 2024.

“The initial scoping we did last month will establish what works are needed to restore the site to a state that preserves the building and makes it safe for access,” Ms Mitchell said.

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