“If we are to meet the ever-increasing challenge of housing stress in Sydney and the pressure on those who do not benefit from wealthy parents or higher individual incomes, a system that incentivizes existing housing providers in the market to offer new affordable housing is the best way to do that,” said Daniel.
Plans include a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, rooftop terraces for residents only, open space accessible to the public, and ties to Indigenous history, such as a restored walkway along Clay Cliff Creek.
Parramatta Mayor Donna Davis said there was “no silver bullet” to the issues raised by the council in its objection, including serious flooding risks and impacts to nearby heritage sites.
“It’s clear that more affordable housing and more housing choice is needed in our city,” Davis said. “However, careful design and planning is required to meet these needs in the right places, taking into account the views of the community.”
Hambledon Cottage, run by the National Trust, and Experiment Farm, run by the Parramatta and District Historical Society, are next door. Elizabeth Farm, run by Sydney Living Museums, is also nearby. All three organizations filed briefs noting their strong objections to the size and scale of the development and the missed opportunity to better connect the three historic sites.
“Basically the plant on this site is a poor result for this location and should be removed,” the National Trust’s submission reads. “The way to remove it, however, must not be by expanding the site to nearly 500 apartments.”
The cathedral’s submission says it is usually open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but sometimes operates 24 hours a day. It hosts 22 masses a week with 1,000 worshipers at each service, not including frequent weddings, funerals and baptisms, while at Christmas, Easter and other feast days, up to 10,000 worshipers attend each service.
The development would be eight storeys where it borders the cathedral, although Daniel noted it would be down the creek and set back from the boundary. The cathedral believes this would place the buildings level with the base of the statue above the roof, providing significant shade, privacy concerns and visual impacts for the cathedral, daycare downstairs and adjacent school buildings.
Parishioners said The Herald of the Sun that masses were often performed with the doors open to allow air circulation and that they are concerned that they will be fully exposed to the residents of the apartments on their balconies and roof gardens, affected by the noise of the apartments and simultaneously subjected to noise complaints from their new neighbors.
Principal of Maronite College of the Holy Family, Sister Margaret Ghosn, said the church understood the social need for affordable housing, but the proposed development was too big for the site.
“The skyline that we see with this magnificent cathedral will be overshadowed by this residential building,” Ghosn said. “It offends a lot of parishioners here because they see it as iconic; it is their church, it is above and looks down on everyone.
Many parishioners work in property development, but they consider the proposal to be overdevelopment given the low-rise suburban character of the area and the impact on historic sites and the cathedral.
Longtime resident and parishioner Cathy Saad, who sits on the Parish Pastoral Council, said, “We are all for development, we are all for progress and we all need to move with the times. But you have to put it in context. It will be an explosive building if it stays that high.
Pacific Community Housing director Matthew Daniel, who partnered with the landlord to develop the concept, said developers had consulted widely with the community and plans up to eight floors had already been scaled back from a proposal 36-story original.
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