By David Chesterman AM LFAIA FPIA, Registered Heritage Consultant.
I have been requested by the Waverton Precinct to prepare a Visual Impact Assessment of a Development Application received by the North Sydney Council from Stannards Marine (DA57/2019).
THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT
The applicant is seeking consent for the mooring and use of a floating dry dock facility (FDD) on a site adjacent to 6 John Street, McMahons Point, in the local government area of North Sydney.
The site has a total area of 6,403.156m2 and is currently occupied by a boat repair and maintenance facility. This comprises both land and water based infrastructure.
On the landward side of the site there are:
- car parking areas,
- hard-stand for boats when being repaired and maintained,
- four enclosed buildings in which to undertake maintenance works in confined environments, depending on the type of works being undertaken
- a two storey office building and other marine repair infrastructure.
The site currently operates under a development consent that includes regulatory control over the operation of the site in relation to vessel accommodation, hours of operation and the nature of works permitted thereon.
The development consent allows for the employment of up to 120 people..
The site currently operates between the hours of 7:00am and 6:00pm, six days per week and is operated under an Environment Protection Licence
The proposed Floating Dry Dock will support a vessel of 1,000 tons.
As I wrote in my visual assessment of the marina proposal that was lodged with North Sydney Council in 2015 – “Berrys Bay, until recently the site of the large BP tank farm, is now a beautiful part of inner Sydney Harbour. The transformation is evident from many of the photographs within the EIS and associated documents”.
Consent was not granted to the 2015 Application and Berrys Bay is still “characterized by an almost perfect balance between a strong bushland landscape on Sydney Sandstone landforms, parklands, waterfront walks, residential development, small-scale maritime industries, clear expanses of water enlivened by small craft on swing moorings and dramatic long views out into the Harbour and of the towers of the CBD and the Bridge.”
Bearing in mind that not so many years ago Berrys Bay was the location of the BP tank farm and its associated infrastructure, its present qualities are not accidental:
- A considerable amount of public money has been spent by North Sydney Council and other agencies to transform it and to create parks and waterfront walks.
- There has been careful design, informed by sound ecological advice.
- There has been good management by North Sydney Council, supported by State agencies and the community.
- The 2015 application to construct a very large, out of scale, marina was not approved by the Consent Authority, partly on visual grounds.
The Waverton Peninsula Strategic Masterplan 1999, was developed after extensive consultation with Council, NSW Government and the community. It responded to wider area Sydney Harbour strategies and has since then guided thinking and action.
The scale and heavy industrial character of the FDD proposal (DA 57/19) now before Council are, like the previous application in my opinion, out of balance with the stated values and proposals in this Masterplan and would be deleterious to the visual quality of Berrys Bay and to people’s enjoyment of it.
They are also incompatible with the objectives of SREP (Sydney Harbour Catchment) (2005), of the draft SEPP (Environment) and with the Local Environment Plan, which make clear that (a) Sydney Harbour is to be recognized as a public resource, owned by the public, to be protected for the public good: (b )the public good has precedence over the private good whenever and whatever change is proposed for Sydney Harbour or its foreshores; and (c) protection of the natural assets of Sydney Harbour has precedence over all other interests.
The applicant’s EIA states that ‘where there are perceived or potential adverse impacts, appropriate strategies have been put forward for the purpose of mitigating these impacts’. With respect, it is simply not possible to mitigate the adverse visual impacts of is the enormous rectangular bulk of the dry dock.
For reasons set out more fully below, this application is rightly of considerable concern to the immediate community and to the many others, such as walking groups, who benefit from the beauty of the Bay, and should not be approved.
THE SCENIC VALUES OF BERRYS BAY
The important and valuable scenic resources of Berrys Bay include:
- The natural forms of Balls Head and Carradah Park (both re-vegetated in recent times) with largely natural shorelines
- The mature trees of Waverton Park
- The trees within Boat-builders Walk, Saw-millers Reserve and Blues Point Reserve
- The largely tree-dominated residential areas on its Eastern slope.
- Two concentrations of small-scale waterfront industry and small jetties – one on each arm of the Bay – that add character and visual interest.
- Long-distance views into and across the Harbour, of the Bridge and of the towers of the CBD
- A scattering of small craft on swing moorings
- The waters of the Bay
- Views from a proposed public jetty (an obligation under the original 1990 DA)
Each of the varied parts of the Bay are visible alone or in pleasing contrast with each across the clear waters of the Bay from generous water level walkways, parklands and constructed paths at various heights within Balls Head and Carradah Parks and along its eastern shore.
As can be seen on the Location Plan, Berrys Bay has two “arms”- Northern and Western, each with steeply sloping sides that essentially form two separate visual catchments. The visual impact of the proposed FDD would be largely confined to the Northern Arm.
The Noakes Marina is located on the Eastern side of the Northern Arm of the Bay and is surrounded by houses and apartment buildings, a number of which enjoy water views that include the Noakes Boatshed.
The small craft that “clutter” the works area and jetties of Noakes Marina at present are visually interesting and compatible in scale with the residential areas surrounding it, making it an interesting environment in which to live and to visit, and contribute to the visual quality of the Bay as a whole.
On the Western side of the Northern Arm, opposite the site, a dolphin wharf is periodically used to moor vessels. This practice has added visual interest to views of the Bay. Carradah Park and its various walk and viewpoints are above this.
Further marine related uses located in the Western Arm of the Bay and are of similar small scale but appear now to be abandoned.
As is demonstrated in the photo-montages presented below, the proposed Floating Dry Dock has none of the visual interest of and is of a totally different scale to the existing structures and activities that characterize the Noakes Boatshed and works areas. It is demonstrably not the case that ‘the existing view composition would not be significantly changed’ (EIA, 2019, p73).
Representative public and private views as existing and as that they would be if degraded by the FDD are illustrated and discussed below. As will be apparent, the mooring and use of the floating dry dock as proposed by the DA, would have a significant, and from many vantage points, a severe adverse effect on public views and views from surrounding properties. The view from the proposed public jetty would also be severely impacted, since it will be located some 20 meters from the FDD itself.
The representative views selected are
- from the much used Waverton Park: View 1,
- from the walkways and viewpoints constructed by Council in Carradah Park: View 2
- from the end of John Street (11 John St), as representative of public and private views at foreshore level on the Eastern shore of the Bay: View 3
While there would be no disagreement as to the representativeness of the views from Waverton Park and Carradah Park, the applicant at a number of points suggests that the views from residences (and in particular 1/11 John St) are an ‘isolated location’, while recognizing that other residences, most notably in Munro St and Commodore Cres will also be visually impacted to varying degrees.
With respect, the SEARs require consideration of “properties along the foreshore areas’. Lower John St is precisely such an area and such a property as indeed is the rest of that apartment block. Just as the view of Berry’s Bay will be severely impacted from 11 John St (including 2/11 John St which is ignored in the applicant’s VIA), it will be even more severely impacted from the location of the proposed adjacent public jetty (a condition of the original 1990 DA). Equally, many walkers and other users of the area stop to enjoy the view/take photographs from the opposite side of the road to 11 John St, which has a particularly striking view of the bay. Their enjoyment will be similarly impacted. Again, and contrary to the VIA, it is not apparent in what way the ‘view line’ is anything but scenic.
Moreover, there is a broader point encapsulated by the John St montage, namely that the FDD will completely dominate the Bay from all walking levels – in the Park, on the Oval, around the foreshore residences generally because it will spend most of its time sitting high in the water with large boats sticking out the top. The proposed noise inhibiting curtains, (not included in our montages) will also increase its perceived bulk from some locations.
Appendix 1 provides details of the methodology used with regard to the montages.
The following montages assume that the FDD is in the up condition, with vessel inside (the condition in which the FDD will be in most of the lime).
This view from the edge of the much used Waverton Park illustrates how the existing Noakes boatsheds and craft being serviced at it are in scale with, add interest to and enhance the view from the park.
It can be readily seen from the following photo-montage that the FDD, being of a totally different scale and of an industrial character has a highly significant adverse visual impact, not only from this particular location but it is similar from anywhere in the Park.
This view from Carradah Park is typical of the views from the many constructed viewpoints in this spectacular park that was formerly a fuel storage installation.
It similarly illustrates how the existing Noakes boatsheds and craft being serviced at it are in scale with, add interest to and enhance the view.
It can be readily seen from the photomontage that the FDD, being of a vastly different scale and of an industrial character would significantly change the character of this and similar views
VIEWS FROM RESIDENTIAL AND PUBLIC AREAS along the Eastern side of the Bay: V3
This view from the lower end of John Street has been selected to illustrate the visual effect of the proposal on residential properties that are immediate and nearby neighbours of Noakes Boatshed and on nearby public lands and walks. It can be seen from the photo-montage that visual impacts from these locations would be very severe.
It can be seen from the above photomontages that the introduction of the proposed Floating Dry Dock at Noakes Boatshed would have seriously adverse effects on the visual quality and character of the Bay.
Considerable resources and thoughtful design and management have, in recent years, been used to restore and maintain the visual qualities of Berry’s Bay. In my opinion, on visual grounds alone, it would be totally inconsistent with the intent of Council and the State Government Agencies involved, to permit it.